Gulf Coast Beaches
Anna Maria Island (107 miles:- 1 hour 51 minutes)
Anna Maria Island is a 7 mile stretch of white sandy shores and crystal clear water and is a vacation favourite among local, national and international travellers with its pristine beaches along with award-winning restaurants and specialty shops.
A great favourite with diners is the Sandbar Restaurant where you can enjoy good food with the sea just yards from your table and with your table and toes in the sand! A perfect spot to unwind and take in perfect views of the sea and the sunset.
At the southern end of the island there is Coquina Beach which has great easy access to the public and has wide expanses of white sandy beach whilst Longboats Pass is a popular place for watching all manner of sailboats.
In the north is Bean Point, known as the local's favourite beach. It is tucked away and something of a hidden gem but one worth discovering with its sand dunes and white sands.
The city of Anna Maria is located in the north of the island and has a great range of beach cafes, inns, eateries and funky shops.
Being less than 2 hours' drive from our villa, Florida Delight, a trip to Anna Maria Island is a place to add to your holiday itinerary so that you can make the most of the attractions of Orlando and the restfulness that the coast has to offer too.
St Pete's Beach, Clearwater (95.7 miles:-1 hour 38 minutes)
The nearest major beach from Watersong at just over an hour and a half drive away, St Pete's Beach was voted the number 1 beach in the US and number 5 in the world in 2012 by Trip Adviser based on millions of reviews by travellers from across the world.
St Pete's is a beautiful peninsula just off Florida's west coast, made up of 8 major barrier islands.
The beach is a wide crescent shaped expanse of soft white sand, perfect for walking on and taking in the spectacular sunsets. St Pete's was even voted in the top 5 beaches for most beautiful sunsets, which can be enjoyed all year round. A wide range of water sports are available including windsurfing, parasailing and kiteboarding. Dolphins are often seen frolicking in the waves. Being on the Gulf Coast (West Coast) St Pete's has fantastic sunsets.
As well as the beach St Pete's has many other attractions to offer with some great restaurants, cafes, shops and galleries. The art museum holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali paintings outside Spain.
We went over to St Pete's for a two night stay when we were in Florida in May. Our first visit there and we loved it. Once we had checked in at our hotel we strolled 10 minutes down the road for lunch at the well-known and recommended Crabby Bills. It was a lovely hot day and we eat on the upstairs terrace with amazing views straight across the beach. The location is excellent, but not so keen on the food which tends to be mostly fried.
The beach itself was wonderful and as good if not better than any we have been on anywhere including places such as Thailand and Goa. The sea was so warm that it was like a bath and the waves were pleasant but don't knock you off your feet like some we have experienced. We hired a cabana which was $25 for the day.
On our first evening we strolled down to the beach again to watch the sunset then followed the twinkling lights of Bongos Beach Bar and Grille. This was the perfect place to sit and enjoy the balmy evening, sipping a glass of wine eating good food at a table where our feet were actually in the sand of the beach and generally loving the ambience created by the live music, fire pits and lanterns.
On our second day we drove 10 minutes down the road to Pass-a Grille. What a fantastic place that is! Wonderful white sandy beaches, which were practically empty and a lovely place to have a walk around. The water inlet is breath-taking lined with luxury homes and amazing yachts. We watched a group of manta rays swimming under the bridge as well as loads of big fish. The pelicans were a great sight too.
We spent two days in St Pete's in November, 2015 with 5 friends. We took them to Pass-a-Grille and we had lunch at Sea Critters Cafe. We all enjoyed our meals and thought it was one of the best of our holiday. The location is lovely overlooking the water and fantastic outside on their jetty looking at all of the fish and various birds such as pelicans.
Although we had booked to stay 2 nights at St Pete's we decided to have dinner in the evening at Pass -a-Grille then head home to Florida Delight as it is only an hour and 30 minutes away and we had to be back in Davenport early the next day (as we had workmen coming to our villa to install solar panels for heating our pool). This also showed us that it would be easy to have a full day there and drive back rather than having to pay for a hotel if we don't want to next time.
Being so close to Davenport. St Pete's is a great destination for a day out to the beach and a trip we will hope to do many times.
Siesta Key and Sarasota (119 miles:- 1 hour 58 minutes)
Siesta Key has been voted number 1 beach in the US in the TripAdvisor 2015 Traveller's Choice award. A stunning beach with a wide expanse of soft white sand it is a perfect place to head for some time at the coast.
Siesta Key is located very near to the vibrant Sarasota which has something for everyone with its array of shops, restaurants, art galleries, museums, ballet and opera to name just a few of the reasons that make Sarasota such a popular destination.
We visited last year and had a wonderful day at the Moot Aquarium followed by a trip out on the bay with the Sarasota Bay Explorers. This boat trip was great fun on so many levels. Just being out on the boat gazing at the spectacular mansions lining the bay was an experience in itself but the amount of wildlife we got to see was fabulous. With many chances to see dolphins, pelicans and a variety of fish as we sailed along in the sunshine we found ourselves loving every minute of the trip.
After enjoying being out on the water we headed into the town of Sarasota. Very impressed by the marina packed with million dollar boats which were a real sight.
We were very happy with the dinner that we had in a very pretty little restaurant called Indigenous which was tucked away in the charming streets of the arts district of Sarasota and would we would definitely eat there another time when we return to Sarasota again.
This area is a real treat and well worth a visit if you can tear yourselves away from the fun and excitement of Orlando for a day or two.
Dolphin Boat Trip (95.5 miles:- 1 hour 41 minutes)
We have visited St Pete's three times now and on the last two occasions been on one of their public dolphin watch boat trips, each time with a group of friends. We have been on the 12pm booking time on each trip and saw dolphin both times. We would recommend booking in advance.
This really is a fabulous way to spend two hours and at $35 per adult for a two hour trip on a beautiful sailing boat, seeing dolphins swimming in their natural habitat it is great value and we all thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. You even get a free water or soda on the trip which is very welcome as it can get hot out on the water.
We have not yet done the Sunset Sail but would very much like to in the future.
To drive to St Pete's from the villa it takes around 1 hour 45 minutes and is motorway nearly all the way. We have come down and stayed overnight to make the most of being at the coast but on our last trip we drove from the villa and back in one day and it wasn't hard at all and if anything it was nice to not pay out for additional accommodation by paying for a hotel when we could get home to the villa easily enough.
We parked in the large free car park next to the mooring at Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Center 4737 Gulf Blvd,St Pete Beach Florida 33706 and walked round to the IHOP for breakfast about 5 minutes walk away. There is also a nice french bakery called Cafe Soleil right next to Dolphin Landings where we have also had breakfast before or even good just for a coffee.