Thinking Of The Florida Gulf Coast For The Holidays – Read This

If you have been thinking about spending the holidays on the Florida Gulf Coast, you won’t be disappointed.  I love the beaches of the Gulf Coast; there is just something so relaxing about them.  There are three different regions of the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Northwest Region, the West Central Region, and the Southwest region.  The Northwest Region of the Gulf Coast is an easy drive from our area.   The West Central and Southwest regions are a quick flight from Birmingham.  Or if you are a road warrior like me, driving is not an issue.

I adore the Northwest region of the Gulf beaches, which includes the Florida Panhandle.  This might be where I retire.  I love this region because there are so many great choices for beach adventures, hotels, shopping, restaurants, and spas.  I adore Pensacola Beach because of the sugar-like sand, the Historic Pensacola Village, and the National Naval Aviation Museum (because I am a huge fan of the Blue Angels Naval aerobatics team).  When I visit Pensacola, I have not stayed in a traditional hotel setting but vacation rentals, which you can find great listings with Southern Resorts.  For dining, be sure to visit the Fish House, as seen on the Food Network’s Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods.  The Sunday Brunch has an amazing menu including the Ahi Tuna Nachos.

The West Central region features the Gulf beaches of Tampa Bay.  I typically stay in Tampa and make the beach outing a full day trip.  I really enjoyed that last time I stayed at the Le Meridien in Tampa.  This hotel is pretty close to Ybor City, where you can find the “gem of Spanish Restaurants” called Columbia.  Everything on the menu is top-notch.  For the beach trip, I suggest Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.  It’s a quick drive from Tampa or St. Petersburg and has three miles of some of the gorgeous views ever.  Be sure to make plans to visit Keegan’s Seafood Grille, which has been featured on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”  All the dishes are amazing, but for me the showstopper is the Key West Cracked Conch!  If you are feeling adventurous, you can try the Char-Broiled Octopus!

I love Marco Island which is in the Southwest region of the Gulf Coast.  A great place to stay is at the JW Marriott Hotel.  I adore the pool-side cabanas, great atmosphere, and the Spa by JW.  Marco Island is the perfect place for rest and relaxation.  After a day of the beach, pool, and spa, treat yourself to rum tasting at Kane, which is at the JW Marriott.  They have an extensive Rum list.  For dinner, check out the Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill, which has beautiful views of the Marco River.  I highly suggest the jumbo lump crab stack and the grouper, which is fresh from the Gulf.  You will not be disappointed.  And since I love trying new Rums, I always find myself back at Kane for another taste testing.

Take time out to enjoy the Gulf Coast Beaches; you won’t be disappointed.  Be sure to let me know where you end up and what hidden gems you discover.  @MaryKRadio

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