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Mandamom

Florida (beach) gulf coast vacation

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My 17 year old daughter has been begging for years to go to the gulf coast of Florida. 

 

I'm looking at Destin, she's looking at Clearwater Beach. I was considering spring break (last week of march) but I really don't want to be invaded by a bunch of college students although my 16 and 17 year old daughters would probably be pretty happy  :glare: .  It would be me and my 3 kids (17dd, 16dd and 12 ds) driving down from Maryland. We are used to Ocean City, Maryland.

 

I can probably go at the end of March or the middle (or end) of June. Although I'm thinking it might be quite hot in June. 

 

Thoughts, ideas or experiences would be greatly appreciated. 

 

Thank you, 

 

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June. The gulf water takes a little while to warm up and you don't want to be around for spring break if you can help it.

 

My vote would be Destin, but not actually Destin. Drive a little farther east to Sandestin. But then, your girls might prefer to be in the middle of things.

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We definitely prefer St Pete Beach or nearby to the panhandle area.  If you want a beach that doesn't have the typical beach attractions and is more natural, look at those at Ft Desoto - esp on the Gulf side.  Madeira Beach and Indian Rocks Beach are also nice and mainly have condos around them, so tend to be less spring breakish - or at least they used to be.  We haven't actually been to those in a few years since we now stay in Ft Desoto's campground or a hotel on St Pete Beach and mainly stick with our favorite places.  We checked the others out when we used to live there and were exploring.

 

There's no comparison to Ocean City, MD as far as the beach is concerned.  Those FL beaches are awesome - expansive, white sand, shells, etc.  Ocean City is "a" beach.  Ocean City has a nice boardwalk though.  ;)

 

June will be very hot.  March could be warm.

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I realized my advice is likely to be more helpful if I know what you are looking for in a beach.  FL beaches vary, not quite as much as Hawaii's, but far more than typical Atlantic Coast.

 

If you opt for panhandle, June is likely to be better weather-wise.  St Pete/Clearwater or below I'd go for late March (given your two options).  

 

But are you also looking for a Boardwalk/amusements like Ocean City has?  Clearwater beats St Pete Beach (which doesn't have one). Panama City Beach could be an option too.  Or are you looking for more nature and less "other" stuff?  St Pete Beach has water attractions, restaurants, shops, bars, etc.  Ft Desoto is very nature focused with two fishing piers and "a" concession stand/gift shop.  There are also flush bathrooms. But otherwise, it's a nice stretch of beach without commercialism.  ;) 

 

All have nice wide white sand "picture perfect Florida" beaches.  The Atlantic Coast and Keys do not have these.  They have small (width) beaches similar to Ocean City's.  In the Keys they are also small length-wise due to the Keys being small islands.

 

I'm sure if you google images you can get a more clear picture than I'm writing.  Googling places will give you attractions there too.

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My 17 year old daughter has been begging for years to go to the gulf coast of Florida. 

 

I'm looking at Destin, she's looking at Clearwater Beach. I was considering spring break (last week of march) but I really don't want to be invaded by a bunch of college students although my 16 and 17 year old daughters would probably be pretty happy  :glare: .  It would be me and my 3 kids (17dd, 16dd and 12 ds) driving down from Maryland. We are used to Ocean City, Maryland.

 

I can probably go at the end of March or the middle (or end) of June. Although I'm thinking it might be quite hot in June. 

 

Thoughts, ideas or experiences would be greatly appreciated. 

 

Thank you, 

 

You might want to check spring break times at a few colleges. I'm not an expert, but most colleges here are "late winter break" rather than spring. As in the breaks usually occur during the second or third (at the latest) weeks in March. DS19 will be on spring break the week of 3/5 and DS22 will be on break the week of 3/12. DH and I are considering heading somewhere south around the end of March, which we assume will be after the vast majority of spring breakers are gone. You'd have to pay me a really, really large sum of money to get me to step foot in Florida in June. 

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I would keep a 17-year old far away from Clearwater Beach in March/April, too many drunk college students. St Pete Beach is still a very party atmosphere, but more family friendly. Nearby St Petersburg proper has lots of cool artsy stuff going on downtown all the time, lots of it free or inexpensive. Captiva and Sanibel are both gorgeous. All the beaches are great, tbh. The gulf only has tiny waves most of the time, so is perfect for any littles, and the baby powder sand is delightful.

