Top 6 Family Destinations on Florida’s West Coast

Boasting miles of gorgeous sugar-white sands and warm, tranquil turquoise seas, the west coast — or Gulf Coast — of Florida is a wonderful playground for families. Here are five of the best family destinations that the Gulf Coast has to offer.

Sanibel Island

This beautiful barrier island is famous for being one of the best places in the world to gather gorgeous seashells. Because Sanibel Island has an east-west orientation, an abundance of shells are washed up onto its shores. Even small children will be entertained for hours looking for and collecting the pretty shells on this island’s soft white sands or splashing in the warm surf.

Sanibel Island Vacation Guide

Crystal River

Nature-loving families can enjoy the unique experience of swimming with Florida’s wild manatees in the Crystal River. Tours take guests out to areas where the gentle, endangered mammals are known to live and then allow them to swim or snorkel in the 72-degree waters near the manatees.

crystal river manatee
Manatee in Crystal River Florida

Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is not only a world-class Africa-themed amusement park with thrilling roller coasters and rides for the entire family, but it is also home to a large zoo. Its thrilling rides include the SheiKra roller coaster, which climbs to 200 feet and travels at up to 70 mph.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay FL

Combining thrill rides with wonderful animal attractions, a day at Busch Gardens will delight everyone in the family. Also known as “The Dark Continent,” the theme park is divided into nine different areas fashioned after locations in Africa. Morocco, at the park entrance, features shops, eateries, and three theaters presenting great live shows. The Great Ape Domain, a three-acre habitat of Lowland Gorillas and chimpanzees, can be found in Nairobi. The largest collection of the park’s animals can be found on the Serengeti Plain, where over 800 animals roam in a natural habitat setting.

The highlight of Egypt, the newest section of Busch Gardens, is Montu, the southeast’s longest and tallest inverted roller coaster. Timbuktu offers roller coasters and other midway rides, and Congo is host to Kumba, the southeast’s fastest steel roller coaster. Stanleyville features two rides guaranteed to cool you off on a hot day; the Stanley Falls Log Flume and the Tanganyika Tidal Wave. The Bird Gardens and Land of the Dragons, an adventure play area for children, complete a tour of Busch Gardens.

Adventure Island

Owned by Busch Gardens, this 25-acre waterpark offers loads of twisting and turning slides and water attractions. Daredevils will be thrilled by high speed rides such as The Water Moccasin, a 6-story-high twisting, extra-wide water slide, and Tampa Typhoon, a 76-foot near free-fall drop. Splash Attack, a 12-level tree house with more than 50 slides, water jets and rope climbs, guarantee younger visitors will be entertained for hours. The whole family can get into the fun at Paradise Lagoon, a giant swimming pool with waterfalls, jumping platforms, cannonball slides, and translucent water tubes.

Marco Island

This beautiful island is home to gorgeous beaches and is the only developed land in the area known as Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. It is also only a short distance to Florida’s incredible and unique Everglades. The Ten Thousand Islands area is made up of mangrove islands and keys and is a transition area where the freshwater marshes meet the salt waters of the Gulf. This area teems with wildlife.

Marco Island Florida
The Esplanade, Marco Island, Florida

Siesta Key

It is little wonder that this island’s beaches have gorgeous sand. It is one of the few places in the world where the soft sand is made up of sugary white 99 percent quartz. Siesta Key was ranked as the number one beach in the world by renowned expert Dr. Beach. In addition to lounging on the beach, families can enjoy lots of water activities in this area, including jet skiing and fishing.

Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach

Families who only visit Orlando and its frenetic theme parks when they visit this state should consider heading over to the Gulf Coast to see the true Florida and enjoy all that the West Coast has to offer.

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