Need help planning a Gulf Coast Florida vacation
May 5, 2023 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a recommendation for a location on the gulf coast of Florida from Clearwater south to Fort Myers for a January vacation. Two adults, one senior citizen, and two late-stage teenagers. Trying to find a location with a nice beach close by (senior citizen) and lots of things to do for the teenagers (both very active, love exploring new areas, shopping, thrift stores, probably near a mid size city best for them).

Venice, FL has been recommended to us but I’m concerned it’s too far from Sarasota & Fort Myers for the teenagers.

Budget for an Airbnb is $4,000 for 7 days.

Any info or suggestions welcome.
posted by mlis to Travel & Transportation around Collier County, FL (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Any reason not to stay a bit further south in Miami? Lots to do but also perfect beaches.
posted by mai at 11:15 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

My parents live in Englewood and tbh it's kind of dullsville for awhile. St Pete is cool but it's farther from the beaches down south. If you are willing to be farther from a city then Boca Grande has a beautiful beach and a nice (ie rich) vibe.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:22 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

The problem with Fort Myers is that much of it near the beach simply doesn't exist anymore. We were just there in April, and it's still really rough. We usually stay on Sanibel, but that's just not an option right now. Same with FMB - a lot of the oceanfront places haven't even replaced their windows yet, let alone started work on the insides. I would expect a lot of progress to be made between now and January, but I'm still not sure I'd book based on that. My in-laws have booked a place on Sanibel for April 2024, but even then they've got a backup on the mainland in case it's not ready. There are business on Sanibel that have openly said they don't expect to reopen until 2025.

You might try further south a bit. Naples has a reputation as catering more to the senior citizen in your party than to the teenagers, but it's still a decent-sized city and it's a quick drive to Fort Myers if they want more (or if you'd like easy airport access).
posted by kevinbelt at 11:39 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]

How close do you want to be to the beach? Either way, St. Pete or Sarasota are likely the only areas that will satisfy teenagers that want something to do. (And even Sarasota might be a reach at that.)
posted by gnutron at 11:49 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

Local here. Treasure island and adjacent areas. St Pete is a few minutes away (sunrunner bus transit line is free between beaches and downtown). Tons of varied stuff to do. Iconic museums, great food, world class beaches. Busch gardens is cheap close and easy. Tampa and St Pete airports are great..... It's why we ended up moving here a decade ago. Hope you'll visit! Feel free to message me if you'd like.

Also, To be clear being close to sarasota is not what id considered a teen hub. And further south is... Not really great right now. Lots of stuff is just plain gone. They deserve tourists and support but it's just not probably right for your mix of folks this year.
posted by chasles at 11:52 AM on May 5 [3 favorites]

I've stayed in Treasure Island/Madeira Beach many times and am a thrift store junkie. Beaches are nice around there and there are lots of thrift stores in St. Pete.

I stayed in Fort Myers many years ago and never went back, although it sounds like that's not even an option these days.
posted by jabes at 12:26 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]

Hey there. Finally a topic where I'm qualified to post a response!

I live in Sarasota and have two teenage boys. Gotta agree, it's not exactly thrill a minute... but Siesta Key is right off of Sarasota (linked by bridges) and is a gorgeous beach. (This link will tell you about the beach and a lot of other regional stuff.) There's a lot to do in the area, but little of it is close enough together for walking; if you come here, prepare to be driving every day.

Your teens like shopping? Siesta Key Village has some shops and such, St. Armand's Circle is probably the go-to for shopping, but downtown Sarasota has a bunch of high-end thrift and consignment shops downtown. There's a brand-new mall, one of the only ones built in the US in the last decade, maybe 20-30 minutes inland from the water, and it's high-end and thriving.

Culture-wise, in January, the Sarasota Orchestra's schedule should be busy, and they're an excellent group, on par with most major cities' orchestras. Asolo Rep is a strong theater company with a small but gorgeous facility. The Ringling Museum is a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon, both for its world-class collections and its grounds right on Sarasota Bay and next to whatever will be left of New College (don't get me started). Admission is a bit pricey-- but it's free on Mondays, so plan for that if you're going.

If your teens are marine science nerds, or if they just like seeing sharks and otters (not in the same tank), Mote Marine is both a legit aquarium and science research facility. If you can slog 30-45 minutes inland, Myakka River State Park is what Florida looked like 150 years ago, and every time I've been there, I've seen alligators, if they're looking for that kind of thing.

Also, my sister-in-law lives on Sanibel (house *still* not fully repaired) and could give some good advice on how do-able it might be by January. I'll check with her.

I've, ummm, gone a little overboard here. If you'd like more info or want to bounce ideas off me, shoot me a MeMail.
posted by martin q blank at 12:49 PM on May 5 [6 favorites]

I can't say I know all of Florida, but if it were me I would stay right about here in Sarasota.

Siesta Key beach is easy to walk on, amazing sand, they kids can walk to restaurants if they wanted and I think Sarasota is about as solid a town as you can get. Some really nice things for everyone to enjoy. Martin q blank has lots of the same ideas I would mention.

You can also do a day trip to St Pete's and Venice.
posted by ReluctantViking at 1:14 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]

Hey there. Finally a topic where I'm qualified to post a response!

Howdy neighbor!!! Lovely description of Sarasota. It is terrific there!! Loves me some Gulf coast.
posted by chasles at 2:42 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]

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