Best Beachside Cities in Florida

By: Ben Holdt

Spending a few days at the beach is a great way to get away from the daily stresses of life and relax. With over 8,000 miles of coastline, Florida is second to just Alaska for the amount of land they have touching, sparkling ocean waters. However, the Sunshine State has the upper hand on being near the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. While there may be a lot of towns and cities dotting the Florida coast, there are only a few that indeed offer the best quality of life. Check out the best beachside cities in Florida for your next beach getaway.

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach Rentals

Panama City Beach Skyline

With 27 miles of white sandy beaches, Panama City Beach is widely known for its ability to ease away any stress that you brought with you on your vacation. This famous town offers waterfront restaurants as well as plenty of scuba activities thanks to its nearby artificial reefs. Families will enjoy the many water parks in town as well as two state parks that offer an up close and personal look at nature. There are plenty of nearby amusements to fill a vacation at the beach when the sand castle building is all done.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach House Rentals

Cocoa Beach House Rentals

This popular surfing destination is just south of Cape Canaveral along the Atlantic Ocean. Cocoa Beach is known for the waves that descend upon its shores at the end of the hurricane season that offers a great opportunity for avid surfers. Check out local events to book a vacation with plenty of action out on the water as you soak up the sun from the beach. You’ll also find many things to explore in the area including tours of the Kennedy Space Center, the Dinosaur Store, and many fishing charters.

Destin

Destin Florida Vacation Rental homes

Destin Sandy Beaches

Located in Northwest Florida, Destin features plenty of sugar white beaches and sunshine. As a popular destination point for many Midwesterners, the area is well known for its wide range of fishing activities as well as shopping opportunities. You’ll find excellent fishing charters as well as plenty of events year-round to make your vacation unique. Local restaurants feature fresh seafood from the gulf, and you’ll also find plenty of golf courses in the area as well.

Palm Beach

This widely known beach is as far East as you can get on the Florida coastline. Palm Beach features beautiful palm trees along white sandy beaches and plenty of luxury. The beach sits on a 16-mile-long island that is just 0.5 miles wide with plenty of beach area all around. Many wealthy families choose this area for winter homes which have created a luxury experience in town. You’ll find the most excellent restaurants and upscale shops when you’re not enjoying the beautiful beach.

Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach House Rentals on the beach

Fort Walton Beach

The beautiful emerald waters along Fort Walton Beach are enough to attract plenty of visitors each year. Located between Pensacola and Panama City, the beach is in an excellent location for visitors to get to from other parts of the country. Fort Walton Beach has powdery white beaches and offers plenty for the family to do once a day at the beach is done. You’ll find golf courses, aquariums, and many other attractions that help make this destination a vacation to remember.

There are plenty of places to choose from when looking for a great vacation on the beach in Florida. White sandy beaches mixed with enough great food and nightlife to keep you busy after a long day on the beach is standard for many of these hot spots. Consider any one of the best beachside cities in Florida for your next vacation to the Sunshine State.

Ben Holt is a fresh air enthusiast and loves writing about it. Ben is always looking to make the most of a summer day, whether he is relaxing in his garden, hiking on an off-beaten trail or entertaining friends on his newly renovated patio.

Travel Deal: Bayview Luxury, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

15% OFF January 2010 Bookings – Inquire Today!

A peaceful bayfront paradise. Whether you are enjoying the heated swimming pool and outdoor whirlpool or “sitting on the dock of the bay”, this 2-story 5 Bedroom, 3.5 bath home is almost sure to please any guest. Laundry facilities are located on both floors. Game room with pool table, bar, and TV to keep guests entertained if they get too much sun. there is even an outside shuffleboard court as well. Just a couple hundred yards to the nearest beach access, guests get the proximity to the beach that they want with the privacy of the bay that they need to relax.

In a house with 5 bedrooms, you almost need 2 separate living rooms. With the game room on the first floor and the living room on the second floor, guests can enjoy some quiet relaxation time while the kids are downstairs watching TV or playing games. The living room one of the largest rooms in the house with 3 sets of doors that open onto a screened lanai, an entertainment center with a 36″ TV, DVD Player, VCR and Stereo. Off the living room, guests will find the kitchen and breakfast nook, the formal dining room, the Upstairs Queen bedroom and a half bathroom.

