Best Gulf Coast Vacations

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Things to Do on the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast vacations boast some of the prettiest beaches in the country, but that's not the only draw. Amidst the white-sugar beaches and turquoise water, there's a wealth of cultural and historic activities to keep you and your family busy for your whole vacation, whether it's golfing in Cape Coral or attending Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Fest. Here's a list of the best things to do on the Florida Gulf Coast to get you started.

Fort Myers Beach

If you're a history buff who still wants a beach vacation, head on down to Fort Myers. Two American inventor legends called Fort Myers beach home: Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Edison was the first to migrate down to Fort Myers and build a beautiful winter estate there, and soon Ford built a house next door to vacation with Edison. These two homes are stunning and shouldn't be missed.

Beach fans will adore how down-to-earth Fort Myers Beach feels, especially considering its popular nearby neighbors like Sanibel or Naples. In fact, Fort Myers Beach offers many of the same attractions as Sanibel or Captiva Islands, but at half the price. The beach is also packed with vacation rentals for any budget, making Fort Myers Beach the perfect beach getaway for families who want an affordable Florida vacation without sacrificing on seaside attractions.

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Naples

If you're looking for beautiful beaches or ritzy restaurants, you'll probably instinctively think of Naples. However, there are several other things to do on the Florida Gulf Coast that are located in this popular beach town. Families should start with the Children's Museum of Naples, one of the top in the Southeast United States. Every inch of the museum is built to be interactive and seen from a child's perspective.

Art lovers must stop at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, which houses a full orchestra, a performing arts center, and a much-acclaimed Museum of Fine Art. If a day of window shopping sounds more up your alley, check out 3rd Street South, called the "Rodeo Drive" of southern Florida. Naples is also teeming with championship golf courses and fishing spots, perfect for golfers and anglers. Naples offers up one of the more well-rounded Florida Gulf Coast vacations.

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Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Both Sanibel and Captiva Island have lots in store for beach goers. For those looking to experience Florida's unique wildlife, a trip to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is in order. This massive wildlife preserve is packed with some of the most unique flora and fauna in the United States. Everything from a bald eagle to a toothed alligator could cross your path (literally) at this national treasure. If you want a more water-focused way of seeing this seaside preserve, try a canoe or kayak tour through the refuge with Tarpon Bay Explorers.

You can't write a "Florida Gulf Coast Things to Do List" without mentioning Sanibel's shelling. This region is famous for its beautiful shells, so take a sunset or sunrise walk on the beach and keep your eyes out for some of Sanibel's stunning shells. Be forewarned that taking live shells is strictly forbidden by Florida law.

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...And Don't Forget the Panhandle

While the Western coast of Florida is a popular beach destination in itself, the Florida panhandle is on the Gulf of Mexico, too. This best-kept secret is packed with things to do on the Florida Gulf Coast, so don't shun it for more popular beach towns. The panhandle is sure to be less crowded and just as beautiful as its Southern neighbors.

No matter which of these Florida Gulf Coast vacations you choose, you're sure to find sun-soaked seashores and stunning wildlife. You'll be hard-pressed to find a prettier place in the United States.

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