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Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

Oxford, UK
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Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

Hello- we are thinking of taking a 10-day Florida vacation in December and will probably fly into Tampa. We are a couple aged 39&41 so don't plan to head to Orlando for the parks. Instead we'd like to base ourselves in 3 or 4 places down the Gulf coast staying maybe 2- 3 nights in each, ending up back in Tampa. Can anyone suggest a good itinerary, probably including Sanibel island?

We'd like to stay in beach resorts but prefer the small & quirky to large towns. To give an idea of what suits us, last year we spent time in Key West & loved it, but didn't enjoy Miami Beach. We'd like to see lovely beaches & stay in small hotels where we can walk out to restaurants & bars in the evening.

Any ideas greatly appreciated!

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

For starters, these are a few of our favorites...most of which are in synch. with your criteria.

Boca Grande:

Gasparilla Inn, completed in 1913 in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, named, legend has it, for a Spanish pirate who set up headquarters in these waters. Although modern sprawl has crept up on the rest of Gasparilla, the town of Boca Grande evokes another era ...good place to stop for at least one night.

Siesta Key - Gorgeous white sand beaches. Accommodations range from upscale highrises to quaint village accommodations. Bonus is that you are just across a short bridge from Sarasota and the many interesting attractions available there.

Sanibel Island - "Get away from it all" ambience. No buildings taller than 4 stories permitted. Miles of bicycling paths. World famous shelling beaches. Large areas of protected habitat to foster gathering of wildlife. Wonderful restaurants and shops. You will want to plan several days on lovely Sanibel!!

A bit farther south...you may enjoy day trips (or longer) to Naples and to Marco Island. I suggest you visit the discussion boards for each of the suggested locations and see if you can get a better sense of what may appeal to you.

How fun to have 10 days to just "go with the flow". Hope you have a great time!

2. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

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The Bakery
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3. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

CoronaandLime's suggestion is an excellent!!!!!!!!! Key West Express would allow you spend and few days on an interesting, and VERY DIFFERENT island and take a day trip out to Ft Jefferson (weather permitting) for some of the finest snorkeling to be had in the lower 48. There are many nice inns and small hotels to choose from and no, you don't need to be party animals to enjoy the place. Key West Express has packages that include hotels or just arrange your return a few days later. While I think the Overseas Highway is one of the most spectacular drives anywhere in the world, it is also a long and time consuming thing to do, especially from the west coast. Thanks to Geography, the ferry is a brilliant alternative.

Do save some time for Sanibel, It's a wonderful contrast with its focus on nature and preservation of the environment with strictly limited development and a wonderful, laid back, quiet atmosphere.

PS - I'd follow Grandma Mac's route, skip Marco and do Key West. Way more character down there.

Edited: 12:37 pm, August 27, 2012
Oxford, UK
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4. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

All sounds great. We are really tempted by Key West but as we were there only a year ago, and never having seen any of the Gulf Coast, we feel maybe we should see some different places. But definitely looking for a laid-back Key West feel. Beach bars and flip flops instead of nightclubs, shall we say!!

So far, Siesta key and Sanibel are sounding really good, any further advice appreciated! Will it be warm enough to swim in the ocean in December or should we be looking for somewhere with a heated pool?

Chicago
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5. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

From your post, it sounds like you and I have the same tastes in vacations. We have a place in Sanibel. Last year, we took a road trip from Sanibel up the coast to Anna Marie island. Here was our itinerary.

First stop was Venice. There was a concession stand right off the beach, so we bought breakfast and ate on the beach. Then if you stay on 41 you will run into all the little beach towns Next stop was Siesta Key, beautiful beaches, but unfortunately no restaurants on the beach. At least none that I could find. There is a quaint little area about 3 blocks from the beach with restaurants and shops. Next stop was St. Armands Circle, I’m not much of a shopper, but if you are this is a great spot. Next stop , Longboat key. It seemed mostly residential, but then again , maybe we just missed something. Our favorite was the last stop , Anna Maria Island, very funky atmosphere. Ate at the” Gulf Drive Café.” There are little tiki huts on the beach, made me feel like I was back in Mexico. Also stopped a place called Rod & Reel. Very rustic, and I really mean rustic. But definitely worth it for the fresh fish sandwiches.

It was a 12 hour day but we made it back by dark. If you liked Key West, I would definitely make the trip to Sanibel. Like someone said, no resorts over 4 stories, no street lights, or traffic lights. But Sanibel is more spread out, there really isn’t a “town “ area, Also, there isn’t much between Venice and Sanibel, so I would hop on 75 and take the highway, to Sanibel. If you’ve come this far, you definitely have to stop at the next island, which is Captiva. Take a walk down Andy Rossi Street, watch the sunset , stop at the Mucky Duck for a cocktail and you have got to stop at “The Bubble Room” even if you just poke your nose in to get a look, I have heard their desserts are great.

I would skip Marco Island and Naples, more comparable to Miami, but that’s just my opinion.

The Bakery
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6. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

If you want laid back, the Sanibel/Captiva is a 'must do'. Siesta Key, for the sand alone, is worth the trip. I agree, skip Marco and Naples.