The dining room is seldom used in a vacation home like ours, but you just never know when you are going to have to do some entertaining in a more formal setting. The table is large enough to fit 8 people comfortably, although it only has 6 chairs. Folding chairs for additional guests can be found in the master bedroom closet. It’s a perfect place for a holiday dinner or to entertain friends that live in the area or are vacationing nearby. Conveniently located directly opposite the kitchen, you don’t have far to walk to bring in the food or take out the dishes.

A luxury house requires a spacious kitchen. This house is no exception. With breathtaking views of the bay, the kitchen is the center of the 2nd floor. Guests will enjoy the extra elbow room for cooking on our center island. Staying in the house with a big group requires a lot of food – and we’ve got enough cabinets for you to keep a month’s worth. If you’re staying with just a couple of friends, eat a casual meal at our 4-seat breakfast nook or at the counter with bar stools off the living room.

The recreational/game room is where most children spend their time (when they’re not swimming in the pool, that is). Guests may enjoy our pool table, TV, bar with a separate sink and refrigerator, as well as a table for playing board games. Located directly off the pool deck, it is also a convenient place to relax if you need to get out of the sun for a few hours.

FortMyersBeachFlorida3The Master Suite: Truly the highlight of staying in this home. With a screened in lanaioff this spectacular bedroom, you can wake up each morning watching the sun rise over the bay, listening to the sounds of nature. A King-size bed seems too small in this extra-spacious room. A dresser and dual king-size walk in closets will be plenty of space for you to store your clothes in while you are our guests. A small sitting area with a TV allows you to unwind in private after a busy day at the beach.

The master bath is just as spacious, including double sinks, a shower/steam room, toilet facilities and a bath that overlooks the bay. Additionally, laundry facilities are located off the master bathroom. Enjoy a relaxing bath in our extra-deep tub overlooking the bay or maybe nice hot shower after a long day at the beach. The master suite has an oversized bathroom with luxury facilities like the extra-deep soaking tub, our steam & shower room, double sinks and vanities and laundry facilities. Fresh sheets and towels are included in all rentals.

By far the most relaxing part of staying in this bayfront home is the view of the bay as you relax by the pool. Unlike other houses on the bay, the view from this house is unobstructed and contains only what nature provides. The heated pool and outdoor whirlpool are very relaxing and perfect for families. Our bayfront dock has a boat lift, should you decide to rent a boat for the week or if you happen to have one that you’ll be sailing in on. Our pool deck also has a separate patio complete with seating for 6 and a gas grill for your enjoyment.

Insider Interview: Florida’s North Captiva & Boca Grande

3435492417_cd85059273_bIt’s no wonder Sarah Rapp loves what she does.  For the last 10 years she has worked as a Broker/Realtor and advertising agent for rental properties throughout Southwestern Florida.  As the owner of her own company, Beach Vacation4me, Sarah has worked for 8 years in North Captiva and 2 years in Boca Grande and owns a private residence in North Captiva…although she divides her time between Boca Grande and North Captiva.

And who wouldn’t love dividing their time between these gorgeous barrier islands?

Property ID#19623   Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Property ID#19623 Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Sarah recalls her first visit to North Captiva, “I loved the natural beauty – it’s still somewhat untouched and family oriented.”

And untouched they are – North Captiva is only accessible by boat and there are no cars on the island, vacationers instead opting to navigate around the island by golf cart, bicycle and boat.

Boca Grande has a land bridge making car travel an option, however many still choose to get around in golf carts or on bike.

“For some people, the fact that they have to be without their car in North Captiva is a bit too much,” says Sarah.  ”So Boca Grande is the next best fit.”

Peak season for both of these lush US islands runs from March through the first part of April.  However, both of these locals have great weather year-round, so go ahead and plan your trip for the off-season when you can enjoy warm weather and great rates on vacation rentals!  And if you’re concerned about hurricanes, they are no reason to miss out on a great tropical escape.  Sarah recommends getting travel insurance if you’re planning your trip anytime between August and November.

Once in Boca Grande, vacationers have many options of activities – one of Sarah’s favorites is to head out on one of the many bike paths that wind through the city.  Sarah has also found that Boca Grande has some of the best shelling of anywhere Sarah has been, saying  ”They’re magnificent”

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtest of Florida Trend

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtesy of Florida Trend

She also recommends stopping by the charming Gasparilla Inn & Club for dinner and drinks.  The club has a variety of dining options ranging from The Main Dining Room (open for breakfast and dinner daily), The Pink Elephant, or “The Pink” as many call it (a more casual option for lunch, dinner and drinks), or the popular BZ’s lounge where patrons can lounge on the sofas and chairs and sip one of the Inn’s signature drinks: Gaspartinis, Mojitos and Planter’s Punch.

