Florida is renowned for its soft sand, gorgeous weather and majestic wildlife. The state’s West Coast attracts many vacationers seeking a slice of paradise around their busy lives.
With incredible cities like Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota and some of the world’s finest beaches, Florida’s West Coast is a popular place for a winter escape.
Here are seven reasons why the region should top your list for an unbelievable vacation this holiday season.
#1 Warm Weather & Endless Sunshine
Shed your winter coats by escaping to the picture-perfect weather that Florida’s West Coast offers throughout the year. Florida is renowned for clear skies and daily doses of Vitamin D, and the West Coast has some of the sunniest cities in the state.
Tampa, the third-largest city in Florida, averages over 240 sunny days per year, and snowfall is nonexistent. Its neighbor St. Petersburg boasts extra sunnier days and has an average daily temperature high of around 73°F during the winter.
As you travel farther south down Florida’s West Coast, you’ll encounter higher temperatures and more sunny days. Destinations like Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, and Bonita Springs have upwards of 30 additional sunny days each year.
#2 White-Sand Beaches
If your ideal winter getaway includes sprawling on a spotless beach with a margarita in hand, Florida’s West Coast won’t disappoint. The beaches dotting the Gulf of Mexico are among the world’s most coveted shores and a prime place to lap up the sunshine.
Several beaches on Florida’s West Coast have been voted as the best beaches anywhere on the planet for their dazzling white sands, azure waters, and unmatched serenity.
For instance, Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach earned recognition as the best beach in the United States in 2011. Beachgoers should also head to St. Pete Beach, which was recently named the #2 best beach in the United States by TripAdvisor and among the world’s top 20.
#3 Picturesque Sunsets
Florida’s West Coast has some of the world’s most breathtaking sunsets and views of the sun dipping below the horizon is a nightly spectacle. A kaleidoscope of orange and purple bursts across the sky as the sun’s rays dance on the water.
Sunset cruises are a popular way to unwind with a lavish dinner and glass of wine. Cruising on the water gives you a front-row seat to Mother Nature’s display and sets the mood for a night of romance.
If a cruise is not your style, you can still catch those dreamy Florida sunsets on land. Sanibel Island, Bradenton, and Clearwater Beach are just a handful of popular places to chill as you await the evening’s sunset.
#4 Outdoor Adventures
Some parts of the United States have frigid winters meant for snuggling up by the fireplace, but Florida’s West Coast isn’t one of them. Those who enjoy being in the outdoors 24/7, 365 will love the beautiful weather during the winter season.
Stay active and in shape during your winter getaway with tons of hiking, cycling, kayaking, and camping adventures. The Tampa area is an excellent base for an exciting trip in the outdoors as many excursions are easy to reach from the city.
Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Parks are neighboring islands with untouched landscapes perfect for hikers and kayakers. Hillsborough River State Park is another picturesque escape to bask in the outdoors with scenic hiking trails and class II rapids just over 30 minutes from downtown Tampa.
#5 Native Wildlife
Florida’s West Coast is a haven for nature enthusiasts that offers tons of places to search for wild animals. Although summer can be brutally hot to explore wetlands, lush forests, and swamplands, mild winters provide a more pleasant experience.
One of Florida’s most enchanting natural environments for an exciting safari is Everglades National Park on the southern tip of the state. The UNESCO World Heritage Site preserves tropical wetlands that makeup one of North America’s spectacular ecosystems.
There are dozens of protected animals that live in the park’s swamplands, mangroves, and coastal lowlands. A trip to the Everglades will likely include sightings of alligators, snakes, turtles, and numerous bird species.
Miami lies on the doorstep of the Everglades and is the ideal starting point for this adventure of a lifetime. If you plan on going on a multi-day trip to the Everglades, consider storing your extra bags in Miami to travel lightly on your journey.
#6 Cultural Gems
Those who prefer cultural attractions will find plenty of delightful spots to visit on Florida’s West Coast that celebrate the arts. Tampa is famous for its fascinating museums that showcase artistic talents and astounding history.
Some of the top sites to visit include the Tampa Bay History Center, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Henry B. Plant Museum, Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa Theatre, and Dali Museum.
Elsewhere, pit stops at Sarasota’s John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and St. Petersburg’s James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art will pique the interests of any culture vulture.
#7 Romantic Getaway
Florida’s sun-kissed beaches and secluded islands give lovers the chance to rekindle their passionate relationships. Winter is the ideal time for couples to plan that scenic escape from the stresses of life. Private retreats, lavish cruises, and opulent resorts provide the golden opportunity for couples to have a romantic getaway.
Just off the coast by Fort Myers, Captiva Island is a picturesque barrier island perfect for a cruise or private sailboat escapade. The South Seas Island Resort lets couples stay in sumptuous accommodations with a private white-sand beach in their backyard.
Cayo Costa gives couples the ultimate hideaway, and rustic cabins provide one of the most peaceful visits anywhere in Florida. Famed for its pristine shores, ritzy resorts, and upscale shops, Siesta Key is another sought-after winter getaway for couples.