Florida has a very long coastline, so there is a boatload of places to choose from when visiting the Sunshine State.
While the east and west coast of Florida are great places to visit, this article will explore the ten best west coast towns in Florida that are situated on the Gulf of Mexico rather than the Atlantic Ocean.
Depending on what interests you, whether it’s a place to retire peacefully, golf courses on the beach, party towns, or a town with tons of restaurants and bars, there is something for everyone on this list.
Famous for the white, sandy beaches, pristine waters, and lively atmosphere, the gulf coast is a great place to explore.
So get ready for relaxing days on the beach, snorkeling, and swimming as much as your heart desires, these west coast beach towns in Florida are great places to visit.
Best West Coast Florida Towns
1. Bonita Springs, Florida
Situated near popular cities, including Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral, Bonita Springs is the perfect place to visit if you want a calmer environment while still being able to head into the city.
It has great nightlife and a nice suburban feel. Bonita Springs is located on mainland Florida and also has barrier islands off the coast.
The Estero Bay separates Bonita Bay from Hickory Island and several other barrier islands, which are all part of Bonita Springs.
Some attractions in Bonita Springs include Barefoot Beach Preserve State Park, the dog beach park, and Lovers Key State Park.
Which has several barrier islands and is home to dolphins and manatees. There are also tons of water activities, including tours in clear kayaks.
Bonita Springs also has a large boardwalk and dedicated swimming area so visitors can enjoy the earth’s natural swimming pools.
2. Naples, Florida
Naples is most well known for being a highly praised retirement city.
Many well-off older people live in Naples and enjoy the golf courses, high-end shopping, and of course, the beach.
It’s a very walkable city and includes pedestrian-only areas to walk around. Naples is a very safe, easy-going place to visit.
The main tourist attractions include the Naples Zoo, the Naples Pier, the multiple golf courses, Castle Ovo, a seafront castle on the peninsula, and the Catacombs of San Gennaro.
Naples is the self-proclaimed Golf Capital of the World, so if that interests you, this city is a no-brainer.
In addition, there are many nearby parks and forests to visit, including Picayune Strand State Forest, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romano Aquatic Preserve, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Everglades National Park, just to name a few.
Because of Naples’s location in southwest Florida, it’s one of the last cities in the state on the west coast before reaching an uninhabited, natural landscape.
3. Tampa, Florida
If you love sports, Tampa might be a great spot to visit. There are a lot of teams out of Tampa, including the Tampa Bay Lightning National Hockey League Team, the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball Team, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers National Football League Team.
Other major tourist attractions include visiting Anna Maria Island and Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park.
It’s also in great proximity to many day trips that are desirable in the area, including Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve.
Also, be sure to check out The Florida Aquarium and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
Bayshore Boulevard is also a must. It’s the longest continuous pedestrian walkway in the world at 4.5 miles long, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
If you get lucky, you may also spot manatees in the Tampa Bay area, so if you love this ocean cow, Tampa is a great choice.
4. Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota has a beautiful stretch of coastline on the Gulf Coast. It is both in part on mainland Florida and there are several barrier islands off the coast. Visiting Sarasota is just one of the awesome things to do on Florida’s gulf coast .
Part of the island of Siesta Key lies within the city of Sarasota. Siesta Key is famous for having one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire state of Florida.
It’s known for its growing art scene, gastronomy, craft beers, and white-sand beaches.
If trying out all the best food and beer is up your alley, you will fall in love with Sarasota.
As for tourist attractions, there are a few celebrity homes in Sarasota people love to stake out, including Jerry Springer, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, and Stephen King.
There are also several excellent museums and a botanical garden.
5. St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg has popular tourist attractions and hosts many events and festivals throughout the year.
It also has a vibrant nightlife scene, many museums, art districts, and more fun to be had. It’s another popular location among retirees for its amazing beaches and relaxing art environment.
With various art museums and opportunities for art education, it’s a great place for those who love fine arts to explore.
Some of the street art will leave you baffled by its intricate details and colors. Which means they make great Instagram photos.
St. Pete is also one of the sunniest places in Florida and is the self-proclaimed Sunshine City after the Sunshine State.
