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Old 01-04-2013, 11:39 AM   #16
budbeerlady
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After our last Disney cruise we drove over toward Tampa. We visited the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Lowery Park Zoo, Lettuce Lake park and then spent some time in Clearwater Beach. We plan to hit Clearwater Beach again at Christmas.

The Clearwater Beach Marine Aquarium to see Winter, Pier 60 with the Buskers, fishing off the pier. And we want to spend a day at Honeymoon Island. Plenty to do in the area!
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:02 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by tzolkin View Post
I will be watching this thread.

I am trying to plan a FL (non-Disney trip also in April). Right now we are planning to do 3-4 days in St. Augustine (including beach), 3-4 days at Discovery Cove/Sea World/Aquatica (something we've never done) and then a week on the Gulf Coast (visiting family, Busch Gardens, beaches).

We were looking into Siesta Key, but I'm not sure if it's worth the price for 2 nights. We may just do a day trip to see the beach since my brother only lives a little over an hour away.


I have been going crazy and wasting way too much time looking at Condo/House rentals in both areas (St. Augustine & gulf coast/Tampa area) and if you're staying for a week you can get something nice that is also budget friendly. Our issue is that most places don't rent for anything less than a week during that time of year and those that do have a significantly higher price per night. (3-4 nights costs about the same as a full week)
If you want to rent by the night at a Florida beach destination, look at the website for Superior Small Lodging; they have plenty of old-style Mom and Pop places that have large rooms and decent nightly rates from about March to October. Many of them cater to long-term snowbird rentals in the winter.

http://www.superiorsmalllodging.com/
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:56 PM   #18
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I really enjoy the Gulf beaches....Siesta Key is by far my favorite although I have also enjoyed Ana Maria Island. Siesta Key has the softest white sand and the clearest blue waters in Florida. The surf is low to moderate....and great for young children. I put my beach chair in the shallow water...grab a book...and hours can pass before I realize how long I have been sitting there. You can also go down to Venice and look for shark's teeth for the day. Ana Maria Island has a lot of condo rentals (south side) or cottages (north side)....and a free trolley that goes up and down the "island."

I do not care for the Atlantic beaches....water is cloudy and rough for most of the year....and sand is course. If your kids are older and like to surf or boogie board and are not afraid of the waves(and are very good swimmers)....then this might be for you. My DD10 went in the water with a boogie board (decent swimmer)....and after 1 big wave knocked her over....she did not go in the water again. We were at the beach for 4 days...and the kids went in the water the 1st day...and then were in the pool for the remaining days. My DS5 (not a good swimmer) did not venture near the water without DH or I...water was too rough for him....he could not even play in the shallows. We have relatives and friends that have condos on the beach in St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach....and can stay for free whenever we would like...yet we choose to spend the money and stay on the Gulf side.

I think you should try both....one trip Atlantic and one trip Gulf...and then you will know where you prefer to stay.
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Old 01-05-2013, 10:22 AM   #19
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We've been to Clearwater (actually Belleair Beach which is right by) twice and Cape Canaveral once. My DH and I love the white sand/clear water of the gulf, and it truly felt like paradise! However (and you prob won't have to worry about this being in April), the last time we went, there were many baby sting rays in the water so you had to do this "shuffle" when you walked in. This understandably freaked my daughters out, so the next beach vacation, we went to the Atlantic. It doesn't look as nice IMO, but that's where they want to go this year because they spent a lot more time in the water playing in the waves that the Gulf just didn't have. Even in shallow areas, my kids could ride the boogie boards, and my oldest tried surfing (3 girls now 15, 13 and 10). We found great places to stay all three times by using VRBO.com, but they were for week rentals. I have seen 3 day minimums on some of the places though. We almost did a split stay last year, half our time at the Gulf and half at the Atlantic, but it seemed to be too much unpacking for us, but it's only a 4 hour drive I think? Best of luck in your decision...based on ages of your kids and time of year, I would probably go the the Gulf.
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Old 01-05-2013, 10:46 AM   #20
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My kids prefer the Atlantic, good thing because that is where we live. They can't stand the beaches on a cruise because there is no surfing or boogie boarding, they find it a 100% snooze fest. If your kids are small or don't swim well, or waves freak them out, go to the gulf coast. I love the gulf, but I am not a kid that loves to do these things.

