Few regions can claim to be several destinations in one. Florida's Central West Coast is definitely one of them. From beaches to rivers, lakes and national parks, country towns to cosmopolitan cities, sports to museums and theaters, the Central West Coast provides enough diversity to appeal to a wide range of clients seeking a complete vacation.
Hotels and resorts in the region fit high standards and a wide range of budgets, from exclusive beach resorts to smaller motels, rental condominiums and historic properties. Although it is a year-round destination, the Central West Coast, as many other destinations in Florida, is very popular and therefore priced higher in the winter, while the summer and fall offer opportunities to enjoy the same destination at substantial savings.
Nature is very much a part of Central West Florida, not only on the Nature Coast, encompassing Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties, but also in Manatee County - a hot spot for grouper and largemouth bass fishing. Canoe expeditions, paddling through the Hillsborough River State Park's 16,000 acres of wilderness, are available only 20 minutes from downtown Tampa. In Clearwater, Moccasin Lake Nature Park has 50 acres of upland forest and wetland to be explored on a one-mile nature trail. Caladesi Island, accessible only by boat, and Honeymoon Island, reached via the Dunedin Causeway, are two of Florida's few remaining unspoiled barrier islands ideal for fishing, shelling and snorkeling.
Diversity is another ingredient adding special flavor to the region. Tarpon Springs' Greek Heritage, dating back to the early 1900s when Greek sponge divers settled in the area, is still alive today. Narrated cruises through the sponge docks and a variety of religious, musical and culinary festivals display the area's colorful ethnicity. Ybor City, Tampa's Latin Quarter, is a remnant of what once was the “Cigar Capital of the World”. The neighborhood, first settled in the late 1800s, now houses artists' studios, shops, restaurants and the Ybor City State Museum.
Other attractions throughout Central West Florida include the renowned 300-acre African-themed park Busch Gardens, which recently added Myombe Reserve: The Great Ape Domain, John's Pass Village and Boardwalk in Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg's Salvador Dali Museum, and Sarasota's Ringling Museum of Art. A variety of cruises from the Port of Tampa are another entertaining option.
Sports are plentiful throughout the region, ranging from water sports to golf, tennis and polo. The region is a hot spot for pre-season baseball, while football is showcased by the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and hockey made a beginning in Tampa with the Tampa Bay Lightning's first NHL season this year.
Florida's Central West Coast is served by three major airports: St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport, Tampa International Airport - considered one of the nation's leading facilities - and Sarasota/Bradenton Airport, recently granted port of entry status.