North Captiva and Boca Grande are only about a 40 minute boat ride apart from eachother – close enough to plan a day trip from one to the other.

Sarah’s North Captiva Picks

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

Food:

  • The Boat House Restaurant and the Island Club – chef David Kivel serves up delicious surf & turf eats, making this a great restaurant to go for a romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion while on the island.
  • Mango’s Island Grill & General Store – a great place to stop by for breakfast or lunch, grab your food to go or enjoy it on Mango’s waterfront patio.
  • Andy’s Seafood Market – in Matlacha, an old fishing village on the mainland before you take a boat over to North Captiva Island, has great fresh fish for vacationers to buy and take with them to cook at their vacation rental house.

Activities:

  • Dennis Realy, owner of North Captiva Charters, is the island’s “Best Kept Secret” and a master fisherman.  According to Sarah, “He knows his stuff – red fish, tarpon, shark, whatever you want to catch, he will cast and then hand you the rod.  I’ve never fished and not caught something!”
  • Visit Boats and Fun run by father, Alberto Barbero, and son, Matias Barbero, who Sarah refers to as “Mr. Fun,” for jet ski, kayak, wakeboard and boat rentals, banana boat and inter-tube rides, and scuba & dolphin excursions.  ”Matias is always smiling, always happy,” says Sarah.  Boats and Fun “has really created a great shop – you can go by and ask them when the tide is, what’s going on around town, anything.”

Vacationers who stay at one of Sarah’s North Captiva rentals that is managed by the Island Club also get to enjoy a guest membership (and all of the amenities that come with it!) to the North Captiva Island Club Resort.  The club offers tennis courts, a huge pool, fitness equipment, day excursions, a pool bar that also serves up milkshakes for the kids and more.  The staff of the North Captiva Island Club will also help assist with groceries and luggage!

Insider Interview: Destin, Florida

John and Dawn Foy have been in the vacation rental business for 23 years – 10 years in Destin, Florida alone.  After vacationing in Destin for a couple of days, John and Dawn fell in love with what they have heard described as, “a Hawaii in the States,” moved a couple months later and still haven’t left.  Now they are the owners of 14 rental properties.  The Foy’s were some of Destin’s first property managers to recognize what exactly vacationers look for when choosing the perfect vacation rental.  ”The number one requirement is that the house have a private pool, so we added pools to our properties,” said Dawn.  ”At first, people thought we were crazy.  Now almost everyone is adding pools to their rental properties.”

“They also want King size beds,” Dawn adds, “and views.”  And if you’re vacationing in Destin, Florida, how could you not want views once you’ve seen Destin’s almost blindingly white sand in bright contrast against the clear turquoise ocean?

“Members of Destin’s Chamber of Commerce collect little bottles of sand from wherever they visit and Destin’s is the whitest,” explains Dawn.  ”It literally squeeks when you walk on it because it is so fine and powdery.”  It’s not just local bias that makes the sand seem so white and sparkeling.  The sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains, and is made of finely ground quartz crystal, which gives it the appearance of sugar.

But there is much more to Destin than the white sand and teal ocean.

One of Destins Jettys

One of Destin's Jettys

Destin is home to virtually every water sport and activity imaginable.  The water is consistently warm with temps reaching 86 degrees in October.  Vacationers can go boating, parasailing, jet skiing, or snorkel with some of the local marine life including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.  You don’t even have to take a charter out of the harbor to find a great snorkeling location.  Dawn offers this local’s tip: snorkel on the jettys off of Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle, where you can park for free and walk down to the water.

“The snorkeling here is amazing!” Dawn says.  ”We tell our vacationers to bring frozen peas or Cheerios to feed the fish.  You’ll see fish in all colors – bright yellow, royal blue, and black and white striped ones…they’re everywhere!”

For other activities, there are dozens of golf courses, the Big Kahuna waterpark, the Gulfarium (“A cute mom and pop type aquarium that is popular with kids and families” according to Dawn) or the Harbor Docks in downtown Destin, offering free parking and a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors – a great place to rent boats and snorkeling equipment.

