Four Florida Gulf Coast Towns You Absolutely Have to Visit

Published On 06/24/2016 Published On 06/24/2016
Anna Maria Island | Flickr/VISIT FLORIDA
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1. Gasparilla Inn & Club 500 Palm Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921

Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande is a luxury resort offering an island getaway experience with a timeless aethetic and no shortage of activities for the entire family. At the Inn and on the Gasparilla Island you can swim, golf, play tennis, bike, boat, shop, take a cruise on the Gulf or, if you're so inclined, spend all day in the salon and spa. The added bonus of on-site bars, cafes, restaurants and the Inn's beautiful and classic early-1900s architecture make this stay worth the splurge.

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2. The Pink Elephant 491 Bayou Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921

You don't have to be a guest of Boca Grande's Gasparilla Inn & Club (although you'll wish you were) to dine at its premier restaurant The Pink Elephant, known lovingly as "The Pink." Just along the bayou, this establishment has been serving lunch, dinner and specialty cocktails in a laid-back, vacation-minded setting for more than 60 years, which means these guys know what they're doing when they whip up a plate of fresh sea bass, tuna tartare or grilled lamb burger for you.

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3. Third Street Cafe 310 E Railroad Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921

Third Street Cafe is not at all what it sounds like (that is, an average coffee shop). At this cafe, smack dab in the middle of Florida's Boca Grande island, a slew of seafood delicacies await for you to eat at brunch, lunch or dinner. Crab cake eggs benedict in the morning, a lobster roll in the afternoon and bigeye tuna at night are surefire ways to do food on the Gulf right. Another thing you can't do wrong with: any choice of house cockails from the cafe's full-service bar.

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4. The Sandbar Restaurant 100 Spring Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216

An absolute must in Anna Maria, Sandbar serves both food and drink along the island's north shore with picturesque views of the beach and open water. Its got a large indoor dining space and bar, but don't even bother with that — the beachside patio is the only place you want to be, especially if it's close to sunset. Take whatever seat you can find out there (it's one of the most popular joints in the city for locals and tourists) and order a Pina Colada with a seafood platter of fish, shrimp and scallops for a taste of everything this spot's got to offer.

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5. Poppo's Taqueria 212C Pine Ave., Anna Maria, FL 34216

When you hit a time (and/or budget crunch) exploring the Anna Maria island, Poppo's Taqueria will save the day without the sacrifice of quality. Serving authentic Mexican street food, this joint offers customizable tacos, burritos, quesadillas and bowls full of whatever you choose, whether it be wild boar chorizo, tempeh or spicy beef — all made fresh and right before your eyes. This, the ultimate grab-and-go meal, will only cost you the wad of bills in your pocket

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6. The Donut Experiment 210C Pine Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216

The Donut Experiment is asking life's fundamental question: what doesn't taste good on a donut? Here, you'll order an individual, half or full dozen batch of plain, freshly baked donuts, pick an icing (vanilla, chocolate, maple, glaze) and then go buck wild with toppings. Your options range from the expected basics like sprinkles, cinnamon sugar and coconut to experimental flavors like bacon, cereals and candy bars. For the really daring, the Sriracha donut is glazed and topped with nuts and everyone's favorite chili sauce.

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7. Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant , ,

This transformed house from the '20s is a local landmark on the tiny, remote Cabbage Key Island off Florida's west coast. The Inn's cozy cottages are homes away from home and offer a private, bed-and-breakfast feel. In the main building lies the Inn's restaurant, famous for its choice of decor — thousands of dollar bills, all collected from past customers, plastering the walls and hanging from the ceiling. While this joint serves fresh seafood like any self-respecting island operation, Cabbage Key is ultimately known for its cheeseburgers.

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8. Hurricane Seafood Restaurant 807 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

You'll be met with two options when you arrive at the Hurricane in the historic Pass-A-Grille district: the Original Hurricane and Level Two Dining — both in the same building, just on two different floors with two slightly different menus. If it's past 4 p.m., the second option is definitely where you want to be — you'll be sat on the roof deck with 360-degree views of the ocean and St. Petersburg, where you can order any one of Hurricane's specialties (like the crowd favorite 1945 Crab Cake Dinner), a plate of pasta or a freshly caught fish.

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9. Marinata Grille , South Pasadena, FL 33706

One of few dining option in St. Petersburg's swanky Don Cesar Hotel, the Marinata Grille is (given its location), the prime spot when you've got money to spend and people to impress. Here you'll enjoy watching the fish (that you'll probably eat following the first course) swim around the wall-to-wall aquarium. Choose a fresh fish or oysters from the regular menu, or a boneless ribeye form the separate steak. If you're feeling like a high roller, splurge on a lamb rack.

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10. Loews Don CeSar Hotel 3400 Gulf Blvd, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

Picture what the Great Gatsby's mansion would have looked like had it been on the Floridian shore. That's precisely what St. Petersburg's Don CeSar Hotel, otherwise known as the Pink Palace, is. Established in the height of the roaring '20s, this hotel sits at the height of luxury with 227 massive rooms and suites, two heated pools, a full service spa and a restaurant, all steps from the island's sugar sand beaches.