Sent from my iphone. I’m on a plane to a fashion show in…New York! I’ll be back next week with 4H – Fashion.
Growing up, our family never took many vacations. And when we did, it was
usually a long car ride to visit relatives. So when I was 14 years old and had
the opportunity to go on a real vacation to Florida with my best friend and her
family, I was so excited. We still had to drive (20 some odd hours) but it was
so much more worth it arriving to our beach cottage in the Panhandle of Florida.
We had a great week laying out, swimming in the ocean & exploring this new
tropical side of the US. We ended the week with a visit to Universal Studios in
Orlando, and then made the 20+ hour drive home. It was the best vacation I had
to date, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live in a warm,
tropical climate year round.
Fast forward 6 years, my same best friend and I find ourselves as 20 year olds
living in the great state of Iowa, hating the long, bitter winters and wishing
for more excitement in our lives. So we decided to pack up and move to Florida.
I had just gotten my Associate’s Degree and decided to finish my Bachelor’s at
the University of Central Florida in Orlando. We packed up a truck and headed
down to the Sunshine State in January 2005. I find that move to be one of the
best decision’s I have ever made.
I now have been residing in Florida for over 8 years and still love it! I’ve
lived in both Orlando and Fort Myers and currently reside in Orlando. It is a
tourist destination, which can be annoying at times, but there is never a
shortage of restaurants, sport and entertainment events, night life, and so much
more. Not to mention one of my favorite beaches, Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach, is
just a 45 minute drive.
One of the many perks of living in Florida is that some of the best beaches and
vacation destinations are all within a few hour drive. This is something I like
to take advantage of as often as possible. And I would like to share with you
some of my favorite spots and tips for when to travel and what to look for.
Hannah’s Top 5 Florida Beaches
5) Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach
Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach are on the Atlantic Ocean. Pro surfer, Kelly Slater, actually grew up in Cocoa Beach. Although Florida doesn’t typically get huge waves, If there are waves to be found, it will likely be here. That’s why
this beach is usually filled with surfers. It is an older beach town, most of
the high rises were built in the 80’s, but it has the old Florida charm. This is
our local spot, I have frequented these beaches more times than I can count.
My hubby and I like to body surf and body board on the good wave days. This is a
great beach destination if you are visiting Orlando and all of the attractions.
It is an easy drive with plenty of public beach access, local restaurants with
fresh fish and watering holes. The Atlantic water stays refreshing year-round,
with winter water temps in the upper 60’s and summer water temps in the low
80’s. The least expensive time to stay in Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach is late
summer/early fall. There are not many hotels with direct beach access, so you
would want to look for private rentals Typically condos with beach views/access
run $600-1,000 for one week.
4) St. Pete Beach/Clearwater
St. Pete Beach is near and dear to my heart, as this is where I was married in
2010. We had a beautiful beach ceremony and reception.
But it is also a great vacation spot. St. Pete Beach and Clearwater are on the Gulf of Mexico, close to
Tampa. Because it is on the Gulf side, the water is very calm and usually pretty
clear. Both beaches have plenty of Resorts, Villas and Hotels. The most
inexpensive time to visit is summer and fall. However, the Gulf typically stays
warmer than the Atlantic side, so in the summer time, the water is not quite as
refreshing. Alternatively, if you need to beat your winter depression, the
weather and water stays warm nearly year round.
Sanibel and Captiva are technically two islands joined together closest to Fort
Myers. The conjoined island is on the Gulf of Mexico and boasts some of the
clearest water in Florida. This is also a great beach for shelling. Millions of
shells lay along the shore, especially on the Sanibel side.
It is quite pricey to stay on the island, but there are plenty of resorts and hotels to do so. This
part of Florida gets a lot of snowbirds, so the busiest (and most expensive)
time there is October – April. Conversely, you can find some good deals the rest
of the year.
2) Jupiter Island
Jupiter Island is the most wealthy city in the US, per capita (or so I’m told).
Celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Celine Dionne have built
their multi-million dollar beach mansions along both the Atlantic Ocean and the
inland water. When you drive down the main road, all you see are gorgeous beach
homes on either side of the island. Once you get off of the millionaire’s
island, there are the beaches for us regular folks at Jupiter Beach.
Most recently, my hubby and I stayed at Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa. It was a
gorgeous hotel with a great restaurant and view of the crystal blue Atlantic
Ocean. However, Jupiter is not a big tourist destination. There are only a
couple of hotels, as it is mostly local residents. I rank it so high because the
water is turquoise blue almost year round, and it had a very relaxing feel.
Because it is not a big tourist destination, you can travel most any time of the
year to visit and prices shouldn’t fluctuate too much.
1) South Beach (Miami Beach)
South Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Florida, drawing tourists from
all over the world. For some reason, I didn’t buy into all of the hype and
didn’t visit Miami until a friend was getting married there just last year.
Since we were attending a wedding there anyway, we decided to make a weekend of
it and stay in South Beach. We ended up having a fabulous time taking in the
Miami culture, watching all of the exotic cars and people was better than a
movie! Not to mention, the restaurants and food were exquisite. It almost felt
like we were in another country. We stayed at the Prime Hotel, which has an
excellent restaurant downstairs that various celebrities and Miami’s elite
frequent. Some of their menu items were huge fresh oysters, Truffle Mac & Cheese
and top grade Kobe Beef at $50 per ounce…that’s right per ounce! South Beach
itself is a long, huge beach that spans for miles. The water is always
turquoise, clear and beautiful.
There are so many hotels and resorts to stay at
in South Beach, the hardest part is deciding on one. The Fountainbleu is one of
the most famous with a huge, sprawling beachfront resort and 5 star restaurant.
But a base room will cost you $600 + year round. The least expensive time to
stay is early summer – late fall. Just search the different travel websites and
keep an eye out for deals. There are also apps like Jet Setter that will alert
you of deals in major cities. But beware, anything you do in Miami is not
cheap…food, drinks, shopping, etc. So if you plan to visit, save your pennies
because you’ll definitely want to indulge in some of South Beach’s finest.
Whether you are a Florida resident, visit the Sunshine State frequently, or just
a casual traveler I encourage you take some time to visit some of these great
destinations. Hopefully you’ll fall in love like I did.
Keep it Classy,