Where Do You Want To Explore?
Stretching from the Everglades in the south to Sarasota-Bradenton in the north and from the Gulf of Mexico in the west to Lake Okeechobee to the east, Southwest Florida covers all the bases, balancing wildlife-rich Everglades backcountry with the art of masters, beach abandon with sophisticated museums and hometowns with home runs. Throw in superb shopping, dining, and theater and you indeed score a home run. By Chelle Koster Walton
Bradenton, Anna Maria Island
Wake up in your charming beachfront cottage and head to Ginny’s and Jane E’s to indulge in their famous crème brûlée French toast. Visit Pine Avenue, the heart of Anna Maria Island, and paint a sand dollar keepsake at the Shiny Fish Emporium. Rent a bicycle from Beach Bums and tour the island. Visit Coquina Beach, voted best “island sand” in the US by Condé Nast. Enjoy a picture-perfect sunset and watch dolphins at play while dining at the Sandbar Restaurant.
Begin your day even before sunrise to find the best seashells along the beach at the 1884 Sanibel Lighthouse. Then find out why the USA Today newspaper ranked the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island tops for birdwatching. After a chilled shrimp and fruit salad lunch at The Island Cow, be amazed at one of the US’s most-visited historical homes, the Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. Cap off your day with dinner at the exclusive Veranda restaurant or at Pinchers.
Take an early morning walk along Marco Island’s crescent-shaped white sand beach. Search for shells and birdwatch at Tigertail Beach on the island’s north end, a top spot on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail. Book a sightseeing cruise on board Pure Florida’s Double Sunshine departing from Tin City on the Old Naples Waterfront. Enjoy a grouper sandwich and slice of key lime pie at Pinchers Crab Shack next to the docks at Tin City. Explore the Children’s Garden and the Naples Botanical Garden.
Start your day with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and pastries in downtown Sarasota before heading to Bayfront Island Park for a stroll alongside Sarasota Bay. Hop over to St. Armands Circle for retail therapy and lunch at al fresco dining spots. Then grab a paddle and kayak the mangrove tunnels on Lido Beach. Reserve your evening for a sunset on Siesta Beach, where the luxurious quartz-white sand is unmatched. Top off your day with cocktails and dinner at any of the delightful restaurants in Siesta Key Village.