Destin is also known for its great dining and shopping.  On the East end of town there is the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, the largest designer outlet mall in the US, and in Mid-town Destin is the newly built Destin Commons, which is home to a Hard Rock Cafe as well as a 14 screen cinema and other retail shops.

The Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin, a bustling sub-community of Destin, has lots of shops and it is a great place to take the family or head out to for a night on the town.   At Christmas they even bring in an ice skating rink and put up lights!

Taken off of Dewey Destins dock

Taken off of Dewey Destin's dock

For food, here are Dawn’s picks:

  • The Back Porch – known for their fresh seafood and oysters
  • The Crab Trap – on Scenic 98, on the beach, has a bar, restaurant (inside and outside dining), play ground on the sand for kids, ice cream bar, regular bar and is part of James Lee Park which has a public bath house, picnic tables and plenty of parking for the public
  • Dewey Destin’s (the town was named after his family!) – located on the harbor and serving up large portions of great downhome cooking
  • Pompano Joes Restaurant – its right on the beach on Scenic 98, and also has outside as well as inside dining, casual entertainment and a casual beach bar
  • Captain Dave’s on the Gulf – has been around for over 30 years and is one of Destin’s favorite waterfront restaurants
  • Bonefish Grill – good service, consistently great food, and a nice, quiet ambiance – perfect for a romantic dinner or special occasion
  • Donut Hole – a popular locals spot that has been a staple since the towns conception  - makes a great keylime pie
  • Broken Egg – fresh and nutritional food, over 130 menu items, great for breakfast, brunch or lunch
  • Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ – great southern food made from scratch
  • Fudpuckers – perfect for the family, kids can feed alligators, play in the arcade, and there is a great souvenir shop with unique local gifts
  • Ciao Bellas – they have the best pizza!
  • Cafe Grazie’s – real Italian food, great kids menu

Destin’s peak season runs from the end of May through the first part of August but “the luckiest fishing village in the US” as Destin is also known, hosts one of its main annual events in October – the annual “Fishing Rodeo” where the person with the largest catch nets $100,000 in prize money!

Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

What keeps people returning to Destin year after year for a great vacation spot?

Dawn thinks it is the “beauty of the water – it’s turquoise, clear and breathtaking.  People can’t believe it when they first pull up to the water.”

“It’s still family oriented,” describes Dawn.  ”A quaint town – no crowds or high-rises – and the people are down to earth…good ‘ol boy people.”

Destin has managed to maintain this small-town feel, yet is only 55 miles from the Spring Break-type of vacation one can find in either Pensacola, Florida and Panama City, Florida.

And the sluggish economy hasn’t hit Destin as hard as other popular vacation destinations – perhaps due to its central location on the Froida panhandle, making it easy to get to on not too much gasoline from southern Florida, and the neighboring states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  Destin is about to get much more accessible thanks to the addition of an International Airport that is already in the works for Destin, set to be completed by Summer 2010.

Guest Blog – Loggerhead Turtles of North Captiva Island

On my most recent trip to North Captiva Island, I had the opportunity to go on a turtle walk with a conservationist volunteer who is responsible for reporting on sea turtle nests. It was a fascinating fact finding experience. We started before sunrise and walked for approximately 3 hours investigating turtle nests and crawls. This is what I learned.

Each summer from May through August, something wondrous happens along our beaches: An ancient mariner, the loggerhead sea turtle, leaves the water during the night and crawls ashore in North Captiva Island to lay her eggs in a sandy nest.

The task of excavating a nest may take her over an hour to accomplish. The turtle – weighing several hundred pounds – laboriously digs a nest cavity with her rear flippers.

turtle1

Turtle nest

She then deposits approximately 100 pliable ping-pong ball sized eggs into the chamber, covers them with sand and returns to the sea.

After roughly a two-month incubation period, a cluster of tiny hatchlings emerges from the sand and scrambles to the Gulf. Unfortunately, their sea-finding ability can be disrupted by lights from buildings and streets. Confused, the hatchlings wander inland and are crushed by vehicles or die from heat exhaustion in the sunlight.

