Dear 100 Hour Board,
My husband and I are going on vacation to Florida next month but haven't done a ton of planning yet...our top priorities are the beach, good eats, seeing the Everglades, and snorkeling with tropical fish. Manatees would be cool if they are around too. No interest in Disney. What part of Florida is best? Fort Myers? Fort Lauderdale? Miami? Naples? The Keys?
-no personal experience
I don't have a lot of experience either, but I do have relatives in Tampa, Florida. I don't know the rest of Florida very well, but I can tell you some of the great things to do near Tampa.
The Beach: The Tampa Bay is on the gulf of Mexico which means that the water stays relatively warm all year round. There are many sandy beaches with clear water and tons of seashells. Here's a list of beaches near Tampa. In recent years several beaches have won awards for best beach in America or best beach family beach in America. The best part of Tampa beaches is that they are a lot less touristy than other parts of Florida. Also, if you go outside of May-September it's "too cold" for most of the locals so the beach won't be crowded at all.
Great Seafood: I can't recall where, but the last time we visited Tampa we went to several restaurants featured on Diners Drive ins and Dives. Everywhere we ate from ocean and river side restaurants to food trucks was spectacular. You can't go wrong with any restaurant that's within a 20 minute drive of the ocean.
Manatees: Swimming with manatees is so cool. The first time we went to Florida we specifically went for the manatees and honestly they didn't disappoint. The places to go for manatees are Crystal River and Homossasa Springs. They are both about an hour and a half south of Tampa and the state parks there are amazing. The highlight of course is swimming with manatees. The first time you go I'd recommend a guided tour, but the second time you can just as easily rent a boat yourself and do it way cheaper. While you're in Crystal River there are also amazing beaches and restaurants nearby.
Other things to do: You mentioned that you weren't interested in Disney, but Universal studios is also a really popular attraction and Orlando is only around an hour and a half from either Tampa or Crystal Springs. Also, when we were down there we went on a tour of an early 1800's plantation and that was fascinating.
I hope this helps! Sorry I couldn't find better details for some of the attractions but I was a bit limited on time. Any readers who have recommendations for Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Naples, or the Keys please feel free to leave a correction below. Good luck and enjoy your trip!