Spot wild dolphins
In the Gulf of Mexico
Front row seats on Florida’s best beaches
Spot wild dolphins
In the Gulf of Mexico
Number of shell species in Sanibel
Introducing Tampa: an up-and-coming-city set on the waterside. A few days here will reveal its historic centre, newly-invigorated Riverwalk and growing gastronomic scene. If you’re looking for that authentic Florida beach holiday, head out of Tampa to discover the Gulf Coast, where you can get down on the sand for front-row seats to the area’s phenomenal sunsets.
The Gulf Coast is calmer than Florida’s Atlantic coast, with safe, family-friendly water. The beaches are stand-out beauties, with their trademark white quartz sand, and troves of shells sprinkled on the shore.
Before you set off on the hunt for Florida’s fastest thrills and biggest beaches, stop and appreciate Tampa. Florida’s third largest city has a lot going on. Visit the historic district of Ybor City. It’s famous for former cigar manufacturers and is now fit to bursting with local breweries. In fact, the whole Tampa Bay area is becoming more foodie than ever – a walk, Segway or cycle down the Riverwalk will reveal some lovely places to stop, eat, and drink in the scenery.
Then hire a car and be free to explore more of Florida’s warmth on a fly-drive holiday. Soar down south from Tampa and you’ll reach the shell-strewn islands at Sarasota and the charming waterside restaurants in Naples. This coast might be well-trodden, but you’ll still tread on virgin sands and feel as though every sunset has been personally painted for you. Plus, you can reach Orlando’s famous parks in under three hours. However, if you’re strapped for time and prefer to stay local, kids will love the rides at Busch Gardens, Tampa’s own thrilling theme park.
Enjoy the relaxing side of Florida. Book flights to Tampa for a Gulf Coast holiday – they’ve made the water just the way you like it.
There are several distinct areas of the Gulf Coast around Tampa, each with fantastic hotels. You can stay in the Tampa Bay area, in Tampa, Clearwater or St Petersburg. Travel a little further south and you’ll wash up on the arty, beautiful shores of Sarasota and then arrive in upmarket Naples. Wherever you roam, British Airways has the Gulf Coast covered: our carefully-selected hotels suit every traveller. DoubleTree by Hilton Tampa Rocky Point Waterfront is a great place to stay on a budget in central Tampa. It has an attractive, fresh design and a small pool on the waterfront. For a mid-range beach hotel, stay at Bellwether Beachfront Resort. If you’re looking for a glamorous spa hotel, you’ll adore Don Cesar in St Pete’s.
For an overnight stop on a fly-drive holiday, or an inexpensive base if most of your days will be spent on the beach, pick one of our carefully selected three-star hotels. You can keep costs down and still enjoy a sunny Floridian holiday.
Want a holiday that has everything, but can’t stretch to five star? Choose a resort that’s got all your family needs – plus fun extras, whether it’s a beachfront setting or water sports and sundowners at a four-star hotel.
Pick a fancy hotel in Naples for a romantic stay with a touch of Old Florida charm, or pull out all the stops at a beachside resort on its own island. There are plenty of luxury hotels to choose on the Gulf Coast.
Prepare to lose yourself in the glorious greenery on an Ireland road trip – the distances are short, you’ll drive on the left, and the roads are refreshingly empty. The promise of legend, landscape and a warm Irish welcome will exceed all expectations.
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If you’re staying in Tampa city to explore the local sights, Downtown Tampa and the Channel District are popular places to stay. From here it’s just a short bus to Ybor City, Tampa’s most historic area, and one of the most characterful parts of town.
In the wider Tampa Bay area, check out Gulfport for a touch of Florida Keys weirdness on the mainland.
If you stay in nearby Clearwater, you can also visit Caladesi Island State Park, a beautiful barrier island only accessible by boat. St Pete’s Beach and St Petersburg are also popular areas to visit, thanks to a Dali Museum, a Chihuly museum, and yet more fantastic beaches.
Sarasota and Bradenton are a short hop across the bay from St Petersburg. Stay near Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island for the most stupendous sunsets from City Pier. Stay near St Armand’s Circle for charming restaurants. Further out, the city of Fort Myers is known for its water sports. Stay on Fort Myers Beach to try them out.
Naples is a small and elegant city with an abundance of beautiful, but challenging, golf courses. Look for Naples hotels near Fifth Avenue South if you’re planning to spend time sampling the city’s famous shopping district. Below Naples, Marco Island is considered the gateway to the Everglades. Luxury resorts have sprouted all along the fantastically long beach on the west coast of the barrier island. With the nearby nature reserves, it’s a great place to watch and photograph wildlife.
• Party during sunset at Pier 60
• Dine al fresco at Tampa Riverwalk
• Get back to nature at the Hillsborough River State Park
• Catch a streetcar to the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Ybor City
• Visit The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Best beaches to visit from Tampa
With so many beaches nearby, you can afford to be choosy. From north to south, try out these blonde beauties:
Tampa fly-drive holidays
Tampa, and the twin cities of Clearwater and St Petersburg sit on the northern end of Florida’s popular Gulf Coast region. Drive south from here, crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to reach Bradenton and Sarasota next, then Fort Myers, and finally the so-called ‘Paradise Coast’ around Naples. Don’t forget to look inland from the beaches when you travel. You can find plenty of Florida’s signature wildlife, from gators to egrets, just off the back roads. Why not drive to Cape Coral, near Fort Myers, to look out for Florida’s unique Burrowing Owls?Customise your trip