 

 

 

 

Loggerhead Turtle Facts:

  • Loggerheads are air-breathing reptiles, scientific name Caretta caretta
  • The common name refers to the turtle?s large head
  • Loggerheads are the most common sea turtles in Florida.
  • Weighing 250 – 400 pounds, adults can grow to more than three feet in length.
  • Hatchlings are two inches long.
  • Nesting occurs from May through August. Hatching may extend through October.
  • The nest cavity is 18 – 22 inches in depth.
  • Incubation period of the eggs in their sandy nest is 55 – 65 days.

 

turtle tracks

turtle tracks

Danger of Extingtion
Most adult loggerhead turtles nest every other year or every third year, laying several clutches of eggs during a nesting season. Only a small percentage of hatchlings survive to maturity! Loggerhead turtles have existed on Earth for millions of years with little serious threat to their survival – until recently. Pollution, lighted beaches, loss of nesting habitat, drowning in shrimp nets and other fishing gear have contributed to the drastic decline of these and other sea turtles.

Winter at the Beach – Clearwater Beach, Florida

Fort Desoto Park, Florida

Fort Desoto Park, Florida

On this particular winter vacation, our family opted for jet skis over snow skis and was happy not to wait in long lift lines. We may be trading our snow skis for water skis next year as well!

Our Beach house vacation rental was on Sand Key, just outside Clearwater Beach, Florida and a few minutes from two of the top 10 best beaches in the US: #3 Fort Desoto Park and #8 Caladesi Island State Park. We experienced the best December weather in the country with pure blue skies and highs in the upper 70′s (one day it got to 81). The beach was clean and the sand was like fine powdered sugar. In other words, it was perfect!

island way grill

Island Way Grill

We did everything from feeding Alligators to Parasailing & rented jet skis directly off the beach just steps from the Sand Key State Park. Having jet skied in California, ocean water in the face can be quite cold even in the summer. This, surprisingly, is not the case in December when jet skiing in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Decembers mild humidity made for a perfect air temperature and the spray of the ocean was invigoratingly refreshing. The large ocean shelf off the Florida’s gulf coast reduces the chop and tends to keep the waves perfect for jet skiing and even more perfect for swimming. During our stay, there were several times when the ocean was like glass and calm, allowing for some awesome jet skiing donuts and spins. Florida law provides that if you are at least 14 years of age and pass a test online, you can be certified to legally drive a jet ski. This was great news for our 14 year old son and gave his parents a glimpse of his car driving future!

Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

After a day at the Beach, there’s nothing better than eating conch fritters and fresh grilled grouper stuffed with crab. One of the best restaurants (only five minutes from our beachhouse vacation rental!) was the Island Way Grill. It’s worth the wait if you want to eat outside on the bay.

If your next winter vacation plans include spending hours in traffic to drive to the ski lifts or potentially getting stuck on a plane waiting to de-ice, I would highly recommend that you consider finding that perfect Clearwater Beach house vacation rental and book a flight! Your snow skis might become outdated before you know it!”

- Beachhouse.com’s own Ski Beach Bum

Guest Blog – Pass-Crabbing in Florida

Pass Crab Fishing, Boca Grande, Florida

Pass Crab Fishing, Boca Grande, Florida

On my most recent trip to North Captiva Island, I had the opportunity to go “pass – crabbing” with my friends Captain Dennis and Captain Gretchen. I must say it was a blast! While Dennis and my husband were fishing for the “big fish,” Gretchen and I had our nets out for the pass crabs. Crabs are great bait for many species in Florida waters.

Pass Crabs are almost identical to Blue Crabs in shape, but they only grow to approximately four to five inches in width. You can catch Pass Crabs in south Florida during the outgoing tide on the surface, usually floating along with grass as it flows toward the Gulf.

Tarpon Tales Beach House Vacation Rental, Boca Grande, Florida

Tarpon Tales Beach House Vacation Rental, Boca Grande, Florida

You simply take a long handled net and dip them out of the water. There are a few bait shops in south Florida that sell them, but they are few and far between. The primary use for pass crabs is for tarpon in the Boca Grande area, but they are just as good, maybe better, than blue crabs for a variety of fish. Hook them in the same way as blue crabs – through the back leg hole and out the top shell.

Guest Blog – North Captiva’s Historical Ice House

Fish house following hurricane Charlie - It has since been restored

The Calusa Indians, who dominated South Florida for more than a millennium, were skilled sailors and fisherman. Their large canoes of hallowed out cypress logs were capable of reaching Cuba. They thrived through living in harmony with our Southwest Florida environment. Pineland on Pine Island contains some of the most extensive Calusa mound sites and canal works.

