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.

This Halloween, visit one of America’s top haunted hotels

1891 Castle Inn – 1539 Fourth Street, New Orleans, Lousiana
The Inn is currently for sale and only accommodating long term stays, however, chances are this historic treasure will be sold with its permanent residents in place…at least 2 Big Easy residents who passed away over 100 years ago. This historic guest house is located in the historic Garden District and has views of the Mardi Gras parade route. The “translucent man” was a driver staying in the guest quarters of the hotel when he accidentally set his room on fire and was killed. Known for loving ladies, music, practical jokes and a stiff drink in his day, he continues to reside at the hotel. He is thought to be responsible for the coughing and whistling heard in the hallways, objects moving or being hidden and is seen in mirrors or out of the corner of guest’s eye. He loves to tinker with radios, televisions, ceiling fans, and lights. If you can’t find an object in your room, look in a drawer or in a place where you would not leave it…one guest, upon checking out, could not find the receipts of the past four days of shopping and travel which the husband had collected in his wallet. His wife found them all in the microwave after they searched the room from top to bottom. Other reports tell of a little girl who drowned in the pond behind the house and still wanders the grounds and surrounding neighborhood, presumably in search of her mother. Guests report a feeling of brushing against bare legs (especially women), beds bouncing up and down, and the sound of bare feet running down the hallway.

Queen Mary – 1126 Queen Hwy., Long Beach, California
The Queen Mary ocean liner sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967, and is now permanently moored in Long Beach, CA.  Her beautiful salons and staterooms are a testament to the Art Deco era…and to a host of unexplained sightings, sounds and spooks.  The Queen Mary has been a constant source for stories, articles and documentaries about supernatural sightings and other unexplained activity aboard the historic ship, the engine room and pool being the most active locations.  In 1966, 18-year-old engineer John Pedder was crushed by a watertight door in the engine room during a fire drill – to this day his ghost is said to haunt the ship.  Other accounts recall seeing the spirit of a young girl named Jackie who haunting the first class pool on board the ship.

The Menger Hotel – 204 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, Texas
The oldest hotel west of the Mississippi still in operation, The Menger got its start as a boarding house and has played host to a colorful bunch of famous figures throughout its history, including General George Patton, Robert E. Lee, Oscar Wilde, Ulysses S. Grant, “Teddy” Roosevelt, to name a few.  Ghostly sightings range from guests feeling a maid smoothing the bed sheets with them still in them, to voices of a woman repeatedly calling for room service.  A few years ago, a guest wanted extra towels, so he opened the door of his room and asked a maid who ignored him. The guest called the front desk to report the rude behavior and described the maid and her uniform, to find it was one that was worn in the late 1800s!

Stanley Hotel – 333 Wonderview, Estes Park, Colorado 80517
Heeeeeeeeere’ s Johnny!  The Stanley was the inspiration behind Stephen King’s “The Shining.”  For a real fright, request room 217 – this was the room where King stayed while working on the novel.  However, the former servants quarters, located on the 4th floor (room 418 in particular) have the most ghostly activity reported.  Past guests have reported hearing children playing in the halls – yet when they speak with the front desk, they are told that no children are currently staying at the hotel.

Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast – 230 Second St., Fall River, Massachusetts
After it was built in 1845, Andrew Bordwn bought the home for his family, including his youngest daughter Lizzie.  During the morning of August 4, 1892, around 10:45 AM, Borden’s father, and her stepmother, Abby Durfee Borden, were murdered in the family home with a hatchet.  Lizzie was the prime suspect and, although she was tried and acquitted of the crimes she was ostracized by the community of Fall River.  For the first time since the murders, the public is welcome to view the murder scene, and spend a night in the actual house where the murders took place…and get the opportunity to run into any ghosts that may be still bound to the house.