One thing to be aware of, in April some areas, especially the panhandle are crowded with spring breakers. I have a very good friend that lives over in the panhandle and she hates March through April more than anything because of all the spring breakers, so I would definitely check this out before you decide.
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Old 01-05-2013, 11:49 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by mhsjax View Post
My kids prefer the Atlantic, good thing because that is where we live. They can't stand the beaches on a cruise because there is no surfing or boogie boarding, they find it a 100% snooze fest. If your kids are small or don't swim well, or waves freak them out, go to the gulf coast. I love the gulf, but I am not a kid that loves to do these things.

One thing to be aware of, in April some areas, especially the panhandle are crowded with spring breakers. I have a very good friend that lives over in the panhandle and she hates March through April more than anything because of all the spring breakers, so I would definitely check this out before you decide.
I agree with this! My parents are in Mexico Beach, which is near Panama City, and they don't go out on the beach much while the Spring Breakers are there. If you know your dates, I can ask my parents.
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Old 01-05-2013, 09:34 PM   #22
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you cant go wrong with siesta, longboat or anna maria island. all our close to one another
Love, love, LOVE Anna Maria. Usually drive to Sarasota/ Siesta Key for one day too.
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Old 01-06-2013, 01:21 AM   #23
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Love ClearWater beach on the gulf. Just amazing...
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:20 AM   #24
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We love the Gulf side and have rented homes in Rotonda West. There are a lot of rental homes there suitable for a family of your size and nearly all have private pools. There are three beautiful beaches (Englewood, Venice and Boca Grande) very close to Rotonda. Lots to do nearby and yet a quiet place off the beaten track. It's about half way between Fort Myers and Sarasota. Hope you find what you are looking for and have a wonderful get away.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:36 AM   #25
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We go to the beach for 1 day every time we go to WDW.
The kids prefer Cocoa and St Augustine as they all love to boogie board. I love Clearwater and Fort DeSoto beach for the calmness and beauty. We alternate which coast we visit for each trip.
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:22 PM   #26
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:26 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by mermaidwannabe View Post
We've been to Clearwater (actually Belleair Beach which is right by) twice and Cape Canaveral once. My DH and I love the white sand/clear water of the gulf, and it truly felt like paradise! However (and you prob won't have to worry about this being in April), the last time we went, there were many baby sting rays in the water so you had to do this "shuffle" when you walked in. This understandably freaked my daughters out, so the next beach vacation, we went to the Atlantic. It doesn't look as nice IMO, but that's where they want to go this year because they spent a lot more time in the water playing in the waves that the Gulf just didn't have. Even in shallow areas, my kids could ride the boogie boards, and my oldest tried surfing (3 girls now 15, 13 and 10). We found great places to stay all three times by using VRBO.com, but they were for week rentals. I have seen 3 day minimums on some of the places though. We almost did a split stay last year, half our time at the Gulf and half at the Atlantic, but it seemed to be too much unpacking for us, but it's only a 4 hour drive I think? Best of luck in your decision...based on ages of your kids and time of year, I would probably go the the Gulf.
Rays have particular beaches where they breed on both sides of Florida; it just depends on the beach and the time of year. The Clearwater area is a major breeding ground for rays, so you have to do the "stingray shuffle" there more often than elsewhere.

If you do find yourself vacationing at a beach that has ray warnings out, be sure to wear water shoes while in the water, and it is a great idea to put a thermos of boiling water in your beach pack, along with a good-sized sand bucket. If you get a sting, pour the hot water into the bucket and put the injured foot into it (first diluting the water with seawater to a temperature that is bearable, of course). Hot water immediately neutralizes the pain of a stingray barb if applied ASAP.

For jellies, carrying a bottle of white vinegar in the beach bag is a good idea.

Wildlife is wildlife, and certain beaches are homes for certain species, and if you want to avoid those species you need to pick your beaches carefully for the time of year. Here is an example: One Atlantic beach that is often recommended as wonderful and uncrowded here on the DIS is the one at New Smyrna, and all of that is true. However, because of its close proximity to the Ponce Inlet jetty, New Smyrna is also the largest migratory shark feeding ground on the Atlantic Coast. Most of the time they don't bother people, but for people who are freaked out by sharks just on principle, New Smyrna in April or September is a bad idea, because you WILL encounter them in the waters there at that time of year. This photo is a view into the water from the top of the New Smyrna lighthouse during a migration; all those dark dots are blacktip and spinner sharks:

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Old 01-09-2013, 12:08 PM   #28
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Glad to see a number of positive comments about Anna Maria Island! I'll be vacationing there for the first time in April.
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