The Calusa Indians fished with nets made from Cabbage Palm fibers. After the demise of the Calusas from European conquest and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, new settlers became adept at commercial fishing. Pine Island Sound was peppered with fishing camps and later, ice houses, which eliminated the need to preserve their catch through drying and salting.

One such ice house was built in 1924 by the Punta Gorda Fish Company at the north shore entrance to Safety Harbor at North Captiva Island. One story rests on a wooden platform supported by wood pilings. The Ice House is one of few remaining buildings documenting the system of remote, water-based fish industry ice houses.

The structure was built as an ice house to serve the fishermen and run boats in the loading, unloading and storage of freshly caught fish. The structure is a specialized form designed to function under potentially adverse weather conditions, relative isolation, and the possible requirement to relocate the building to follow the migration of the fish.

Restaurant Review – The Temptation, Boca Grande, FL

Boca Grande Florida Best Little Beach TownRestaurant: The Temptation
Location: 350 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida
Cuisine: Fresh Seafood, etc.
Price Per Plate: Lunch – around $20; Dinner – around $50
Verdict: Thumbs Up!

On our recent trip to Boca Grande, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Temptation.  Located at 350 Park Avenue, this Boca Grande bistro says welcome the minute you walk in the door.  The staff greeted us like we were family.  They were very courteous and attentive to our needs.

I enjoyed the strawberry chicken salad which was extremely fresh, light and tasty.  Bronzed grouper was my daughter’s selection.  The menu summed this dish up correctly as they stated it was an “Island Sensation.”

Clearly my daughter enjoyed this immensely as she had the first clean plate in the group.  The grouper was prepared on a bed of sautéed Brussell Sprouts With Roasted Garlic, Shallots, Prosciutto, & Parmesan Cheese
Topped with an Orange Beurre Blanc.  My husband enjoyed the fried grouper fingers.  Typically he does not order fried food, but he described this being extremely light and some of the best fish he has ever tasted.

You can read more about the Temptation HERE.

Guest Blog – North Captiva Island


Mangoes ready for the takingby Sarah Rapp
Resident, North Captiva Island

Did you know that besides Florida, no other states report the production of mangoes? Consequently, Florida is the main United States producer of this fruit. Mango Mania is a festival held at the German American Social Club (2101 S.W. Pine Island Road, Cape Coral during the month of July).

Festival-goers can taste and buy their fill of just-picked mangoes of assorted varieties, many of which are not available in supermarkets. Additionally, they can learn how to grow their own and buy a tree. There’s music, dancing and even some non-mango comestibles for anyone who simply can’t live on mangoes alone.

If you don’t have time to go to the festival, order mangoes from the market, or stop at one of the local fruit stands on the way to the marina. The fruits vary in shape (kidney, round, oblong, oval) and weight ranges from a few ounces to five pounds.  Although the fruit will ripen on the tree, it is usually picked green and will ripen quickly. The fruit is just delicious…so why not celebrate your own mango mania while visiting North Captiva!

 

Mango Salsa
Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.
Ingredients:
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper
Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Mango Salsa

Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Destin, Florida has it all!

Destin is an all-encompassing destination spot located on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Destin is also referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” as it has the largest fishing vessel in Florida.

Attractions and activities in Destin include high-end shopping and dining, golfing, fishing, boating, water-sports, renowned beaches, forests, scenic state parks that are perfect for hiking, Broadway shows and well-known art galleries. This beautiful city truly has something for everyone!

Destin has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with crystal clear water and white sand. The emerald green surf of the Gulf of Mexico is breathtakingly gorgeous and it is bordered by Destin’s beautiful beaches. There are fourteen gorgeous beach communities on this wonderful vacation spot and an abundance of water-related activities offered, including fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and boating.

There is a magnificent festival called Autumn Tides in South Walton, which is just ten miles away from Destin. This festival takes place on the beaches of South Walton and it offers a music concerts, art galleries, wine tasting, nature and cultural events, theatre, and film presentations. It is the perfect way to experience the uniqueness and beauty of the beaches around Destin!

