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Florida Family Vacation in St. Pete by the Gulf Shores

Florida is well known for it’s beaches and beautiful spots for vacations. A Florida family vacation in St. Pete by the Gulf Shores gives plenty of access to Florida’s best beaches. There are plenty of amusement parks, trails to hike and activities for everyone.

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Disclaimer: Everything in my blog is based on my own opinions, experiences and perspectives. We are all different and my hope is you can go out and create experiences and perspectives of your own. I also have some affiliate links with Adobe, Back Country and Kayak.com throughout my blog and advertisements for brands I partner with and use such as Just Strong, Goli Vitamins and DIFF Eyewear. I make a very small commission if you purchase through the link & offer a discount code. Also, these traveling itineraries are shared from my own experiences and point of view & are no means an endorsement or advice.

A map of places we went around the St. Petersburg area (pictured above).

Frequently Asked Questions

Which part of Florida is best for families?

A wonderful spot for a family Florida vacation is the Gulf Shores.

What is the most family friendly beach in Florida?

All beaches are incredible! The Gulf Shore is host to dozens of these beaches.

Which is the nicest part of Florida to vacation?

Anywhere!

What’s the Weather like for a Florida Family Vacation?

We went during the summer time for our Florida family vacation, which as you can imagine means it was hot, hot, hot! But the worst part was the humidity. The sunshine state had me dripping in sweat within 10 minutes of claiming my baggage and finding our rental car. During winter time, if you are in southern Florida by the coast, temps can be an average of 65 degrees. Fall time can be 75 to 90 degrees and spring time is very similar.

If you happen to travel during the summer time, bring sandals, swimming gear and lots of cool clothing (shorts, tank tops, flowy summer dresses, t shirts,bucket hats, etc). We always bring a sweater and sweatpants to be comfy, but this is the one trip I had no desire to use them because it was so humid out. I lived in my swimsuit or my summer dresses and my kids always wanted shorts or their swimsuits on.

If you have a nice sun hat-bring that! Sunglasses and sunscreen are also staple items in Florida. We went through a bottle in a week! And of course- bring a water bottle for everyone. We went through water like CRAZY! I was super grateful our Airbnb host let us borrow a small cooler- we took that thing everywhere.

Where to Stay for Florida Family Vacation?

Our pool at our Airbnb rental in St. Pete.

You have SO MANY options of places to stay. The Gulf Shores areas are littered with hotels, motels, AIRBNBS and beach bungalows for miles and miles in every town. We picked an AIRBNB with a lovely pool in the backyard & we got our money’s worth out of it.

My advice is to 1) Know what town or area you want to stay 2) Figure out your budget and 3) Pick what amenities you want. We knew we wanted to be close to the beach (we were okay not being waterfront), a pool and somewhere family friendly not too far from everything. Other adorable towns in the area to stay are Dunedin, Clearwater and Indian Shores (Indian Rocks Beach).

Check out the Tropic-Pool Oasis here! Average nightly cost is $226 per night, sleeps up to 8 guests.

Our Family Florida Vacation Tropical Oasis

@lifeissweetlikehoney Airbnb by the Gulf Shores in FL with a beautiful pool. #travel #adventure #beautifuldestinations #vacationmode #inspire #travelblogger #momlife #Florida #gulfshores #vitaminsea #sunshinestate ♬ Selfcare-demo – Bella Moulden

How to Get There

Our family flew from Minnesota into the Tampa International Airport. After departing the plane, we rode a tram to the baggage claim (a very short ride) then rode another one to our car rental (we rented through Hertz). We were very grateful we rented our car ahead of time. There is even an app from HERTZ you can download to speed up the process of picking up your rental car- we saved a lot of time with this. The flight was about 2 hours and 45 minute.

Traveling with (younger) kids is always stressful, especially if you are flying, but our experience was as smooth as it could have gone. I was also super grateful for my new Swiss Gear hard case purchase because it glided through the airport and I was even able to strap my daughter’s car seat to it.

I used the Tula baby carrier for her throughout the airport & was able to have both my hands free. (I hope to do a blog post focused on tips for air travel with young children). Of course, depending on your method of travel & where you are coming from, your journey is going to be all your own.

I am not an affiliate, but the Tula Baby carriers are THE BEST. I swear by them because they provide so much support & keep my baby and I comfortable. Check out Tula here.

