Destination Guide to Central West Florida

Central West Florida is home to the popular vacation destinations of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater and offers a limitless array of cultural, historical, natural and recreational activities along with aqua-marine waters and sun-drenched beaches.

POPULAR CITIES IN CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is considered by many as the pinnacle of  “Old Florida” an unspoiled seven and a half mile long paradise. This stretch includes Anna Maria to the north, Holmes Beach at the center and Bradenton Beach to the south. There is an Island trolley that visitors can take to visit each area. You won’t find high rises in Anna Maria in fact there are only a couple of building over 3 stories.

There are several public beaches all over the island from north to south. With comfortable warm waters of the Gulf Of Mexico you can enjoy swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, sailing and fishing. Anna Maria is is abundant with great restaurant’s from beach bars and family restaurants to nationally known bistros.

There are no big box stores or commercial shopping centers on Anna Maria. There are plenty of local  independent shops that showcase local products and businesses. There are also art galleries and boutiques offering paintings, sculpture and jewelry from local artisans. There is even an outdoor market on Historic Bridge Street. And Bradenton is just a short drive away on the mainland with shopping malls, movie theaters etc..

Clearwater and Clearwater Beach

There’s a vast amount of things to do in this area of Florida right off the beach. At Ruth Eckerd Hall enjoy a comedy show, rock legends and musicals. Watch a baseball game, the Philadelphia Phillies have their  spring training at Spectrum Field. Enjoy the beautiful views of Clearwater Harbor from Coachman Park and enjoy an outdoor concert like the annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

Over the nearby Memorial Causeway drive into Clearwater Beach. Take the roundabout that leads to Pier 60, Clearwater Municipal Marina and Mandalay Avenue, where you can participate in a nightly sunset celebration, or board a pirate cruise or fishing charter, and enjoy souvenir shopping and a fresh fried grouper sandwich, steps from the Gulf.

Crystal River

Crystal River is known as the Gem of the Nature Coast. It is a first magnitude Florida springs system and the leading winter refuge for the Florida Manatee. First magnitude springs are classified as the largest springs and discharge at least 64.6 million gallons of water per day or 100 cubic feet per second.

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only Refuge in the United States dedicated to the preservation and protection of a single species, the Manatee. In the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, manatees are the stars (in fact, the refuge was created for their protection). Local guides operate snorkeling, scuba, boat and kayak tours for sighting; the best months are October through March, when manatees migrate here to escape chilly winter waters.

Dade City

Dade City is the epitome of quintessential small-town Florida. It is the county seat of Pasco County, Florida, and  located in the Tampa Bay Area. Dade City is a popular vacation destination  and famous for its antique stores, award winning restaurants and historic architecture including the Pasco County Courthouse, Hugh Embry Library, and Edwinola. Dade City is one of the largest producers of Kumquats and hosts an annual Kumquat Festival downtown The tart kumquat is a citrus fruit eaten whole. It was home to former Yankees pitcher Dave Eiland.

Dunedin

Dunedin (pronounced DONE-EE-DIN) is a small town with big city amenities. This waterfront town has many great original restaurants and shops. Dunedin, Florida offers some of the best dining in Tampa bay, world class major league baseball, art and culture, and even the The No. 1 beach in the nation in 2008 (according to Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach). Dunedin is home to Honeymoon Island, the number 1 rated state park in the Florida. Its Scottish heritage brings an annual Celtic festival and Highland games.

Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores

Famous for beautiful beaches and incredible dining, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores are the quintessential quiet getaway that makes this place so special. Close to Clearwater Beach or John’s Pass if you so chose to visit the busier side of the area.

Home to the nonprofit Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary that has been caring for wild birds since the 1970s; visit the hospital and rehab center for a look at its 600 or so residents.

There are many beachfront condominium vacation rentals where you can walk right out onto the sand, there is plenty of parking areas and beach accesses available nearby. The beach is long, and borders many other barrier island beach towns, so it’s easy to walk for miles looking for shells in the sand and dolphins in the surf.

Madeira Beach and John’s Pass

Madeira Beach was named the No. 9 Beach in the U.S. by Tripadvisor for 2021. It is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in Florida and charter boats are available for visitors to take home their own fresh catch every day. The beach is referred by locals as “Mad Beach,” this is a fun and exciting area to be. The major draw of Madeira Beach is John’s Pass Fishing Village which houses over 100 unique shops, excellent restaurants, and even a ghost tour.

Go deep sea fishing, Take a pirate cruise, Take a dolphin cruise, Rent a scooter, Madeira Beach offers many activities for the whole family in addition to a great beach. In the fall, don’t forget the fresh local seafood that can be sampled at the John’s Pass Seafood Festival.

New Port Richey

New Port Richey is located along the Gulf of Mexico about 35 miles northwest of Tampa. It’s beautiful riverfront blends nature with snow white sanded beaches, excellent shopping and many great restaurants. It almost became the “Hollywood of the East” in the 1920’s but the great depression era put an end to that. Remnants however still remain when  silent film star Thomas Meighan, commissioned the Suncoast Theatre. There are Art Galleries, Antique Shops and plenty of activities for the entire family to keep busy on vacation.

St. Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach is Tripadvisor’s No. 1 Beach in the U.S. in 2021. This beach town destination is family friendly, laid-back, and fun. Everywhere on St. Pete Beach, you’re never far from great spots to eat, drink and shop. St. Pete Beach’s two main streets are  Corey Avenue and historic 8th Avenue, in Pass-a-Grille. A great family place to visit is Rumfish where they have 3 large aquariums that you can actually snorkel in. Corey Avenue has boutiques and restaurants to enjoy. There are also wine tastings and an annual arts and crafts festival.

St. Pete/Clearwater

St. Pete/Clearwater was recently named Travel and Leisure magazine’s best places to visit in the world for 2022. The St. Pete/Clearwater area boasts 5 museums and several art galleries including the Salvador Dalí Museum. There is a wide array of Boutiques as well as performing arts and live music at a variety of restaurants and nightclubs.

Tampa

Tampa Bay, considered the heart of Florida’s Gulf coast. Tampa offers so much to do and see a complete list would be quit hard to fathom. From breathtaking views of the Gulf to world class amusement parks Tampa has it all. A must visit area is world famous Ybor City, a Cuban influenced cigar capital of the United States, Ybor was named after Vicente Martinez Ybor after he visited the area in 1886 and setup his cigar factory. This historic area features  the Ybor City Museum State Park as well as The Columbia Restaurant, established in 1905 famous for excellent Cuban cuisine and Flamenco dancers. Tampa is home to Busch Gardens theme park, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well as the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs is the Sponge capital of the world. Greek divers, who were originally from the Keys, found out the more desirable wool sponges were found in the deeper and colder waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Greek sponge divers soon developed Tarpon Springs’ famed sponge diving industry in the very early 1900s. Greek Food is abundant in this area with great restaurants and bakeries. Here you will find The Sponge Docks, Excellent Attractions, Sponge Diving, Tours, Sightseeing Cruises, Unique Greek and Florida Souvenirs, lots of Shopping, Sightseeing and Live Entertainment (Bouzoukia)

Zephyrhills

The Zephyrhills area has great amenities and fun activities for all ages. Zephyrhills is home to 12 city parks, a skate park, a water park, the town is home to Skydive City, one of Florida’s largest skydiving facilities, as well as a museum of military history and a train depot museum. Downtown has great unique shops, local boutiques and features it’s very own award-winning microbrewery.

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