In addition to the beaches, Destin offers a host of activities and attractions. The Gulfarium is a renowned marine park just across the bridge from Destin that has live marine shows and an enjoyable dolphin interaction program. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park has over 40 exciting water activities including body fumes, speed slides and the world’s biggest man-made waterfall. This park is enjoyable both for the family and for couples.

Golf is very prevalent in Destin; the city has some of the best golf courses in the country including the Emerald Bay Golf Course with its three large, tropical mini-golf courses.

You ought to visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum which displays the lives of Native Americans that lived in that area 10,000 years ago. The preserved temple mound was used for political and religious ceremonies; it is an amazing site that is a must-see for everyone.

Destin also has amazing shopping malls including Alvin’s Island Tropical Department Stores and Silver Sands Factory Stores. These malls have pretty much any store that you can think of!

Finally, Destin is also known for its world-class dining; some of the restaurants in this city are nationally rated. There is a wide range of restaurants and cuisines to choose from.

Destin is truly an extremely exciting and versatile city that has something for everyone!

The Heavenly Seven-Mile Long Community of Boca Grande

Boca Grande is a peaceful seven mile long community in Gasparilla Island, Southwest Florida.  This paradisiacal location is ideal for a get-away-from-it-all location as it offers a tranquilizing alternative to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Boca Grande does not have any high rises or traffic lights and the mode of transportation for most people is golf carts.  At Boca Grande, you can enjoy the pristine beaches, aquatic activities, fishing, golfing, dining, and shopping.  Luxurious beach vacation homes are very popular among tourists on this island as they capture the true essence of this serene destination!

Boca Grande is widely known for its gorgeous, white sand beaches; that is not surprising because the island has perpetually gorgeous weather averaging 75 degrees.  At the beach, you can enjoy the beautiful view, soak in the sun, people watch, talk a walk, and read.  In addition, you can indulge in more active ventures including swimming, shelling, surfing, and scuba diving.

If you stay at a beach vacation home, you can have access to the beach twenty-four seven!  Not only will you experience ultimate luxury, you will feel as if you are at home away from home.

At Boca Grande, you can also go for boating and sailing by tour or on your own.  Boating and sailing are enjoyable activities and you encounter some exotic species like dolphins, white pelicans, and ospreys.  Boca Grande is a haven for people that like to fish because Southwest Florida is globally acclaimed for its fishing.  In fact, fishing is an integral part of the culture of Gasparilla Island. The waters of Southwest Florida are replete with game and food fish.  Tarpoon in the spring is a key fishing season and between August and November, offshore fishing is excellent for grouper, snapper, and kingfish while inshore fishing is great for snook and redfish.  Nevertheless, recreational fishing is an exciting sport in Boca Grande throughout the year by means of your own boat, a rental boat, or one of the many local fishing guides.

Along with the aquatic activities and beaches, Boca Grande offers scenic beauty, great restaurants, unique shops, theatres, and art galleries.  One of the most special aspects of Boca Grande is that it seeks to protect its distinct atmosphere and its quality of life.  The art galleries have works of local artists that have admirably captured the spirit of Boca Grande.

All the restaurants in this community have a unique style and they all specialize in fresh, local seafood.  Moreover, the restaurants offer a vast variety of international cuisines with mouthwatering flavors and upscale ambiances.

Boca Grande has served as a backdrop in many movies including Denzel Washington’s Out of Time and the movie based on Carl Hiaasen’s book Hoot.

During your vacation at Boca Grande, you can also visit some of the beautiful islands that are very close to it including North Captiva, Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key, and Useppa Island - all are all beautiful, exciting and excluive.

Boca Grande is a community that is ideal for an unwinding, relaxing vacation. A trip to Boca Grande is a memorable one that will keep you coming back for more!

Unwind at Redington Shores!

Redington Shores is a beautiful beach town in Pinellas County, Florida.  It is a lovely town that promises a soothing and enjoyable vacation experience.

You can unwind by soaking in the natural beauty, relaxing at the wide sandy beaches, and going to the pleasant parks.  The more active people can enjoy fishing, boating, water-sports, golfing, shopping, and the arts and culture.  There is something for everyone in Redington Shores!

Redington Shores has beautiful, white sand beaches along the Boca Ciega Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  The beaches have spectacular sunrises and sunsets—you can watch the first ray of light from the Tampa Bay and sun set in the Gulf of Mexico.