My Swiss Gear hard case spinner luggage was a dream. It glided through the airport & I was even able to easily carry my daughter’s carset by strapping it to the top. Once again, I am not an affiliate, but will share this purchase was worth it! You can shop Swiss Gear here.

Most Family Friendly Beach in Florida

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5 Day Itinerary for Family Florida Vacation to Gulf Shores

Let’s Talk– How often do you look at a screen?

If you like to scroll your phone, work on your laptop or watch tv, chances are A LOT! As a travel blogger, working in a school and just in general, I know I certainly do my fair share of screen time. I wanted to offer some discounts from DIFF Eyewear– which has literally EVERY style of glasses you can think of- including Blue Light glasses! Mine have been helping with headaches-check out to see what they have here!

Day 1: Arrive in Tampa

Step 1: Tampa- Another Broken Egg

Out first family Florida vacation stop- breakfast! We were lucky to have the sweetest server we could have ever asked for here! Another Broken Egg Cafe has a delicious traditional brunch menu & was very family friendly. It was tempted to eat outside in their cute patio area, but it was so hot so we decided to dine indoors. Make sure to peep their creations in their Indulgences menu- Bourbon Street Pancakes, Strawberry Pound Cake French Toast and so many other yummy items!

We mentioned it was our first time in Florida to our server & she surprised us with free home made donuts dipped in a Marmalade sauce. Definitely recommend Another Broken Egg in Tampa!

Stop 2: Tampa- Heights Public Market

We wanted to get an idea of some of the neat things Tampa has to offer- so we decided to check out their Heights Public Market! Sometimes this can be a great way to check out local cuisine and local vendors. If you are a foodie, you will love the showcase of top chefs sprawled out within this 22,000 square feet open floor plan area! We discovered a delicious dessert shop called Bake N Babes.

They have gourmet, creative sweets like the Babe Shakes, Fruity Pebbles Cookies, Taiyaki Cone (Japanese version of street ice cream cone, Nutella Stuffed Cookies and so much more! Not to mention, we found a lot of cute shops within the market place.

Stop 3: Florida Aquarium

If you are going to the Florida Aquarium with your kids, don’t forget to wear your swimsuits under your clothes to enjoy their awesome splash pad area! There is a cafe & bar inside the aquarium as well. Hours are 9:30 am to 5 pm (varies on holidays) and you can go online to reserve your time slot.

Not only are their numerous panoramic exhibits to experience, but you also have the option (with additional fee) to join the Wild Dolphin Cruise for a chance to see dolphins at play in the sea. Also consider an option to purchase tickets for an up close, interactive experience with their raptors. You can view ticket prices and plan your trip by clicking here.

Stop 4: Seminole- Driftwood Kava & Roastery and AIRBNB

We were exhausted from our traveling and exploring Tampa, but were so excited to check out our Airbnb rental by the St. Pete & Seminole area. It was absolutely beyond our expectations! It was located in a quiet neighborhood with a large pond and fountain across from us. There was a lot of neat wildlife to see right in front of our house. The decor was beautiful & the house very clean.

Our host provided us with everything we needed for beach days (float toys, sand toys, beach towels, coolers, umbrellas, sun screen). And best of all- we had a beautiful pool in our backyard with a TV and dining area. Our host has 15 other rental properties- we will definitely plan on renting trough them again!

After being amazed at our rental, we had supper at Driftwood Kava & Roastery in Seminole. They had a great selection for coffees, teas and sandwiches as well! Their decor was welcoming & charming.

Day 2: Island Life in Dunedin

Stop 5: Dunedin- Coffee & Bakery Company

When we arrived at Dunedin Coffee & Bakery Company, I noticed two things: 1) the local artwork and 2) people were searching the cafe for minions. The staff hid minion toys everywhere & the lucky person to find one gets a free drink! I thought that was neat. Their baked goods were amazing as well as their specialty drinks- just what we needed before a long beach day. If you are in the downtown area, be sure to check them out!

Stop 6: Dunedin- Caladesi Island

One of our favorite parts of our travels was Caladesi Island. It is truly one of the few untouched places along the Gulf Shores & something you can’t leave the Gulf Shores without doing! To get there, you will need to use the entrance to Honeymoon Island State Park. There is $8 per vehicle.