The hipster city is the perfect place to explore and is a nice place to sit on the beach enjoying the views and the warm weather.
6. Fort Myers, Florida
This city is another popular location for the retired population. It’s a very accessible city because it’s home to an international airport, lots of shopping, restaurants, bars, and some top golf courses.
The downtown area is adorable and great for walking around. Fort Myers is often nicknamed the City of Palms because of all the palm trees that line the city.
It sits on the Caloosahatchee River, so Fort Myers isn’t actually on the beach. It is often confused with Fort Myers Beach, located on Sanibel Island, a barrier island off the Gulf of Mexico.
Both are great places to enjoy on the West Coast.
Regarding tourist attractions, people enjoy visiting Estero Island, Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Regional Park, Manatee Park, JetBlue Park, Sanibel Island, and more.
Fort Myers is also known for its food and craft beer scene.
7. Venice, Florida
Venice has an offshore coral reef, so it’s known for its surreal surfing conditions.
At Caspersen Beach, you can also find tons of shark teeth which is a fun activity when walking along the sand.
Venice Beach is the most popular place in the city, though not to be confused with Venice Beach, California, a neighborhood in Los Angeles or Venice, Italy.
For tourist attractions, the Venetian Waterway Park has lots of trails along the water.
In addition, there are several other great parks, including Centennial Park, with an interactive fountain, Oscar Scherer State Park, and West Blalock Park, to name a few.
Venice also has a historic downtown which is charming and filled with small boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and other establishments on palm tree-lined streets.
8. Cape Coral, Florida
This West Coast city in Florida is best known for its many canals that run through Cape Coral, 400 miles of canals, in fact.
The City sits where the Caloosahatchee River meets the bay and into the ocean.
It’s even been called the Waterfront Wonderland because there is so much waterfront to enjoy with that many miles of canals.
It’s also situated just across from Fort Myers, another popular city worth visiting. It can sometimes be overlooked because it’s on the river rather than the ocean.
Still, you’d be missing out because there is so much to do here, including a wide array of water activities from jet skiing, to boat tours, to Sunsplash Family Water Park.
Sirenia Vista Park is home to manatees and leads to Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve by kayak, where you can explore the birds, mangroves, and other wildlife. Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve is another great area to explore by kayak.
It’s another popular retirement location because of its beautiful environment and appealing entertainment opportunities.
9. Dunedin, Florida
Dunedin is located on mainland Florida but includes two islands: Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, which are linked by the Dunedin Causeway.
Both islands have state parks with lots of wildlife and opportunities to swim, kayak, and explore. In addition, the downtown area has many shops, dining, and bars to indulge in.
Visitors will love Hammock Park, which is right in downtown Dunedin and has owls, woodpeckers, and a butterfly garden.
It’s a more quiet and relaxed city than some of its neighbors, so if you’re looking for a place to visit where you can mainly focus on relaxing, you’ve found it here in Dunedin.
What makes Dunedin so great is it’s still considered a hidden gem. As a result, it’s not nearly as well known as its neighbors, Clearwater, Tampa, or St. Petersburg, so it’s much less crowded, which can appeal to visitors.
10. Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is the most western city in Florida and is located on the very edge of the Florida panhandle, bordering the state of Alabama.
Located on Pensacola Bay, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the calm water views. Pensacola Beach can be accessed by highway and is located on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island on the Gulf Coast.
Another big hit about Pensacola is that it is a much more affordable place to visit because it’s so far removed from many other Florida tourist attractions.
This is an excellent option if you’re looking to travel on a budget. Another interesting tidbit is that Pensacola is one of the oldest settlements in America.
There is a ton of history to uncover with original Spanish and British forts downtown. You can go on tours through the historic homes and even watch period-dressed living history interpreters who will teach you all about the history of the area.
As you can see, there are many great places to visit on the West Coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
It can be hard to choose the best place to visit when there are so many great options to consider.
We hope you found a place on this list that is right for you!
Whether you’re looking to relax by the water, kayak in the wildlife, spot sea animals or enjoy a great meal along the water, there is something here for everyone.
All you have to do now is choose the best city on the gulf coast for you. Get packing because the West Coast of Florida is calling your name.