Redington Shores is a lively beach that has concession stands, a fishing pier, and showers.  Incidentally, Redington Long Pier is the ideal place for fishing.  Various fishing charters are available catered to any fishing enthusiast.  Charters can offer short fishing trips in Tampa Bay while others offer hour-long or day-long trips in the Gulf of Mexico.  You are bound to have an enjoyable and successful fishing trip in these waters!

Dinner cruises or gambling cruises are very popular in Redington Shores.  You can go on an elegant dinner cruise and view breathtaking scenery and the beautiful sunset.  It is no surprise that sunset cruise boat weddings are exceedingly common in this area.  Redington Shores is a perfect golf destination primarily because of the pleasant weather year round.  There are a variety of beautiful golf courses that golfers can enjoy.

There is a wide selection of things to do in and around Redington Shores.  Unique and enthralling theme parks are very prevalent close to Redington Shores.  You can go to Busch Gardens, one of the largest zoological parks in the nation, that has rides and an African theme.  The Sea World of Florida features 20 shows and exhibits of whales, dolphins, and sharks, and it is also the world’s most popular marine park.

Tampa Bay has educational museums that are worth checking out.  The Great Explorations is a hands-on children’s museum and learning center.  The Museum of Science and Industry is the Southeast’s largest science center that features Florida’s only IMAX Dome Theater, traveling shows and demonstrations.

Redington Shores has a variety of restaurants that have outstanding seafood items.  You can also relax and meet locals at the bars and pubs of this beautiful town.

Redington Shores is a wonderful town where you can enjoy the stunning surroundings for an unforgettable vacation experience!

Where in the world is North Captiva Island?

Florida’s North Captiva Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is about as far away from the chaos of everyday life as you can get, while still staying within the United States.  I had heard it’s almost similar to Thailand or Indonesia in its exoticism, with the heat and humidity…and bugs.  But I went into my research with an open mind and now I’m trying to convince any of my friends and family to take a trip to explore the island with me.

North Captiva IslandAs you may expect, being as remote and as small as it is - 4 miles long and 1/2 mile wide at its widest point! - getting to North Captiva Island takes some planning as it is only accessible by water taxi or private charter boat.  The Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida is the closest airport to North Captiva Island and most major airlines service this airport.  From there, take the Pine Island Taxi to Pineland Marina and board the Island Girl – the only scheduled ferry to North Captiva Island.

Sidebar:  Because the island is sosecluded, you have to either bring what you will need for your trip with you, plan ahead to make sure it will be there for you, or a combination of the two.  This applies to groceries, bottled water, basic first aid supplies (aspirin, bandaids, etc), bug repellent, and especially produce – be sure to check with your airlines and local customs on rules regarding bringing produce onto the island.  Most travelers opt to fax their order – at least 48 hours before you will arrive on the island – to Publix Santa Barbara grocery store, on the mainland (Pine Island Taxi will stop at Publix on the way to the marina).  They will take your grocery order and pack your items for easy transport.  There is a small grocery on the island, but it stocks mostly convenience items is ridiculously expensive.

Once on the island, be prepared to sloooooow down and take in the natural beauty that surrounds you.  There are no cars and no paved roads on North Captiva.  Bicycles and electric golf carts (a private golf cart and/or bicycles are included in most vacation rental, so be sure to inquire about this at the time of booking) are used to explore our sandy paths.

There are over 5 miles of beaches to explore.  Visitors report strolling for hours without seeing anyone else – you will, however, run into some local wildlife.  Two-thirds of the island’s 700 acres are a protected State of Florida wilderness park and wildlife sanctuary for manatees, loggerhead turtles and over one hundred species of migratory birds.

If your idea of a vacation is body shots and disco music, Captiva is notfor you.  The 50 or so year-round residents operate on “island time” and there are very few established businesses.  Island activities include shelling, snorkeling, charter sport-fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, stargazing, bird watching, dining at one of the 2 restaurants and island hopping…Sanibel, Pine Island, Cayo Costa, and Useppa are all within minutes by boat.

So, despite that fact that every article and travel forum I read about North Captiva stressed the need for Deet-strength bug repellant, I’m not scared.  I’m harnessing my inner Robinson Crusoe, packing my spray (and maybe a mosquito net) and going to check out this beautiful and remote island for myself!  North Captiva Island is one of the few places left that has mastered the delicate balance between man and nature.  This unique island paradise is not for everybody – but as the locals will say, it was never intended to be!