Afterwards, you turn left and eventually you will see a parking lot and a sign for Caladesi Island ferry. The first ferry departs at 10 am & your time limit is until 2 pm. However, the ferry comes back every 30 minutes if you’d like to leave earlier. The cost is $16 round trip for adults & $8 round trip for ages 6-12. Children 5 years old and under are free. The ferry ride is about 20 minutes long.

Once you get to Caladesi, you can set up on the beach, explore the nature trails or kayak along the Mangrove trees. The waters are very clear with a blue tint and there are plenty of seashells along the shore. There are umbrellas and chairs set up that you can purchase for $35 for your entire time there.

You can also find a gift shop and bathrooms & showers on the island as well. I recommend bringing a cooler with your own drinks & snacks as you will want to picnic there (that’s what we did for lunch) because the food is very expensive…I’m talking $6 for a small bottle of Powerade!

PLAN YOUR VISIT TO CALADESI ISLAND BY CLICKING ONE OF THESE:

INFORMATION ABOUT CALADESI FERRY

INFORMATION ABOUT CALADESI ISLAND STATE PARK

Stop 7: Dunedin- Honeymoon Island State Park

After our time was up at Caladesi Island, we took the ferry back to our car & wanted to check out Honeymoon Island. We have heard it’s a quiet beach that locals go to as compared to the crowded Clearwater & St. Pete beaches. Our source was right- there were a few people there but we relatively had a lot of the beach to ourselves!

The water here is just as beautiful as the Caladesi shores and there were a lot of tide pools to explore. We enjoyed the beautiful wildflowers along the beach & wooden swings on the shores as well. Honeymoon Island was our favorite beach!

PLAN YOUR VISIT TO HONEYMOON ISLAND HERE!

Stop 8: Dunedin- Caracara

Caracara is a restaurant and bar tucked away in downtown Dunedin. It’s such a hidden gem! There were so many options for EVERYONE. If you are vegan or gluten free, there are also plenty of options for you here. They have amazing chefs who put a lot of care into their craft-and it certainly shows! We enjoyed dining in the patio area under the trees.

STOP 9: EXPLORE DOWNTOWN DUNEDIN

Stop 9: Dunedin- Explore Downtown Area

Find a place to park and stroll the adorable downtown Dunedin. The streets are so charming-you have to see it to believe it! On your stroll you will find countless places to eat, ice cream shops, boutiques, wine tasting, bars, a marina and stroll close to the ocean. This was a perfect stop along our way back to St. Pete.

Explore Dunedin- click here!

Stop 10: Seminole- Vampire Penguin

Have you ever had shaved ice and ice cream decorated in the most beautiful of ways? We did not until we tried Vampire Penguin. And let me tell you, the idea is genius! They have amazing combos like Halo Halo (Filipino flavor), Carnival (candy theme), Orange creamsicle. Strawberry Cheese cake and many more! The humidity made it taste even better!

Day 3: Adventures in St. Pete’s Madeira Beach & Sunken Gardens

STOP 11: SAGE CAFE & Gypsy Soul- ST. PETE

Stop 11: St. Pete – Sage Cafe & Gypsy Soul

When you walk into the Sage Cafe, you feel like you are walking into a secret garden- with damn good food! The Sage Cafe is located along the Gulf BLVD & also has a cute boutique to browse through next door. It reminds me a lot of a quirky breakfast place we ate at in Malibu called Patrick’s Roadhouse. So unique & delicious! It truly is the hidden gem of the Reddington Beach area. Check it out for yourself by clicking here!

A few blocks down is Gypsy Soul, an adorable coffee shop where you can slide through the window and be on your way. Check out Gypsy Soul here.

STOP 12: MADEIRA BEACH & PICNIC- ST. PETE

Stop 12: St. Pete – Madeira Beach & Picnic

We decided to cruise the Gulf BLVD up & down the coast (which I suggest you do!), then we went to Madeira Beach. The parking lot is along Gulf BLVD (I believe we paid $5 for 2-3 hours) and has umbrellas you can rent as well for $25. Our family enjoyed the different vibe here for our family Florida vacation. It was busier but neat to see all the activities everyone was participating in. The waves were more intense out this way & we saw a lot of people surfing or wakeboarding. We spent a lot of our afternoon here & had a picnic at the beach too.

Check out the classic Madeira Beach here!

