Florida’s Gulf coast can be a very different proposition from its Atlantic rival. Certainly, a quieter ambience plays out in southerly Naples – where Vanderbilt Beach is a splendid spot for families to watch seabirds swooping, or to fill a bucket with seashells. US Route 41 shadows the shoreline as it ebbs north – and 43 miles of it will bring you to Fort Myers, another photogenic town.
Adjacent Sanibel is calm encapsulated. This 12-mile barrier isle is linked to the mainland by a three-mile causeway (which has several pull-off points where cameras can be aimed at the scenery). Once you have crossed the gap, you find a haven laced with cycle paths. Bikes are welcome in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a wetland area that plays host to 272 species of bird.
Some 75 miles north of Fort Myers on Route 41, Sarasota also basks in the sun. Here, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a fine attraction for kids – fitted with touch pools swirling with marine animals, and a large shark tank where the greatest of fish move with magnificent menace.