Kris Davidson

Southwest Gulf Coast

People who prefer Florida's Gulf side over its Atlantic one generally fall in love with this stretch of sun-kissed coastline from Sarasota to Naples. These two affluent, cultured towns set the tone for the whole region, where visits sway between soporific beach days and art-museum meanders, fine dining and designer cocktails. With their rowdy bars and casual fun, Siesta Key and Fort Myers Beach are slight exceptions, but even they don't reach the same pitch of spring break hysteria just north. No, in this region you'll remember hunting prehistoric shark's teeth in Venice and jewel-like tulip shells in Sanibel, a night at the circus in Sarasota and buying art in Matlacha.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Southwest Gulf Coast.