STOP 13: SUNKEN GARDENS- ST. PETE

Stop 13: St. Pete – Sunken Gardens

One of our favorite experiences in Florida was at the Sunken Garden. We truly felt like we were entering a different, very tropical, world. It was amazing to learn about all the tropical plants we had never seen in person before, including being able to see different fruits growing on the trees (pineapples, mangos, bananas and many more).

I felt humbled standing under the massive trees at the Sunken Gardens- very similar to my feelings standing under a Redwood Tree in California. If you are in the St. Pete area- make sure to check this out!

Plan your trip to the Sunken Gardens here!

Stop 14: St. Pete – Tombolo Books & Downtown

Downtown St. Pete is adorable & had the cutest shops (which reminded me of parts of Portland we saw as well as Dunedin). We stumbled across Tomoblo Books during our adventure. It was nice to be able to slow down and check out local authors, art and new books that I have not seen elsewhere. The book store is very cozy and the staff is very helpful. They also offer some souvenirs here!

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Day 4: Hikes at Sawgrass Lake and North Beach at Fort De Soto State Park

Stop 15: St. Pete – Pier and Play Area

We learned with the heat, it’s a good idea to get up very early to take walks-especially if it’s in a place with no shade. So, we got up early to explore the St. Pete Pier. After we went for the views, but they had so much more! The walk to the end of the pier is quite the workout (no steps or inclines, just quite a long walk). They have chairs along the rails so you can gaze out into the Gulf waters. There is a restaurant, gift shop and peach by the pier. I was in love with the the most gorgeous playground I have ever seen & a splash pad on the pier. From this point on, you can stroll downtown to go shopping or eat.

Stop 16: The Wooden Rooster- St. Pete

When we explored downtown, we found the Wooden Rooster, where we had the most delicious salmon crepes! They also have plenty of options for those who would rather eat crepes on the sweet side. You can dine in, in the patio or order online to go.

Stop 17: St. Pete – Sawgrass Lake Park

It’s free to get into Sawgrass Lake Park (but bring the bug spray!) and this place is 100% a hidden gem a lot of tourists are missing. Sawgrass Lake Park offers beautiful trails to hike within the swampy areas and through the jungle-like terrain. You are also bound to see a lot of wild life since this is a nature center and wildlife reserve as well.

We saw an alligator, turtles and lizards during our walk. The trails lead to an outlook area, where you can climb to the top to view the pond area. We had a lot of fun here & it’s very shaded, which helped with hiking later in the day. They also have tons of games set out that you can play where their tables are (before the wooden bridge to get to the trails).

LEARN MORE ABOUT SAWGRASS LAKE PARK HERE.

Stop 18: St. Pete – Filipino Store and Jollibee

There is a lot of diversity and culture in the St. Pete area. We were thrilled to see so many Filipino stores & food options in the area. We went to some local Filipino grocery stores, then tried the Filipino fast food joint Jollibee (which was very busy). I don’t usually eat fast food, but I have not had Jollibee’s since I traveled to the Philippines.

Stop 19: Tierra Verde – Fort De Soto State Park (North Beach)

If you’re up for a half hour drive from St. Pete, consider cruising to Fort De Soto State Park in Tierra Verde. Even getting there is fun because of the awesome bridges you cross (with the most beautiful views). There are 2 toll booths you go through getting there, and you pay $5 to enter the park and can stay until sunset.

Also, note there is an east and north beach. We viewed both of them & decided on the North Beach because the water was gorgeous & the sand very fine and white. There are places to rinse off sand by the restaurant & the option to rent umbrellas. This was our 4th beach we experiences & it truly showed us all Florida beaches are different from one another (but still beautiful!).

Check out Fort De Soto State Park.

Day 5: McGouch Nature Center and Indian Shores

STOP 20: GEORGE C. MCGOUGH NATURE PARK- LARGO

Stop 20: Largo – George C. McGough Nature Park

The George C. McGough Nature Park may be in Largo, but it’s only 5 minutes from Indian Rocks Beach. This place is truly an off the beaten path, hidden gem missed by tourists & it’s free to get in. First, we stopped by a cute pond filled with turtles named “Turtle’s Paradise”. Then we were able to tour the nature center to see all the reptiles. Also note there is a backdoor which lead to all their raptors and owls.

We were lucky to catch a staff member “walking their owl” on the paths. The owl had gotten hit by a car & can’t fly, so they take the owl on walks daily. There is also an awesome playground with an impressive zipline for a playground. From there, we hiked the trails all the way out to the overlook area in the Mangrove trees. My kids absolutely loved this place!