For places with some historic character and also restaurants, try Island Inn on West Gulf (no to be confused with Sanibel Inn on East Gulf) on Sanibel or Tween Waters Inn on Captiva. Do check to see if Traditions, the Island Inn restaurant, still had a dinner dress code. Tweenies has Old Captiva House, one of the best restaurants on the islands and NASCRAB races twice a week in their bar - kind of a local 'must see'.

The Gulf waters around Sanibel are shallow and start cooling quickly, so I'd look for a heated pool. Certainly, you is 'swimable' just not very warm in Dec. The sense of how warm the water is subjective and impacted by air temps, so on colder days it feels warmer and on warmer days it feels chilly.

Grandma Mac knows Siesta Key far better than I do and can help you there. Anna Maria, right at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is also a nice spot. But once you're north of Port Charlotte, you actually change climate zones, and the weather is more heavily influenced by cold fronts from the north. Given how chilly the beaches in the UK are, it might be very comfortable for you regardless. I like watching the Canadians in shorts, tees and flip-flops while the locals wear sweaters or jackets, long pants, and scarfs. I'm easily amused. heheheheheheheheheh

Punta Gorda, Florida
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7. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

Hi,

Congrats on your getaway. Here are some of my personal, "don't miss" favorites.

If you have time, make a short drive north past Tampa to Tarpon Springs. You'll enjoy the quaint area. Pick up a few sea sponges to take home then head back toward the south. You'll love the drive over the Skyway bridge going out of Tampa. It's a beautiful bridge and quite a view too! Next stop is Sarasota. If you love kitchy shopping, there are some great little art shops and antique shops in downtown Sarasota. I love the Artful Giraffe. Look around for shops in the Ringling Blvd area. If you like higher end shopping - try St. Armand's Circle. No money to blow? Have fun just looking. It's a very interesting area. Sarasota has Siesta Key -the number one beach in the U.S. - known for white powdery sand. You might also want to visit the Ringling Brothers Museum or Mote Aquarium. Both good bets. Heading farther down the coast I would make a visit to Manasota Key and then Boca Grande a must. Manasota Key is a very laid back little community with a very nice beach. Try the Lock and Key restaurant or the White Elephant. Boca Grande is on Gasparilla Island. It's a $5.00 toll to go over the bridge but completely worth it. Once you get over the bridge you are about 6 miles or so from the community of Boca Grande. It is so incredibly charming. It has an absolutely gorgeous beach that will likely not be crowded when you come. There are lots of places to have lunch or you can just take a picnic lunch to the beach. If you have never been kayaking, there's a place called Grande Tours that is almost across the street from the place where you turn off to go to Boca Grande. They will rent you a kayak. Consider kayking to Don Pedro Island. It makes a fabulous half day trip. Pack a picnic lunch (there are restrooms on the island). Once you get there it's a short hike to the beach but OH MY - it's like having your own private island. Great shelling and you'll feel like you are a world away. I would do this or Boca - hard to decide which. Heading farther south. If you are on 41, you will go through Punta Gorda. When you cross the bridge over the Peace River, take the first right off of the bridge and go about a mile down the road through the historic neighborhoods and you'll come to Fishermen's Village. Very nice boutiques and specialty shops in an old Fishery. Punta Gorda itself is very charming. If you want to park your car and bike around the town, you can get a free bike and helmet to use for an hour or the day at the Wyvern, the Four Points Sheraton, Fisherman's Village or Laishley Marina. Don't miss the litte shops and art galleries downtown. Onto Fort Myers and Sanibel. A MUST is the Edison Ford Estates. Plan at least three hours if you go. If you are headed to Sanibel and Captiva, plan dessert at the Bubble Room. It is a heart-tugging favorite for almost everyone who has vacationed on Sanibel or Captiva. You won't believe your eyes when you see the size of your cake slice and it's Sooooooo good! There are so many places along th southwest Gulf coast that I love but these are just a few. Have a great time! Look for apps on your smart phone. Most Florida destinations have them and they are very helpful.

Punta Gorda, Florida
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8. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

I would recommend Boca Grande (completely accessible by bike), Manasota Key and Anna Maria Island. You can still head down to Sanibel. There is a $5 toll for the bridge to Boca Grande (completely worth it) and I think a $7 or $9 toll to Sanibel. No toll for Manasota Key and I'm not sure about Anna Maria. Anyone? As I have posted before, don't miss the Bubble Room - one of our absolute favorites when we go to Sanibel and Captiva. If you love cycling, you'll want to cycle through the Ding Darling Wildlife area. If you are in the Fort Myers area, I would definitely plan on a trip to the Edison Ford Winter Estates. Fascinating and well worth your time. If you have a smart phone, look up the apps for Sarasota, Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands, Tampa, etc, Fort Myers and Sanibel. You'll find them extremely helpful. Happy travels. Thank you for visiting our beautiful state. I hope you have an amazing time.

Oxford, UK
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9. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

Thank you so much everyone for some amazing ideas! I really appreciate all these replies, looks like I have some research to do now!!

Tyler, Texas
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10. Re: Itinerary help- 10 days from Tampa in December?

TravelLas....these sound great. I am saving them for our month in Venice. Should i start another thread?