The Heathman Hotel – 1001 SW Broadway at Salmon, Portland, Oregon
Centrally located in downtown Portland, The Heathman has been named “One of the best  places to stay,” according to Conde Nast Traveler and “One of the 500 best hotels in the world,” by Travel + Lesiure’s 2009 awards.  It has also been the scene for many paranormal experiences by its guests, specifically the rooms in one column that end in 3 (room 703, 803 and 1003 in particular).  Guests of the hotel will leave their room clean, and upon return find a towel used, a glass of water out, a desk chair moved…yet the hotel’s records report no one used the electronic key to get in to the room.

The Landmark Inn – 230 North Front St. – Marquette, Michigan
Located on the shore of Lake Superior, this hotel’s history spans a century…plenty of time for spirits to have accumulated and taken up residence at the Inn.  In 1930, when the hotel first opened, a librarian in town fell in love with a sailor who was to make one last journey before coming home to marry her.  But the ship and crew never returned.  The librarian is said to still haunt the Lilac Room, which has a view of Lake Superior, and is believed to be watching for her sailor’s return.  Guests of the Lilac Room report screws being left in their sheets (even after room service changes them), men have trouble getting their key to work in the door, and employees
receive calls to the front desk from the room, even when it is unoccupied and vacant.   One guest was dining with her husband noticing another woman standing at the bar whose skirt was being pulled out “like someone had pulled out the skirt to examine the fabric, but no one was there.”   Thinking that she might have imagined, she had her husband look and once again it happened.  Upon relaying this story to a bartender during another stay at the hotel, the bartender told the visitor of the reports of ghosts in the hotel and the woman said, “I always thought so, to this day I still remember the skirt, covered with lilacs.”  Startled, the bartender told her about the stories of the Lilac room.  The woman got so shook up that she felt ill and had to leave.

Mountain Retreat Vacation House in Big Sky, Montana

The Big Sky Mountain Retreat House, also known as the original Montana Escape, is located directly in the center of Big Sky, Montana. In November 0f 2003 the home was selected to be featured on Fine Living TV’s 10 Perfect Winter Wonderlands. At that time the home was lacking a master tub and a bit more space. Over the years the owners have had the pleasure of working with Alan Roos of Coyote Creek Construction in expanding and enhancing the living space – all the while keeping within a reduced footprint and budget. The end product is 3700 square feet of a perfect Big Sky Mountain Retreat House that all guests will continue to appreciate.

Big Sky, Montana is considered one of the Coolest Mountain Towns and one of the top 10 ranked by the Mens Journal.  Is it that fact that there’s no waiting in long lift lines or the crisp and fresh thin mountain air? The views? The thousands of skiable acres? Whatever the reason, Big Sky Montana is a great place to live the high life.

Visitors come to Yellowstone National Park looking for wildlife. Many will have their first and only encouter with wildlife in their lifetime. The Mountain Retreat House sits in a prime wilderness zone in Yellowstone County. It’s far enough away from the summer crowds of The Park, but remarkably close to 5 star fine dining and world class sking. Visitors to the Mountain Retreat House and to Yellowstone may find wildlife such as moose just outside The Park, in Big Sky, Montana. When Yellowstone is the busiest, is also when the wildlife population of the villages of Big Sky, Montana increases.

This home’s location, nestled among old growth trees overlooking breathtaking views of Big Sky, was selected for the easy drive to the Gallatin River, Ousel Falls as well as the Ski Runs from the Yellowstone Club to Moonlight Basin. Its located in Aspen Grove, a development of one half to three acre home sites closest to the Town Center and both Big Sky Mountain and Meadow villages. When you are at the Mountain Retreat House, you’ll feel like you’re miles away from the rush of day-to-day life, yet it is conveniently located less than a hour from the Bozeman airport – It’s only a 40 minute flight from Salt Lake City!

Whether you and your family enjoy world class powder skiing or fishing for that trophy rainbow trout, Big Sky is the place and this is “The House”. It has 4 private suites, each with its own bath; one with a wet steam room and one with a huge soaker tub and a walk in shower. All bedrooms have mountain and forest views. The main master bedroom is steps from a private 5 person hot tub. Enjoy spectacular night views that include shooting stars and the milky way. The hot tub and steam shower are perfect after a long day of carving the ski slopes.

