7/17/18

Florida's Southwest Gulf Coast...



We spent one week exploring the gulf coast and didn't need to go to Orlando to find entertainment for our kids. :) We found beautiful beaches and lots of activities to keep them busy.  We've never visited this part of Florida so we were excited to finally check it out!  We visited the areas between Sarasota and Fort Myers.
We stayed in an Airbnb on Manasota Key.  We loved the location since it was centrally located between the areas we wanted to explore.  It's a little isolated but still had enough food etc... just the way we like it!

Day 1 Siesta Beach
Our first day was spent at Siesta Beach!  As the sign says it's been voted the #1 beach in the USA.  Unfortunately, it's crowded because it is a great beach!  The sand is perfect... so white and soft and great for kids.  Our girls had so much fun boogie boarding and playing in the sand.  



Day 2
Seminole Wind Airboat Tours- Peace River
We loved our Airboat tour on Peace River.  Unfortunately we didn't see any alligators.  Our guide told us they hide when it's hot.  Go earlier in the day if you plan to visit!



We had to stop and get a picture of Charlotte at Port Charlotte!

Day 3
Babcock Ranch Eco Tours
We took a tour through authentic old Florida at Babcock ranch. The bus drives through swamps where you see tons of alligators, hogs, deer, birds, turkey, cows and beautiful plants.  We learned about the local history and saw more animals than people which made for a relaxing tour. :) The highlight was touching a baby gator... we won't ever forget that!




After our Eco tour we had a picnic at Ponce de Leon Park then walked through the mangroves.  We talked to some men fishing nearby and they said they often catch and see shark swimming by.  We saw beautiful birds a dolphin and barely made it back to our car before being drenched by a Florida downpour!

Manasota Key Beach
Manasota Key Beach is a great family beach and not as crowded as Siesta Beach.  It was peaceful, especially after the afternoon rain showers!  We saw lots of turtle nests, shells and even shark teeth.  This beach has free parking, showers, restrooms and the sunsets are amazing!

Day 4
Sarasota- The Ringling
I loved our visit to The Ringling!  The owner, John Ringling was one of the brothers who started the Ringling Circus.  If you go you'll need a few hours to see everything.  The grounds are massive and there are several different buildings you can go through.  I purchased a ticket to go on a tour of the Ringling home... Ca' d'Zan and the Circus Museum.  It was so interesting to learn about it's history and the people who lived there.  We went on a Monday so the Museum of Art was free.   They also have a kid area where they can do different art and craft projects for free.  I loved the dwarf garden and my kids enjoyed the play area, circus costumes and the miniature circus.




After visiting the Ringling we went to Turtle Beach (near Siesta Beach).  It's a nice beach but not as kid friendly as Siesta Beach... it gets deep quick and the sand isn't as nice.  Yes, Siesta Beach spoiled us. :)

Day 5
Edison & Ford lived next door to each other.  They were friends... you can visit their homes and gardens in  Fort Myers.

After stopping in Fort Myers we went shelling on Sanibel Island... It's known for this so we had to check it out.  We did find some nice shells but we found just as many at the other beaches we went to.  

After shelling we headed back towards Fort Meyers for dinner.  I wanted check to out Fort Meyers beach for future trips.  It's more of a touristy area with lots of hotels lining the beach... I would probably skip this area and stay on Manasota Key when we come back.  Sanibel Island would also be a nice place to stay.

Day 6
Stump Pass Beach State Park



A sign in Stump Pass Beach State Park says, "Welcome to the Real Florida".  It really gives you a feel for what Florida would have been like many years ago.  This State Park was only a few minutes from the beach house we rented.  We really loved the location of our rental.  

One warning when planning your vacation to Florida, be aware of Florida Red Tide.  It occurs almost yearly in the Gulf of Mexico usually between late summer and early fall.  We were visiting at the end of June... is must have started early?  Red Tide causes you to cough and isn't good for those with asthma.  We also saw lots of dead fish on the beach.  The first few days of our visit were the worst so we explored other areas on those days.   Because of this we didn't spend as much time on Manasota Key beach as we would have liked, but we enjoyed all of the exploring we did because of it.  


Manasota Key Beach
My favorite beaches:  Siesta Beach (Shallow for kids and the sand!) & Manasota Beach (not crowded, not touristy & beautiful :))

Greg getting a little work in!

Day 7
Saying goodbye to our Beach!  Next stop... Washington D.C.

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