Florida vacation Ideas
January 16, 2008 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Where is a good (NO, GREAT!) place to vacation in Florida for two old ladies, one of whom is sick and cannot bear the airport hassle. We will drive from Virginia, lay on the beach all day and let the water lap at our feet whilst we kvetch. Sis and I like art, history and snorkeling, and the ex-hippie in me always wanted to explore Key West but understand it's beaches are less than desireable. Need to rest yet hunger for knowledge and new adventures. Have looked at cruises but there are none that float my boat (excuse the pun) at this time. I really want to miss spring break crowds too.
posted by ~Sushma~ to Travel & Transportation around Florida (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
as of three years ago, Fort Taylor beach in KW was pretty much OK. I think KW is cool.
posted by matteo at 7:59 PM on January 16, 2008

Sanibel Island, Marco Island and Captiva are very beautiful beaches on the gulf side of Florida. You can take a boat for $99 from Ft. Myers to Key West. It's high season in Florida right now so prices are more than they would normally be. St. Augustine has some nice history and some interesting shops. I personally love the drive down the Florida Keys. You could get a rental car out of the Miami Airport and tool on down. It's a two lane road and at some times of the year the water on each side of the road are two different shades of blue. It's a great road trip but if I were you I'd do the road trip off season so you don't get bumper to bumper traffic all the way down the keys. There is always something strange going on in Key West. Might be a drag queen parade, Goomday, the Parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans), who knows what else. It's worth a trip.
posted by 45moore45 at 8:06 PM on January 16, 2008

Bahia Honda beach is the nicest I've ever been to, and it's just a few Keys up from Key West.
posted by Liosliath at 8:16 PM on January 16, 2008

--Spring Break is usually in March and in Florida Spring Break tends to be on the Atlantic side of the state, Daytona and Ft. Lauderdale.
posted by 45moore45 at 8:30 PM on January 16, 2008


You'll thank me later!
posted by konolia at 8:34 PM on January 16, 2008

I would like to recommend Saint Petersburg FL and the surrounding area. No longer known as "God's waiting room" it has become a first rate travel destination. Many art museums and galleries such as the world famous DALI and the Saint Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts set it apart from many other areas. We are also blessed with some of the finest beaches in the country. As for history we have that in spades especially if you like old restored Four Star Hotels. Oh and for the hippie in you both Jack Kerouac, and Jim Morrison seemed to dig the place. Good luck in your search.
posted by HappyHippo at 8:41 PM on January 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

just a warning...spring break in Canada happens in February (reading week) so there will be plenty of students in Florida.
posted by gursky at 8:48 PM on January 16, 2008

I would recommend St. Augustine, Florida. It's the oldest European city in the United States. Beautiful architecture, pristine beaches and plenty of good restaurants and shops.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 9:07 PM on January 16, 2008

I'd suggest St. Augustine. Decent beaches, good food, lots of history, and plenty of crafts/interesting stores. Not much by way of snorkeling however. For snorkeling you'd have to go to the Keys, and for art you'd have to try either the Tampa area (basically the same as St. Pete) or Miami.

In theory you could spend most of the time in St. Augustine and mix in a drive to Cape Canaveral (less then an hour away) and St. Pete (maybe two hours away).
posted by oddman at 9:13 PM on January 16, 2008

Nthing St. Pete. Also oddman's travel times are incorrect. St. Augustine to Cape Canaveral is about 2 to 2.5 hours, and St. Augustine to St. Pete is 3.5 - 4 hours.
posted by nulledge at 10:03 PM on January 16, 2008

St Augustine on the northeast coast or St Pete Beach on the west coast (the one small part of land called St Pete Beach, a very mellow part that's not to be confused with the much more spring-breaky St Petersburg). Both relatively artsy & liberal, both heaven for people who want to chill and avoid crowds. If you can afford to rent something right at the tip of St Pete Beach in Pass-a-Grille (like, within 1st through 18th Streets in Pass-a-Grille) that is the ultimate in small town atmosphere. If not you can rent farther north and there's a free beach trolley that gets you to the tip. The biggest variety of rentals is at Hurley Realty which is where I look when I daydream of going back there. The rental prices have seriously risen in the last few years, but at least look at Pass-a-Grille in case you can afford it....
posted by sparrows at 10:37 PM on January 16, 2008

Duh -- by "streets" I meant "avenues." 1st through 18th-or-so avenues.
posted by sparrows at 10:39 PM on January 16, 2008

2nding Sarasota.