This little guy was born on the property just steps from the patio!

This little guy was born on the property just steps from the patio!

Top Southern California Beaches

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Southern California is known for its beautiful people, great weather, and gorgeous beaches. All along the most southwestern tip of the USA are an assortment of beaches with surf and sand to enjoy at almost all times during the year.

Whether you’re looking for surf, excitement, a family beach, or the prettiest views on the coast, there are plenty of options to fulfill every desire you have.

Newport Beach offers decent waves and a relaxed atmosphere. Newport’s beaches aren’t too crowded despite the beautiful surrounding, making the area a great place to skim or just read a book while soaking in some sun. Newport also offers several oceanside cottages for rent, making staying there an attractive option for people looking to “get away” at a more affordable price.

Huntington Beach is known for its excellent surfing. The beaches tend to get more crowded, but offer the excitement of a social atmosphere as people throw footballs, play volleyball, and walk the enjoyable Huntington Beach Pier. Huntington is a great place to start an exciting weekend off right.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach offers secluded, beautiful beaches. There are family-friendly areas that tend to be more crowded, but travel further down the surf and you can find beaches where you can isolate yourself and enjoy some gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. The sand is hard-packed and easy to walk on, making a romantic walk on the beach a great idea for blossoming Southern California lovers.

Santa Monica is one of the most popular beaches in Southern California, offering a nearby amusement park and an enjoyable volleyball scene. The world renowned Muscle Beach can also be found in Santa Monica, along with the newly renovated Chess Park.  During the summer you can also find free live concerts on Thursday nights.

Venice Beach is featured in movies such as White Men Can’t Jump and the TV show Pacific Blue. Street performers litter the coast, offering entertainment for all who are willing to watch and participate. You can also find small beachside shops that make shopping while enjoying some rays an easy endeavor.

Santa Monica Pier

While these five offer some of the most diverse and enjoyable locations for spending your day on the coast, there are several other beaches to enjoy in the Southern California area. Generally, you can’t go wrong. Beautiful weather and clean beaches can be found almost everywhere, so pack up your towel, a smile, and a pair of swim trunks, and you’ll most definitely enjoy your day in the sand.

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Ross Hudgens is a travel writer for Low Fares Blog. Lowfares.com is the number 1 travel website for cheap flights and discount airfare.

A Recipe From Each Continent of the World (3 of 7)

North America:  America’s Best Burger Ever

(Recipe excerpted from ABC’s Good Morning America, host of Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Best Burger Ever Challenge – the winner was Allison Koplan’s Stuffed Bacon-Cheddar BBQ Burger)

Burger Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1 lb. ground round
  • 2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tbsp. garlic salt
  • 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 bottle of sweet barbecue sauce (of your choice)
  • Hamburger buns
  • Lettuce (optional)
  • Tomato (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Onions
  • 1/4 cup Barbecue sauce for basting

Winner Allison Koplan and Chef Emeril Lasasse

  • Combine ground round, ground chuck, salt and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the coarsely shredded sharp cheddar and cooked bacon pieces. Let bacon and cheese mixture sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to get soft. Then, shape mixture into balls (for however many burgers you would like to make)
  • Form 2 patties of meat and place one cheese/bacon ball in between them. Pinch the sides together to seal in cheese ball. Gently press formed patty, to spread out cheese ball. Continue until all patties are formed
  • Cook burgers on grill over medium flame for about 7 minutes on each side. While burgers are grilling, slice sweet Vidalia onions and saute them in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter. Once onions become translucent (about 4 minutes), add some sweet barbecue sauce
  • Flip burgers, and baste the cooked side of the patties with the same sweet barbecue sauce used in the onions. After about 7 minutes longer, the burger should be done (these are big thick burgers and may take longer to grill to your liking). Baste again with sweet barbecue sauce before removing from grill. Butter hamburger buns and place on top rack of grill for several minutes, until toasted
  • To build burger, take toasted bun, add patty, and top with smothered barbecue onions. You can add tomato or lettuce, if you’d like, but the flavors are great without them

North Captiva – Vacation with the Manatees!

