Do you like to travel and experience new places, cultures or foods? Is it time for a vacation or a break from your everyday life? If you answer yes to either of these questions then you need to read about these hidden gems on or near Florida’s Gulf Coast.

As an author and artist, I am always searching for inspiration or just a break. And, one of my favorite ways to do both is by visiting different countries, cultures and townships all over the world. Lately, I have been garnering inspiration from within the United States.

I recently moved to Florida and now I am feeling settled. Although Florida is best known for Disney World in Orlando and the Florida Keys’ beaches, the State of Florida has so much more for you to see and experience.

The variety of towns, rural areas, beach and fishing destinations provide a multitude of cultural, natural beauty and beach experiences. The towns offer loads of restaurants, gift shops, bookstores, coffee shops, gardens and much more.

Florida is a diverse and beautiful State. Therefore, I recommend you explore and experience it. So, when you visit Florida, the following towns are on the Gulf Coast and are great day trips. Also, if you live in Florida you can explore and have some fun weekend and day trips.

St. Petersburg

My husband, Gregg, and I decided last minute to do a day trip to St. Petersburg. So, first we drove through to get a feel and, then, parked and walked the lovely town. We discovered art galleries, chocolate and coffee shops, exotic boutiques and restaurants. Additionally, we strolled along a beautiful waterfront with dolphins swimming, whistling and chattering close by. What an experience!

After our walk through the town we visited the Sunken Gardens. Oh, how beautiful! It was a peaceful and relaxing place. We walked through the lush gardens of a variety of green foliage, colorful flora and exotic birds. What a lovely day!

Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg
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Bradenton Beach and Cortez Beach, Sarasota, St. Armands Circle, Siesta Key Beach in Manatee County

There is much to see in the Manatee County area. The city of Sarasota with its beautiful St. Armands Circle shops and restaurants; a variety of beach communities such as Bradenton, Cortez and Siesta Key; restaurants, museums and much more.

However, the beaches were the most surprising parts for me because they reminded me of some of the beaches in The Bahamas, where I grew up. I was shocked at how pretty, clean and well-organized the beaches were. If you’re a beachgoer, I suggest you visit Coquina Beach Park and Siesta Key Beach. They are absolutely beautiful.

 
Coquina-Beach-Park-Bradenton
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Dunedin

Dunedin is northwest of Tampa and about 25 miles driving distance. Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island have beaches, hiking, fishing and surfing which is great for families and beach lovers. Caladesi Island is only accessible via a ferry ride. Honeymoon Island State Park has a beach for dog lovers too. Therefore, I was thrilled because my pooch, Cupcake, loves the beach.

Tarpon Springs

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Tarpon Springs, the sponge capital of the world, is only a forty-minute drive northeast from Tampa and, thirty minutes north of St. Petersburg. It is definitely worth the drive. With its Tarpon Avenue in the downtown area that has charming 1800s buildings filled with antique stores, gift and coffee shops, it also offers art and theatre. Main Street in the Greek sponge district, has a variety of candy, gift and trinket stores. Likewise, it has a variety of restaurants among which are seafood, sushi, pho and, of course, Greek. Gregg and I chose to eat at Hellas Restaurant and Bakery. The food and pastries were divine. However, I, especially, liked the Baklava. Yummy! 

 

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I loved the Greek, sponge town of Tarpon Springs. It is a great walking town, with much to do and Greek culture at every turn. Also, it is on the waterfront so a cool breeze cools you as you stroll through the town.

 

 

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In addition to restaurants, there are boat tours, sponge and soap shops, clothing and jewelry stores. Gregg and I were pleasantly surprised when we drove to the Fred Howard Park area. The park is dog friendly, which is a plus.

 

 

 

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However, the beauty of the seascapes was breathtaking.

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It was great to experience the Greek culture and history in Tarpon Springs. And, the surprise was the beauty in the Howard Park area.

Ybor City

Ybor City is a must-see historic neighborhood in Tampa and is nicknamed Florida’s Latin Quarter and is just northeast of the downtown Tampa area. So, you can hop on the TECO Line Streetcar and get there quickly and easily. It was founded in 1885 by Vicente Martinez-Ybor, a Spanish cigar manufacturer. 7th Avenue is one of the “10 Great Streets in America” and is considered the main street. In Ybor City you can visit night clubs, restaurants, tattoo parlors, museums and even a NYC Pizza eatery.

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I hope you enjoyed this introduction to some of the towns along the Gulf Coast of Florida. I know I enjoyed them and they inspired me to share my experiences with you. So, I hope you choose to take a vacation or day trip to some, if not all, of these extraordinary gems.