There's some arty stuff, some beachy, some naturey stuff, some eaty stuff and some touristy stuff. Perfect blend.
posted by gnutron at 11:45 PM on January 16, 2008

Come to St. Petersburg! We have gorgeous beaches, the prettiest sky you've ever seen, great restaurants, museums (the Fine Arts Museum and the Museum of History are within blocks of one another), and pretty much anything else you could want. If you come between now and May, we have an enormous open air market on Saturdays from 9am-2pm downtown (which is near everything else I've already mentioned) that has just about everything you can imagine including good food to eat while you walk and people watch, great music and every colorful local in town. We have a fantastic pier, and though the downtown area is very walkable, you can ride the Looper Trolley all over the place.

In short: hi, I love where I live.
posted by mewithoutyou at 12:02 AM on January 17, 2008

I'll nth St Augustine. Really, I'd recommend a cruise vacation, but port hassles can be as bad as airport hassles. As a backup, I'd say Daytona.
posted by crataegus at 1:05 AM on January 17, 2008

I'm a St. Petersburg resident, and would love to recommend our new downtown area. It's got great museums, cool restaurants, things to see and do. Hey - we even have beaches nearby!
posted by willmize at 4:23 AM on January 17, 2008

If you don't care about things going on, try Alligator Point, near Panacea, FL. It's in Walton/Okaloosa county. You can rent beach houses for a week or two that are right on the "spit." The spit is two miles of white sand, and we saw porpoises from the deck of the rental. My mother swam every morning and found horseshoe crabs and coral on the sandbar (the water is a bit dark if the Gulf isn't calm, it's not clear water).

The drive is about 40-50 minutes from Tallahassee airport, about 30 from I-10 depending which exit you go at. Panacea is very small and has three restaurants serving fish, fish, shrimp, crawdad and fried gator. Alligator Point is about 5 minutes drive from Panacea and has beach houses and a fire station. One of the firemen travels around the place on his official Fire Station Bicycle. I believe boat rentals are available.

It is a very small place and does not have any hotels. There are Asian Tiger mosquitos, but they only come out at dusk and dawn. We found the vacation rental at VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and can't recommend it enough for people who hate crowds.
posted by subbes at 5:16 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

St Pete and Clearwater are both great. And if you happen to be in town for the weekends of the 26th of January or the 16th of February, look across the bay to Tampa for one of the Gasparilla parades. March 1st and 2nd for the arts festival!
posted by that girl at 6:00 AM on January 17, 2008

3rding Sarasota - Seemed to fit your bill when I was there, particularly since you'll have a car. Go see the Ringling museum of art.
posted by Orb2069 at 6:01 AM on January 17, 2008

Hollywood Beach, between Lauderdale and Miami?
posted by tiburon at 6:19 AM on January 17, 2008

Another voice for St. Augustine. I grew up there, and my parents still live there. The town's got beautiful beaches, tons of neat history and architecture, a burgeoning art scene and lots of great restaurants.

As others have mentioned, there's not much snorkeling to be done in the ocean there, but there are a bunch of freshwater springs within easy driving distance (1-3 hours) of St. Augustine that are great for snorkeling. This time of year, you're likely to encounter lots of manatees near the spring-heads, too, which is a bonus. Off the top of my head, I'd recommend Salt Springs, Ginnie Springs, Silver Springs, Blue Springs and Juniper Springs for good snorkeling opportunities.
posted by saladin at 6:35 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, if you've got any more questions about St. Augustine, feel free to shoot me an email.
posted by saladin at 6:36 AM on January 17, 2008

Another vote for St. Augustine. That's where Mrs. Wittgenstein and I live.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:19 AM on January 17, 2008

Sarasota is, indeed, really nice, but if you have your heart set on snorkeling you should probably choose another destination. If you do go to Sarasota, Siesta Key is probably the more spring breakey area; Lido Key is probably quieter.
posted by SampleSize at 8:27 AM on January 17, 2008

The only problem with St. Pete is that you'll have to drive through Tampa (my hometown) to get there. Which may well cause you to turn the car around and high-tail it back to Virginia.

