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Need Vacation ideas for W. Coast of Florida

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Old Dec 12, 2012, 09:19 AM   #1
Go Illini
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Looking to vacation on the west coast of Florida for a week in April.

Looking for the following:

1) Low-rise hotel/condo/house that is on the beach.
2) Walking trails and biking trails nearby.
3) Decent non-chain seafood and steak restaurants nearby.
4) Immaculate beaches.
5) Low-key. Want a place that doesn't have multiple people scouring the beaches selling timeshares. Also, I bought all my Florida souvenirs years ago, so I don't need a town that has a store selling trinkets on every corner.


Any ideas of towns that fit this would be great.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 09:24 AM   #2
KBLEE
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I would definitely recommend Sanibel Island. You can find everything on your list there.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 09:27 AM   #3
BWBW
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KBLEE beat me to it. We own a timeshare on Sanibel. But, you won't find anyone walking the beach trying to sell you one. You will find walking and biking trails, Ding Darling, Captiva Island, and very quiet beaches.

If you want ideas on where to stay, let me know.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 09:29 AM   #4
carmelillini
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South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island. Outstanding. Don't forget to go to the Mucky Duck Pub for lunch, dinner, libations, etc.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 09:37 AM   #5
Ransom Stoddard
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I would definitely recommend Sanibel Island. You can find everything on your list there.
Agree 100%. We go to Sanibel at least 1 week per year, sometimes 2. It can be a bit crowded during the holidays and spring break season, but very open and comfortable at other times (hotter than blazes in July, however). A lot of really good restaurants--I recommend the Over Easy Cafe for breakfast, Sanibel Grill/Timbers for steak & seafood, Doc Ford's for seafood (but avoid busy times, because it is rather touristy), the Island Bean for coffee, ice cream, and decent sandwich lunches, and Matzaluna for Italian. There are probably a dozen or more other places I've eaten that I enjoyed, but the above are my "go-to" where I know we'll get what we're looking for.

If you go further up the island into Captiva there are a lot of good restaurants there as well, but also some to be avoided. The Bubble Room is very touristy, long waits, and so-so food. Little kids might like it if you can get them to endure the wait. The same goes for the Island Cow on Sanibel--kids will want to go there, but our experience has always been "never again."

Great beaches on the Gulf side where you can see a lot of dolphins at the right time of year, a really nice state park on the northeast side with biking and hiking trails--a great place to go birding if you're into that, with the occasional gator sighting, and a few other smaller nature preserves. The entire island has dedicated bike/walking trails, so either take your bikes or plan on renting. There is also a decent 2-screen theater on the island, but get tickets at the box office as soon as they open in the afternoon, because you won't get in otherwise unless it's off-season.

PM me if there's anything else you want to know. We're heading down on the 26th so my memory will be very refreshed in a couple of weeks.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 10:04 AM   #6
Go Illini
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Thanks for all of the responses. I had heard good things about Sanibel Island and the Santa Rosa Beach/Grayton Beach area from friends, so I was just trying to get some additional opinions.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 10:04 AM   #7
IlliniAmy
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Marco Island -- I've been there once-a-year, every year, since 1991 (thanks to my in-laws having a place there). Not once have I ever encountered someone selling a time share. There are no chain restaurants (there is 1 Burger King & 1 McDonald's).

You can find information here: http://www.marcoisland.com/

Some of my favorite places are:

Snook Inn - http://www.snookinn.com/
Every Marco Island visitor needs to go there at least once.

Pelican Bend - http://pelicanbendinc.com/
It's actually about a 10 minute drive off the island -- on a smaller island, Isle of Capri.

Kretch's - http://www.kretchs.com/
Very popular with the locals.

And a couple of great sports bars:

Vandy's/5 Brothers - http://www.vandys5brothers.com/
This used to be called Vandy's With An Edge and was opened by former NFL kicker Mike Vanderjagt & running back Edgerrin James. James eventually sold his share to Vanderjagt and later, Vanderjagt bought out a local pizza place, 5 Brothers.

Rookie's Bar & Grill (no website) - located in a quaint shopping mall -- no box stores or chains -- all local stuff.

Here are some random photos from some of my trips:

our son wading offshore (we are in Grandpa's boat):


our son playing on the beach:


Preston & Grandpa walking on the beach:


sunset:


a burrowing owl:


a bald eagle:
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 11:28 AM   #8
Kirk
Location: Melbourne, Florida
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Agree on the Marco Island suggestion. There aren't a lot things for kids, but if you're just looking to get away, enjoy the beach and eat at some neat restuarants, it's a great option.
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Old Dec 12, 2012, 07:24 PM   #9
gibb52
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Agree 100% on both Sanibel and Marco. Siesta Key area is nice as well, but IMO not as nice as the other 2.
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Old Dec 13, 2012, 07:33 AM   #10
illini101
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Grayton Beach, Seagrove Beach, Seaside is our favorite but might be a little cool in April. There are only two highrise condos in the area. One Seagrove Place is where we like to stay. Great restaurants that are not chains. Grayton is a very cool little old florida town. Haven't stayed there but would like to soon. Many bike and walking paths. Seaside is where the Truman Show was filmed.
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Old Dec 13, 2012, 07:48 AM   #11
pizzaman
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Agree on the Marco Island suggestion. There aren't a lot things for kids, but if you're just looking to get away, enjoy the beach and eat at some neat restuarants, it's a great option.
I've been to Marco a few times (my retired sister and brother in law rent a condo for a couple months so its a cheap vacation for me.) It's great for a week or two but it's also full of elderly retired people doing nothing and has somewhat of a unreal feel to it because of that. It's escape from reality.
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Old Dec 19, 2012, 09:15 PM   #12
Archie
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Originally Posted by Go Illini View Post
Looking to vacation on the west coast of Florida for a week in April.

Looking for the following:

1) Low-rise hotel/condo/house that is on the beach.
2) Walking trails and biking trails nearby.
3) Decent non-chain seafood and steak restaurants nearby.
4) Immaculate beaches.
5) Low-key. Want a place that doesn't have multiple people scouring the beaches selling timeshares. Also, I bought all my Florida souvenirs years ago, so I don't need a town that has a store selling trinkets on every corner.


Any ideas of towns that fit this would be great.
I own a condo in Ft. Meyers that's always rented out to vacationers.
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Old Dec 20, 2012, 12:36 AM   #13
Leonardite
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Headed to Naples on the 28th!

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Old Dec 20, 2012, 06:43 AM   #14
illinicb
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Sanibel is great. I've been to Marco a bunch of times and Naples as well. All good in my mind.

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Old Jan 23, 2013, 06:33 AM   #15
sebum
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Redneck Riviera. Cheap, cheesy and a blast. Here is the Kams of the Panhandle:

http://florabama.com/

BTW, everyone....I'm back. First one to guess wins a box of 64 Crayolas that still has "flesh" and "indian red" as two of the colors.
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 02:13 AM   #16
Go Illini
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We haven't had the time to get everyone together yet for a trip, but finally plan on doing so this fall.

So, we've decided to spend 5 days on Sanibel and another 3 on either Anna Maria Island or somewhere along the beaches of South Walton. We're into biking, walking along trails, walking along the beach, doing some cooking in the room, but we also want some options to eat some seafood. Any thoughts on Anna Maria or places like Seagrove Beach/another place near there in South Walton? Looking at staying at a low rise condo or hotel.

Last edited by Go Illini; Mar 30, 2014 at 02:19 AM.
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 10:57 AM   #17
Kams Bathroom
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the Kams of the Panhandle
That's a great way to describe that place. It's a very fun bar.

Cleaner bathrooms though
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