Plan your visit to the George McGough Nature Center

Stop 21:Indian Shores- Indian Rocks Beach

Once we were all hot and sweaty, we decided to cool off at Indian Rocks Beach in Indian Shores. There are many points of access to the beach, but you will also see a large “TIKI” sign in a large parking lot with a statue of the Native Americans of Indian Rocks Beach. You pay for parking & can walk right across the street to the beach.

This is also near a rinse station too! We enjoyed Indian Rocks Beach- there were no umbrellas to rent (we brought our own) but like Honeymoon Island, it is more quiet as compared to the bigger beaches like Clearwater Beach.

Visit Indian Shores- learn more here!

STOP 22: THE BLEND- ST. PETE

Stop 22: St. Pete – The Blend

What’s a family Florida vacation without local coffee?! You’ve had wine flights, cider flights- but have you had coffee flights? If not- you are missing out! At The Blend in St. Pete, you can choose from a few sets of flights. I chose the summer time flight & found my new favorite coffee- iced burnt orange vanilla! SO SO good! Their caramel brulee is amazing as well. Not a coffee lover? No problem! They offer cocktails and wine flights as well.

STOP 23: TWISTEE TREAT- SEMINOLE

Stop 23: Seminole – Twistee Treat

The next stop on our family Florida vacation- ice cream! I noticed Florida has the cutest little drive through shaped like ice cream cones called Twistee Treat! We figured this is a Florida thing & wanted to make sure we tried it out after dinner. Their twirls and cookie sandwiches were amazing (and made me glad we do not have one in MN- I would be here a few times a week!).

Day 6: Departure From Tampa

Our last day was bittersweet! We took a long walk around the neighborhood and the pond area. Next, we picked up some quick supplies from Wal Mart (snacks at the airport are way too expensive!) and grabbed some Dunkin Donuts on our way back to Tampa.

We loved crossing over the bridge to Tampa- it feels surreal driving in the middle of the Gulf waters. There is also a biking/walking bridge next to the interstate-so neat to think people walk the entire thing! Along that same route, there are sandy lots people can park their car at and go swimming.

Overall, we LOVED our Florida family vacation! We usually travel to California because we love the west coast & the terrain to hike, but we learned Florida has its own hikes to offer too! The beaches had much more clear water & the waves less overwhelming. Of course the water was much warmer as well! It paid off for us to try something new.

Our List of Experiences for Florida Family Vacation Next Time

Picture from our day at Indian Rocks Beach on our Florida family vacation.

Florida Gulf Shores area is not short on beaches, activities & cute places to eat (I am still obsessing over those coffee flights I had from The Blend). Here are some of the things we would like to check out if we make it back to the St. Pete area (fingers crossed we do!):

  1. SALVADOR DALI MUSEUM- If you are an art fanatic, this would be a great addition to your trip. Famous art work by Salvador Dali (oil paintings, drawings, prints, water colors & sculptures) are on display in the $30 million dollar surrealism structure in downtown St. Pete. You can visit the website here to plan your trip.
  2. CLEARWATER & ST. PETE BEACHES– We aimed to visit the beaches that were more off the beaten path, which is why we didn’t get to two of the biggest beaches in the area. It would still be a great experience to visit both! Next time, we plan to do so!
  3. BOOK + BOTTLE: What could be more perfect than a book store with a wine bar in it? Wine tasting in a book store? Yes please! While I didn’t get to this with the kiddos with, it’s definitely high up on my list for our next visit to the area. You can check out this cool book store here.
  4. LA CREPERIA CAFE- TAMPA- This was actually going to be our first stop as we came into Tampa, but it was 30 minutes to close time by the time we got our rental situated. Their crepes are unique and look delicious! Next time for sure!
  5. BUSCH GARDENS- TAMPA- block off a couple of days in Tampa for the theme park and animal encounter adventure at Busch Gardens! We went for the beaches during our trip, but if we were to visit a second time, we would spend a night in Tampa to have a couple of days at Busch Gardens. Plan your trip to Busch Gardens here!
  6. CLEAR KAYAK TOUR– St. Pete offers an island ferry eco-tour to Shell Key in a clear kayak! Check out this adventure here.

Family Florida Vacation- Share Your Favorite Florida Activity

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