St. Pete/Sarasota will be fine in terms of Spring Break crowds, though, as only old people vacation there. Pretty much the entire Atlantic coast is going to be teeming with young people (worse yet, young tourists--though I have a hard time imagining that St. Augustine is going to hold much appeal for the Girls Gone Wild set), the Panhandle will be full of kids from Alabama (we don't call it the "Redneck Riviera" for nothing), and a fair number of Floridians head down to the Keys over the break.
posted by wreckingball at 9:01 AM on January 17, 2008

Alligator Point is good. Also a little further west is Saint George Island. Mainly house rentals, only 1 motel on the island. Very laid back. About 20 minutes from Apalachicola and an hour or so from Tallahassee. About 90 minutes from I-10, so access isn't too bad.

posted by sandpine at 9:11 AM on January 17, 2008

I've lived in several cities in FL and usually go back to visit once a year.

My suggestion is St. Augustine, hands down. I go back every few years. It won't be overrun with teenyboppers, it has great beaches, great history, good dining and great B&Bs. I don't know about the snorkeling - I think you would have to drive down to the Keys for some decent places for that - but otherwise it fits all your requirements. It's also much closer to VA than the Keys if you're driving.

Re the Keys, if you've never been, Key West is an experience. Lots of art, history and funky locals, and I imagine the snorkeling will be better there than anywhere else. The beaches were OK but not great, like you mention, so if that's truly the most important thing for you, I'd go somewhere else. But it's still a great place to experience. There will be spring-breakers, though, and it can be pricey.

St. Pete is also nice, with good beaches, and has good museums to satisfy the art cravings. However, it's a much bigger city and doesn't quite have that quaint 'tucked-away' feeling you get in St. Augustine.

Sarasota is nice - I particularly like AnnaMarie Island - but it doesn't have as much to hold your interest as St. Pete and St. Augustine.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Pensacola - absolutely stunning beaches! But, sadly, there isn't much to do besides the beach if you're not a teenager. Avoid the Panhandle and cities like Tallahassee at all costs - beautiful but incredibly narrow-minded. Pensacola is similar. As the saying goes, the further north you go in FL, the further south you are. (Maybe as a Virginian that is less important to you, but I was shocked by the level of racism and bigotry and chauvinism I witnessed in northern FL when I was there.)
posted by widdershins at 11:10 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

An Nth recommendation for St. Augustine as well (link is a great little portal/business directory for the St. Augustine area). I live in Florida less than an hour from the Daytona area, and I'd still rather drive to St. Augustine for a getaway. Tons of things to do and see, including a wonderful winery that runs tours, if you enjoy a glass of vino every now and then. Good hotels (some historic, like the Casa Monica) and bed and breakfasts in the area, too.

If you end up in the Daytona area for any reason (and I don't really recommend it for relaxation), spend your kvetching time north of Daytona at Ormond Beach instead. Much more quiet, less people, no cars allowed on the beach. Even the sand seems of a higher quality (probably just more clean...).
posted by XcentricOrbit at 12:39 PM on January 17, 2008

There are some GREAT ideas up there, it ought to keep sis busy researching a few days..lol!

Are there any places that are warm enough to swim this time of year? Just curious because I went to Destin a couple of years ago in October and it was freezing cold. I wondered if it was an anomoly.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2008

Try Fernandina Beach. It's just a bit north of Jacksonville and immediately south of the Georgia line, so it's a pretty short drive. It's a lovely small town. On the way you could check out Savannah and Charleston and the many interesting places in between. Have fun!
posted by carmicha at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2008

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