St George Island State Park
flickr image by terryhadalittlelamb

Best Beaches on the West Coast of Florida


The Gulf of Mexico is not the ocean but it is connected to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea through a series of straights and channels. That is why you will not see a rushing, pounding surf. Here on the Gulf, you will find water that is generally tranquil, with small, choppy waves. The beaches on the west coast of Florida are some of the best beaches the “Sunshine State” has to offer. With over a thousand miles of coastline, the beaches range from the marshy, mangrove lined shoreline of St. George Island State Park, to the lovely shell encrusted barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Florida is all about sunshine and beaches, so let’s take a look at a few special places.

St. George Island State Park

St. George Island State Park

flickr image by bachorweb

Located 65 miles south of Tallahassee, along the Florida Panhandle, you’ll discover one of nature’s hidden gems, St. George Island State Park. Here is where you can connect with the Florida from centuries ago. On the east end of the island are nine miles of undeveloped beaches. Sun, sand and nature greet you as you enter the park. The sand dunes are high and sculptural, changing daily. The calm waters provide ample fishing opportunites, right from the shoreline. Some of the best fishing can be found off the jetty at the western end of the island. Schools of mackerel and cobia are often spotted in the waters. After spending time on the shoreline, you may want to explore the nature trails. The salt marshes and oak forests provide a safe have for many species of wildlife, including ospreys and bald eagles.

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park

flickr image by VISIT FLORIDA

Just north of Clearwater Beach, you will find an island that you can only get by boat. A ferry is provided from Clearwater, as no cars are allowed on the island. To the delight of passengers, dolphins are often spotted in these waters, frolicking and playfully escorting the crew. Once on the island, wooden boardwalks will escort you across the sand dunes, down to the crystal clear water. The soft sand and calm waves will invite you to take a dip in the gentle surf. Caladesi Island has a calm surf, as it is blocked by Honeymoon Island on the north. There are numerous nature trails to explore and a snack bar offer food if you find yourself hungry after a long stroll. This beach is definitely off the beaten path even though it is merely a stones throw away from civilization in nearby Tampa and Clearwater.

Clearwater Beach

Clearwate Beach

flickr image by cathy.scola

If you like your beaches flavoured with a variety of local artists, sports enthusiasts and performers, then Clearwater Beach is for you. This public beach is located 25 miles northwest of Tampa, FL and hosts many unique shops, restaurants and water sports activities. Clearwater’s exceptionally wide beaches are a haven for athletes, hosting several major beach volleyball championships a year. The Gulf is filled with life, as people enjoy a swim or partake in exciting adventures such as jet skiing and parasailing. You can explore the downtown businesses aboard the Jolly Trolley. Or take a stroll along Pier 60, a historic landmark that spans the length of Clearwater Beach. Every evening, the mix of wide eye tourists, local craftsmen and beach goers comes together to enjoy the brilliant sunsets over the horizon. Any time of day or night, Clearwater Beach is alive and vibrant, making it one of the most popular city beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key Beach

by BuyAbstractArtPaintingsSharonCummings

Home to powder soft beaches and blue green water, Siesta Key claims it has the finest sand in the world. The tiny grains of pure quartz sand are smooth and stay cool to the touch. The beach slopes gently into the clear, warm waters, an ideal place for swimming. The beach itself is hundreds of yards wide, inviting sports enthusiasts to play volleyball and everyone to find their place in the sun. Manatees have been known to frolic in the water near the calm surf. Off the shoreline of Siesta Key you will find an underwater formation that is home to coral, sponges and many tropical fish. Dotted with caves, this is a good spot for snorkelling and diving. On the north end, just a short walk from the public beaches, is the village of Siesta Key. Here you’ll find a mix of charming shops and restaurants with a casual, relaxed vibe.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Sanibel and Captiva Islands

flickr image by Alison Platt Kendall

These two barrier islands were at one time connected. Severed by a hurricane long ago, the two islands have each developed their own distinct personality. Sanibel is well known as the best shelling beach in the country. Serious shell collectors travel from around the world to collect an assortment of fighting conch, periwinkles and cocina shells. On Captiva Island, there are not as many crowds and the pace is more laid back. Both islands offer warm water, gentle breezes and a calm surf. Each is at home catering to those who seek first class amenities, as well as those who desire to be more in touch with nature. Among the resorts and million dollar homes are wildlife refuges where numerous wildlife, including gopher tortoises, gators, egrets and roseate spoonbills find sanctuary.

The Gulf coast of Florida is home to many wonderfully diverse and interesting beaches, there is truly something for everyone. From pristine natural settings to the bustle of vibrant city beaches, the west coast has them all.

Date posted: 10th March, 2014

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