Manatee of the shore of North Captiva Island

Manatee of the shore of North Captiva Island

It is typical during the summer months to see manatee in the water surrounding North Captiva.  Typically I have seen them in the canal near the runway.  I have gathered some information about The manatee for you.

Belonging to the Sirenia order of mammalians, manatees are the common name for a large, gray or black air-breathing water mammal.  Sometimes called a “sea cow,” the manatee looks somewhat like a hippopotamus.  Adult manatees have large bodies averaging ten feet in length and weighing between 440 and 1300 pounds.  Manatees have a small head with a straight snout having a bristly moustache on the upper lip.  Paddle-like forelimbs are used to move through the water.

Key Lime Time Vacation Rental, North Captiva

"Key Lime Time" Vacation Rental, North Captiva

Manatees live in fresh, brackish, or salt water and roam with small herds somewhat like a family.  Six to eight hours a day is spent grazing upon seaweed and other marine plants.  Their slow metabolism reduces the energy requirements, thus they move slowly through the water.  Because of their size, manatees have few natural enemies.

While you are on your vacation in North Captiva, there are many water activities to enjoy including swimming, snorkeling, jet skiing, fishing, taking boat tours and diving, just to name a few.  You may even get to see a manatee!

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.

In Honor of Father’s Day…

OK, so you’ve already given your dad that customized necktie embellished with your photograph on it, now you have a little down time while your dad is out getting acquainted with the new gas grill your mom gave him.  Before your family sits down to eat, now’s your chance to read up on Beachhouse.com’s  picks for the top baseball parks to visit….maybe next Father’s Day, instead of giving him some cheap cologne that smells like Robert Downey Jr. trying to cover up after a bender, you can spare your dad the hassle of faking that he loves your gift and give him something he will truly enjoy – tickets to a baseball game and some quality bonding time with you…and a couple of ball park brews never hurt anybody – emphasis on couple.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

Wrigley Field is one of the oldest and most notorious fields in the United States.  Despite the field’s notoriety, the Chicago Cubs haven’t exactly made a name for themselves – unless you count the fact that they have never won the World Series, and now that the Red Socks have won theirs, the Cubs are officially the worst cursed team in the league.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself at the home of Ferris Bueller’s infamous day off, deep dish pizza and organized crime.

AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

If your dad likes the finer things in life, he’d love to be treated to a day at the on-the-water AT&T Park.  Some of baseball’s greatest call this park home, including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and all time home run leader, Barry Bonds.  The park has every amenity your dad could ask for and all kinds of classic and not so expected stadium food – the crab sandwiches and Cuban cuisine (in honor of Orlando Cepeda – former Giant) are some of the fan favorites.  And if your dad is the kind to get a little out of hand after a couple brewskies, it won’t faze this crowd – they’re used to scandals (Steroids anyone?)

PetCo Park, San Diego Padres

It may seem biased to have more than one California stadium on this list, but if you lived here, you’d know why we’re biased.  Even though the National League West is quite possibly the weakest division in sports, the Padres stadium and ambiance of the surrounding cityscape’s is unparalleled.  It’s always sunny and there’s plenty to do – so if the team ain’t winning, go surfing or get tipsy with the college kids.

New Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

One of the most loved (and hated) franchises in all of sports, as of the 2009 season, the Yankees have a brand spankin new stadium to call home.  They left their monument to baseball history behind them and started this season with a new coach.  Besides being the most winningest team in the history of baseball, they have, arguably, the most loyal fans in the game…so you and your dad, foam fingers and pin-stripes in place, will fit right in.

Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in the US, making it a perfect place for a dad who loves the classics.  With 2 recent championship titles under their jockstrap, the Red Sox are one of the most intimidating teams to compete with and one of the most exciting teams to watch.  Not for the faint of heart or dad’s with young kids (and virgin ears) Sox fans are hard drinking and curse like sailors…they’re also overwhelmingly passionate about their team.  After the game’s over there’s still plenty to do in one of the oldest city in America – so buy a pint, start dropping your r’s and you’ll fit right in.