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I realized my advice is likely to be more helpful if I know what you are looking for in a beach.  FL beaches vary, not quite as much as Hawaii's, but far more than typical Atlantic Coast.

 

If you opt for panhandle, June is likely to be better weather-wise.  St Pete/Clearwater or below I'd go for late March (given your two options).  

 

But are you also looking for a Boardwalk/amusements like Ocean City has?  Clearwater beats St Pete Beach (which doesn't have one). Panama City Beach could be an option too.  Or are you looking for more nature and less "other" stuff?  St Pete Beach has water attractions, restaurants, shops, bars, etc.  Ft Desoto is very nature focused with two fishing piers and "a" concession stand/gift shop.  There are also flush bathrooms. But otherwise, it's a nice stretch of beach without commercialism.  ;)

 

All have nice wide white sand "picture perfect Florida" beaches.  The Atlantic Coast and Keys do not have these.  They have small (width) beaches similar to Ocean City's.  In the Keys they are also small length-wise due to the Keys being small islands.

 

I'm sure if you google images you can get a more clear picture than I'm writing.  Googling places will give you attractions there too.

 

That helps. I, personally, would prefer the more quiet nature type beach but for this trip I think the more boardwalk/amusements for this trip  the better. 

 

We normally don't spend a lot of money as we just walk around and people watch and do some light shopping. 

 

Thanks for your help. 

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I am a scuba-diver, eagerly awaiting when DD is old enough (12) to get certified.  Destin has something which isn't in many places, Snuba.    It is a cross between snorkeling and scuba.   Sort of Scuba-diving light and no classes/certification is needed.  There is this giant inner-tube with breathing equipment on it.  Dangling down from it is tubes and air-regulators (the things you hold in your mouth).   The tubes were 20-30' long (I forget).     I can't tell you what it is like because 8 is the min. age for that, and DD wasn't enough yet (hmmrugfh)

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I live very close to Panama City. The beaches here are just beautiful. My suggestion would be to vacation somewhere off 30A (we particularly love Rosemary Beach). 30A is sort of in-between Panama City & Destin. There’s tons to do there & it’s beautiful. When we go to PC, we always stay at The Calypso - I would highly recommend this resort if you’re open to Panama City (it’s on the beach and across from Pier Park and close to everything).

 

Clearwater is a great place to vacation, but the beaches really don’t compare imo. The sand here is white & often the water is crystal clear. If you come to the gulf, I highly recommend St. Andrews state park and go to the jetties there. It’s across from Shell Island, which is also fabulous (but you would need to take a shuttle boat over). Wonder Works is a lot of fun too, it’s a museum. You can’t go wrong with any destination on the gulf or in Clearwater - they’re just very different beaches— but both fun places to visit.

Edited by mytwomonkeys
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FWIW, IME, FL gulf beaches are just as expensive in March as in June, but the water (and air) is often quite cold in March but should be lovely in June. So, I'd vote for June unless you have a really good reason to go in March instead. 

 

I love, love, love St George Island on the gulf. Very quiet and beautiful.

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June

30A rather than Destin. Stay somewhere quieter and skip into the city if you need to. There is no shortage of fun things to do!

 

We always stay in nice, old style (not high rise) 3br condos in Seagrove Beach. A mile putside of Seaside. PM me if you want the contact info. Absolutely our favorite place on the gulf!

Edited by ScoutTN
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I live very close to Panama City. The beaches here are just beautiful. My suggestion would be to vacation somewhere off 30A (we particularly love Rosemary Beach). 30A is sort of in-between Panama City & Destin. There’s tons to do there & it’s beautiful. When we go to PC, we always stay at The Calypso - I would highly recommend this resort if you’re open to Panama City (it’s on the beach and across from Pier Park and close to everything).

 

Clearwater is a great place to vacation, but the beaches really don’t compare imo. The sand here is white & often the water is crystal clear. If you come to the gulf, I highly recommend St. Andrews state park and go to the jetties there. It’s across from Shell Island, which is also fabulous (but you would need to take a shuttle boat over). Wonder Works is a lot of fun too, it’s a museum. You can’t go wrong with any destination on the gulf or in Clearwater - they’re just very different beaches— but both fun places to visit.

