I am currently planning a late April 2013 trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida primarily and would like some insight into how to plan the week.
Some background, no kids traveling, will be 35 year old female traveling with Mom and Aunt in their 50's. Not much into hiking/kayacking/birdwatching/fishing.
Part of the plan is to visit relatives in Ft Myers area with what I presume to be a day trip to Sanibel Island to collect shells and have some beach time. Is a day trip enough to get a feel of the island? I have done a bit of research on TA already and it is light on specific attractions so sounds very laid back. Walk the beach, maybe do shell museum, catch some sunsets on the water? Would like to see dolphins and maybe manatees as well if possible. How long to get over to the island from the Ft Myers metro with traffic and such? Will we see alligators?
My Uncles days off are Tues/Wed I believe and so will be in that area mid-week. The other part of the trip will be in the Tampa/St Petersberg/Clearwater area. Not sure if will start there and then head south or start in Ft Myers and then head north yet since very early in planning stages and no airfare booked yet but I work for a hotel chain so options are somewhat limited to get employee pricing and have just booked a room in Pinellas Park. According to the map, it looks fairly central to that area?? We understand driving will be needed to get around and see sights. We do plan on renting a car as there will be at least 1 day/1 night driving over to Atlantic coast side as Mom and Aunt want to see Kennedy Space Center. Can maybe do trolleys in the different areas around Clearwater and St Petersberg and Tampa as well and leave car parked it sounds like? We will spend some time at Cocoa Beach area as well just to experience both coasts. I see there is a lighthouse as well and I love lighthouses.
Probably do a dolphin boat sightseeing trip from Tampa/St Petersberg/Clearwater area instead of Ft Myers? I am kind of interested in a segway tour as well if they are organized and not just explore on your own. Would like to be led around and have points of interest explained and pointed out. Hear about history and culture and such. Understand the entertainment and cultural area is Ybor City. We are not really nightclub kind of group either but will probably go for dinner? I understand Clearwater has their Pier 60 nightly celebration. So many beaches in the area hard to know what the difference really is so can choose.
One interesting thing I have found on the drive from Tampa to Ft Myers (or reversed depending) is the Mixon Fruit Farm and Orange Grove tour in Bradenton? I think it would be fun to see orange groves although I have yet to convince the rest of the party. Can we just see from the road while driving throughout the state or not?
What are the best routes to drive? Google says its approximately 2 hours from Tampa to Cape Canaveral as well as about 2 hours between Tampa and Ft Myers. I understand Tampa is a good 45 min. or so from the Clearwater and St Petersburg areas as well. I think we would be happy walking along the bay and seeing the city or boats as well as walking along beaches and watching waves.
We have not narrowed down if we will do any of the museums in Tampa or the Aquarium. I have no idea of the relatives will take us to the Ford and Edison winter estates either. I read something about butterfly estates and sunken gardens as well.
I know this is not everyone's version of a perfect vacation but who knows if we will ever get back to the area, so many places to visit on our bucket lists and limited vacation time each year (and funds, LOL). It sounds like a lot of driving but we will get to see a lot as well and that is also important. Any information or insight you can add would be appreciated. I have planned several vacations with the help of TA contributors so I do appreciate the insight to go along with the research. Thanks!