Travel Guide to Florida - - WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA -

West Cen­tral Florida’s stretches of sugar-white, pow­der-soft sandy beaches found along the Gulf of Mex­ico each have their own per­son­al­i­ties and are per­fect play­grounds for all ages.

For a quiet, more nat­u­ral beach day with­out high rises tow­er­ing be­hind you, con­sider Fort De Soto Park, south of St. Pete Beach, or An­clote Key Pre­serve State Park to the north. Caladesi Is­land State Park is a per­fect des­ti­na­tion not only for beaches, but also for its four-mile kayak­ing trail and its three-mile na­ture trail. Nearby Hon­ey­moon Is­land State Park was con­nected to Caladesi Is­land un­til a hur­ri­cane sep­a­rated them in 1921. Once a pop­u­lar hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tion in the 1940s and 1950s, it is now a fa­vorite among bird­watch­ers and wel­comes more than one mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally.

Not only Florid­i­ans think the beaches here are fan­tas­tic. Two lo­cal beaches made it onto Tri­pAd­vi­sor’s 2017 Trav­el­ers’ Choice list of “Top 25 Beaches–United States”— St. Pete Beach (No. 3) and Clear­wa­ter Beach (No. 4). And at the end of the day, there’s no bet­ter place than a beach in West Cen­tral Florida to watch spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets over the Gulf of Mex­ico.

When wa­ter tem­per­a­tures dip below 72 F in Florida, West Cen­tral Florida’s nat­u­ral springs are ter­rific spots to see man­a­tees, thought to be mer­maids by sailors too long at sea. Pop­u­lar mana­tee view­ing spots in­clude Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Ho­mosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Three Sis­ters Springs in Crys­tal River and the TECO Mana­tee View­ing Cen­ter in Apollo Beach, just south of Tampa.

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