In the three hundred miles from the state’s southern tip to the junction with the Panhandle, Florida’s West Coast embraces all the extremes. Buzzing, youthful towns rise behind placid fishing hamlets; mobbed holiday strips lie just minutes from desolate swamplands; and a world-class art collection competes with a glitzy theme park. Surprises are plentiful, though the coast’s one constant is proximity to the Gulf of Mexico – and sunset views rivalled only by those of the Florida Keys.

The west coast’s largest city, Tampa, has more to offer than its corporate towers initially suggest – not least the lively nightlife scene in the Cuban enclave of Ybor City, and the Busch Gardens theme park. For the mass of visitors, though, the Tampa Bay area begins and ends with the St Petersburg beaches, whose miles of sea and sand are undiluted holiday territory. South of Tampa, a string of barrier-island beaches run the length of the Gulf (including those on beautiful Anna Maria Island), and the mainland towns that provide access to them – such as Sarasota and Fort Myers – have enough to warrant a stop.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 of the most beautiful places in Alaska

15 of the most beautiful places in Alaska

With mountains to climb, rivers to raft, glaciers to coo over and a bevy of bears to photograph, Alaska is the ultimate wilderness. From the moment you arrive, …

18 Jan 2017 • Sarah Reid camera_alt Gallery
8 ideas for cheap vacations in the US

8 ideas for cheap vacations in the US

Only a few of us can take a vacation that includes a private jet and a 15-course chef’s tasting menu at a top restaurant. For the rest of us, we have to make …

17 Jan 2017 • Jason Frye insert_drive_file Article
Why Atlanta is one of the top 10 cities you should visit in 2017

Why Atlanta is one of the top 10 cities you should visit in 2017

Georgia’s leafy capital is due its time in the spotlight. Dynamic, progressive and home to one of the country’s most exciting food scenes, Atlanta is the ne…

11 Jan 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month