There’s much more to the Sunshine State than the busy theme parks and shopping malls of central Florida. For a more laid-back, outdoorsy lifestyle, head to Southwest Florida (SWFL) where the scenic coastline offers bundles of year-round fun and the chance to really kick back…

Three-bed house in Estero with lake view

Location and landscape
Leave behind the bright lights of Orlando and its theme parks and head two hours south-west down Interstate 4 and you’ll arrive at Tampa Bay on the Bay of Mexico, the start of Southwest Florida’s famous Gulf Coast. It continues south as far as Naples and Marco Island on the so-called Paradise Coast.

This glorious 200-mile stretch of coast is famous for its fine white sandy beaches, some deemed the best in the USA, and its old-world country-club charm – noticeably different from the neon lights and showiness of many resorts on Florida’s east coast. Complemented by a tropical climate and lush, green scenery, life revolves largely around the beach, water sports and laid-back leisure activities. Little wonder it’s popular with mature retirees and snow-birds.

Notable resorts and cities
In the north, hot spots include Tampa, St Petersburg and Clearwater – the latter two each occupying a peninsula, all of which border Tampa Bay and offer a metropolitan waterfront lifestyle. Similarly, Sarasota is a vibrant, arty city that fuses a working population with holidaymakers.

Three-bed house in Sarasota

Sarasota’s coastline includes the desirable second home spots of Siesta Key, with its famous beach, and Longboat Key. Boat-owners might prefer Cape Coral with its 400 miles of inland canals and waterfront homes with private moorings.

Neighbouring Fort Myers across the estuary is popular for its beaches. Much of this area is protected natural park, including the unspoilt gem Sanibel Island, famous for its shells and old-fashioned feel.

Further south are Bonita Springs and Estero, both newer destinations with a large choice of golf and residential communities, varying in proximity to the beach. The pretty coastline there is home to the Barefoot Beach Preserve Park, one of the last undeveloped barrier islands along this coast.

The jewel in the crown of SWFL is arguably Naples, one of the richest cities in the USA in terms of average income per homeowner and with more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the country. Its old-world style and lush, leafy boulevards complement perfectly its luxury communities and world-class amenities.

One-bed condo in Fort Myers

The lifestyle
SWFL’s sunny climate, unspoilt beaches, exciting natural scenery and access to the Gulf of Mexico make it one big playground, ideal for outdoorsy types. World-class sailing, fishing and all kinds of water sports can be enjoyed much of the year, golfers will be wowed by the choice of championship courses, and walkers and nature-lovers have a collection of parks and trails to keep them occupied.

In true Florida style, first-rate shopping, gastronomy and night life are there for the taking too. But if you prefer a slower, more refined lifestyle, you’ll be equally at home!

Condos (apartments) and detached homes within a waterfront or golf community are typical of the property market in SWFL.

Three-bed house in Cape Coral

The newer, more modern developments, such as those around Estero, might include more high-rise condo blocks and include commercial outlets. Prices vary by city or resort, but quality two-bedroom condos near the beach should be achievable from $180,000-$200,000, and single-family homes or villas from $300,000-$350,000. Desirable homes in the most upmarket areas of Naples or Longboat Key will be well into the millions!

Getting there
Options for Sarasota/Tampa Bay include flying direct to either Tampa or Orlando, or into regional Sarasota Airport via a connection at Atlanta. The Naples-Fort Myers area is best reached either by flying to Miami followed by a 90-minute transfer across Alligator Alley, or flying to Atlanta and taking a connecting flight to Fort Myers. A connecting flight into Fort Lauderdale could be another option.

Written by Overseas Guides Company.

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