Clearwater is a gulf beach too! :)
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Clearwater is a gulf beach too! :)

Yes, I’m sorry. I’m really comparing the panhandle to Clearwater. Really confusing & incorrect word choice on my part ðŸ‘ðŸ»

Edited by mytwomonkeys

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I am a scuba-diver, eagerly awaiting when DD is old enough (12) to get certified.  

 

FWIW The minimum age to get scuba certified is 10, not 12.  My youngest got certified at 10.  ;)  (I was curious to see if this had changed in the past decade, so googled.  Ten is still the minimum.  Hope that helps!)

 

Otherwise, I'll add an average air temp link here too so the OP (and anyone lurking) can compare any month they choose.  St Pete's average high in March is 76, and by going at the end of March, it'll likely be closer to April's 80 since the end has to balance the beginning likely being cooler.  June's average high is 90.  That's out of my comfort zone personally, but of course, humans differ.

 

If preferring Destin, the average high in March is 68 compared to 87 in June.  I actually prefer the beaches (myself) in Pinellas County to those in the panhandle (though the panhandle is nice - beats any Atlantic coast beach), but again, humans differ so I certainly respect differences of opinion.  The temperature link works for many FL cities.  One just has to click on their preference to compare.

 

https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Florida/Places/st-petersburg-temperatures-by-month-average.php

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I would ask the older ones what they are looking for amusement/nature, busy/slow, activities/free time? Where to visit depends on that. I prefer nightlife and noise while dh prefers quiet and slow. Knowing expectations is key.

 

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk

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We have done the Clearwater beaches, St. Pete's beaches, Mierda beach, etc.....but one in Mid April and the other time in December. Mid April wasn't too busy but we hit a cooler week. December was great weather and no crowds.

 

The wyndam gardens in Clearwater was nice and across the road from lots of little stores, etc. There is a small beach there but the main one is a bit down the roads.

 

 

We are more of a free/nature/hiking type family and we tended to visit the beaches in the morning or at sunset so I can't speak to the middle of the day sunbathe on the beach stuff.

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Also, St Petersburg has a great Saturday market that is outdoors and has lot of great ethnic food booths, farmers market, etc. Lots of neat areas to walk around down there as well.

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We go to the panhandle. I think June is super hot. March is still too cold for me to swim. I prefer May as the perfect month. Bonus is that the first two weeks of May are still off season between spring break and summer.

 

We like Laguna Beach, West of Panama City, east of 30A. There is a Christian youth retreat that gives homeschool discounts for any open rooms they have. http://christiancamp.com

Edited by Zinnia
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FWIW The minimum age to get scuba certified is 10, not 12.  My youngest got certified at 10.  ;)  (I was curious to see if this had changed in the past decade, so googled.  Ten is still the minimum.  Hope that helps!)...

 

I'm glad I mentioned the min. age, otherwise we might have missed two years of diving.   NAUI is 12, but PADI is 10.   Go, PADI!   I just became a huge PADI fan.  

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I'm glad I mentioned the min. age, otherwise we might have missed two years of diving.   NAUI is 12, but PADI is 10.   Go, PADI!   I just became a huge PADI fan.  

 

We've never had a problem with PADI.  I'm thinking PADI is larger too, but I can't say I've looked into it.  I just don't know anyone who has opted to go with NAUI, so it might be just larger where we are and have been.

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I live in Tampa and we avoid Clearwater Beach at all costs during March.   It is a total zoo with tons of drunk college kids.   The local schools are on spring break a bit earlier in March this year (Hillsborough County spring break is the week of March 12).

 

Yes, the temps in June will be around 90, but on the beach itself there will be a sea breeze and it won't feel that hot.    There will be afternoon thunderstorms pretty predictably every day, but they generally last less than an hour.  You'll have more daylight in June, and the water temp will be more comfortable for swimming.

 

If you really want a boardwalk-type scene and things to do, Clearwater has everything your DD's will want.   A compromise might be to stay in Pinellas county somewhere south of Clearwater, like Redington Beach, and drive to Clearwater to sightsee (about 20-30 minutes).   All of the beaches in Pinellas County are beautiful and they're all a bit different.   A bit farther north is Tarpon Springs, which has a neat little shopping area and would be a fun day trip to walk around, eat Greek food, and sightsee (without spending a ton of money).  Another fun day trip would be a drive to Sarasota, about an hour south.

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