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Florida’s gorgeous Gulf Coast is where the Sunshine State keeps its best beaches, clearest waters and loveliest resorts. It’s a bit of a family holiday legend and more than a little credit for that has to go to the charming seaside cities of Sarasota and Bradenton Area. With internationally recognised beaches, cute heritage quarters, pretty islands offshore and a parade of parks, gardens, activities and attractions, these Gulf Coasters would be clichés, if it wasn’t for their sheer, irresistible individuality.

But if personality isn’t enough to persuade, try a little local knowledge from America & Canada As You Like It tailored holiday specialists. They know the Gulf Coast like few others, so who better to give you 10 very good reasons to put Sarasota and Bradenton Area on your Florida family holiday wish list?

Mote-Marine-Aquarium.-Credit-Courtesy-of-VisitSarasota.com

Photo credit: VisitSarasota.com

1/10  Mote Marine Aquarium, Sarasota

Interactive Mote Aquarium starts the day breakfasting with sharks and more often than not ends up moonlight kayaking round Sarasota Bay. Conservation and education are as important here as fun: it’s hard to spot the difference, but nice to know; over 450 turtles have been treated in Mote’s Turtle Hospital in the past 20 years; the aquarium’s AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited; and Mote marine biologists are actively involved in research projects as part of the Protect our Reef initiative.

Early risers can join sharks for first feed, hang off until later to help with Morning Rounds or book a tour of the Seahorse Lab. Eco-boat rides and guided kayak tours extend the aquarium adventure out into the Gulf for sightings of manatee, dolphin, eagles and osprey. Kids love hunting in Fossil Creek (the finds are satisfyingly real). They can’t resist the tiny aquarium stars of the future at Oh Baby (the junior shark pool’s amazing). And it’s Florida, so no visit’s complete without eyeing up a few alligators.

Between giving the permanent residents full attention and immersing in experiences, Mote easily fills a day – leave at least two hours to see the aquarium alone.

Know before you go: private eco-boat charters can be arranged for larger family groups.

Find out more about Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory, Sarasota

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