The Gulf Coast just south of Tampa is home to some of the world’s most spectacular beaches and, even in the off-season, the water still offers plenty of entertainment opportunities to explore. If your middle name is “thrill-seeker” or “action-packed” and you’re still itching to keep moving in the colder winter months, make sure you take a look at our favorite ways to explore the Gulf Coast that aren’t reliant on 12-hour sunshine and 30-degree temperatures.
A History of Seafaring
For many people today, the waters around our planet are part and parcel of everyday life and very much part of popular culture.
There’s something about the high seas that captures the imagination of film lovers, for instance, with the likes of 2000 classic, Cast Away and even the iconic 1975 Spielberg film Jaws receiving much critical acclaim. It’s also worth remembering the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, which revitalized Johnny Depp’s acting career back in 2003, and was very much based upon life at sea, centered around eccentric pirates. Similarly, Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby-Dick tells the inspirational American Renaissance-themed story about a one-man quest to snare a white whale, inspired by Melville’s own experiences at sea. So enchanting was the story – read by many generations – that the tale now has its own themed slot machine game, along with other nautical-themed slot games such as Emperor of the Sea and Mermaid Millions.
Humans’ obsession with water increasingly sees holidaymakers venture out onto the high seas for cruises. The worldwide cruise industry is booming, with almost $40bn generated in revenue in 2015 – up by almost $15bn in just five years. Passenger capacity is on the rise too, with numbers forecast to reach 521,000 by 2018. Carnival Corporation remains the largest cruise company on the planet, followed by Royal Caribbean Cruises. The nautical theme has even found itself to global resorts in casinos, such as the “World Senosa Casino” it has exclusive rooms with tropical underwater views whilst a guest can choose to play over 2,400 slot games or gaming tables. Similarly there is “The Marina Sands Casino” which boasts a 15,000 square feet of space over four levels and over 600 tables for gamers. People’s increasing desire to explore our oceans has also resulted in a huge increase in demand for water sports gear and equipment, inclusive of above and underwater items. Technavio predicts the global water sports gear and equipment sector will expand at a CAGR of 5.37% up until 2020. Water sports are certainly some of the best ways to explore the Gulf Coast too, which is what we’ll be touching upon here:
1. Paddle boarding looking out to the Gulf of Mexico
Whether you’re an expert or a complete beginner, we believe that paddle boarding is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience Sarasota’s beautiful Gulf Coastline. It’s a really versatile way of getting around the coast, with the ability to either kneel, lie down or stand up on your paddle board; whichever way feels most comfortable for you. It’s a really sedate way to explore the County’s coastal waterways; Sarasota Paddleboard Company will take you on LED illuminated underwater tours in the Bay and Gulf, leaving before sunset, taking up to two hours to explore.
2. Kayaking in the Mangrove swamps
If you consider yourself relatively fit, another great way to discover the waters of Sarasota Bay is to kayak through the exotic mangrove tunnels which are home to beautiful dolphins and manatees. You’ll be able to spot dolphins here all year round but manatees tend to prefer the warmer waters and will be seen less frequently between December and March. It’s important to note that kayaking will only be allowed during reasonably still and dry conditions.
Note: Most kayaking tours in and around Sarasota will take place in light drizzle, but anything heavier than that or a risk of thunderstorm will see your trip postponed.
3. Dolphin tours from Marco Island
A great eco-educational trip for all the family is a 2-hour dolphin boat tour. Head down to Marco Island to discover a number of family-owned companies operating hugely popular dolphin tours, educating guests about various aspects of marine life and the species within the waters of the Gulf Coastline. Dreamlander Tours offer a very impressive guarantee of sighting dolphins on all of their tours and, if you don’t happen to spot any, your next trip will be absolutely free.
4. Wakeboarding at Naples
Looking to learn new skills at sea? Wakeboarding could be just the thing for you. If you are capable of standing firm and maintaining your balance, there is nothing more exhilarating than shooting across the top of the glistening Gulf Coastline waters behind a high-speed jet ski. If you get really good, you might be able to learn spins and flips, taking full advantage of the winter water’s waves in the process!
5. Sea fishing at Siesta Key
If your stomach and legs can handle it, why not charter a sea fishing boat and spend a few hours further out to sea towards the Gulf of Mexico? If you’re a keen fisherman and you’ve always fancied trying to catch some of the biggest predators of Sarasota County’s coastline, the award-winning Siesta Key beach often charters trips both during the day and overnight; necessary to collect certain species! Furthermore, whatever you catch, you get to eat it over the dinner table with the rest of the crew – an opportunity of a lifetime for any local anglers!
There’s no excuse not to explore more of the Gulf Coastline 365 days of the year, with so many great local family-run businesses that are experienced out to sea and just dying to educate people more about what’s on offer.
photos from flickr.com