Stretching from the Florida Panhandle to the Everglades, the Gulf Coast vacation rentals offer access to some of the best of Florida beaches, nature, and culture. Take the kids to Glazer Children’s Museum or the Florida Aquarium for a vacation that’s both fun and inspiring. Find adventure for the whole family at Naples Nature Center or Adventure Island Waterpark. When you’re all tired out, head down to the beach for some classic Floridian sun and surf.

1. Slide Into Fun at Adventure Island

Located within the larger park area of Busch Gardens in Tampa, Adventure Island is a 30-acre water park with attractions for the whole family. Relax in one of the communal pools, or pick up an inner tube and race down one of the slides and water-based attractions in the park. Have younger kids in tow? Bring them to the Splash Attack water maze, which features a fun-house style structure with water spouts in a shallow wading pool.

2. Have a Sea-Kayaking Adventure

Join an Adventure Sea Kayak tour, leaving from Captiva Island along the Gulf Coast to enjoy a fun and educational two-hour expedition. Lucky visitors can catch a first-hand look at marine wildlife like manatees and dolphins, as well as enjoying the shade of the coastal mangrove trees, which provide a habitat for many fascinating species of birds, fish, and insects.

3. Get Inspired at The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum

Book a vacation rental on or near Sanibel Island to check out the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum. This institution is the only museum in America devoted entirely to shells. Part art exhibit and part science specimen, this huge collection of shells showcases the range and beauty of these natural ocean formations and the creatures that dwell in them.

4. Make a New Friend at Big Cat Rescue

Another Tampa attraction, the Big Cat Rescue facility is home to a number of rescued and rehabilitated large cats, including a 750-pound tiger. The sanctuary is open for public tours only at designated times, to ensure privacy for the animals. Book a special kid-friendly weekend tour to allow your children to experience these majestic creatures up close.

5. Enjoy a Walk on the Beach

Florida’s Gulf Coast is known for its peaceful, clean beaches. Book a vacation rental anywhere along the coast for close proximity to the shore and the sand. Spots like Bowmans’ Beach and Captiva Beach offer incredible ocean views, and plenty of space to sit back and relax while watching the kids play. Pack your swimsuit in the summer months to take advantage of the mild shallow waters.

6. Have Some Fun at Panama City Beach

A tourist-friendly beach and boardwalk, Panama City Beach offers a great mix of daytime fun and nighttime excitement, removed from the urban hustle and bustle of Panama City. Vacation rentals here are often available in the form of beachside condominiums and offer access to several pristine beaches that are great for swimming and surfing. Let your kids run free on the beach or head further ashore for a range of tourist attractions like the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum and numerous arcades.

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7. Enjoy Nature at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Bored of the beach? Introduce your family to the lush, forested wilderness of Florida at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This park encompasses dense wilderness with swamps and creeks, making it an ideal habitat for numerous species. Be sure to check out the underwater manatee observatory to spot one of these friendly creatures in their natural state.

8. Experience the Sea at Florida Aquarium

Located in Tampa, this well-known and beloved aquarium boasts a wide variety of exhibits including a recreation of a Florida swampland complete with thriving species. Spend a full day venturing around this 250,000 square foot facility and learn about your favorite sea creatures, whether they’re sharks or jellyfish.

9. Interact at Glazer Children’s Museum

Book a Gulf Coast vacation rental and head to Tampa to take advantage of the Glazer Children’s Museum. This family-friendly museum aims to create a fun and educational space for children of all ages through science and art exhibitions as well as workshops. Spend an afternoon exploring the space with your little ones, or book ahead and enroll your kids in a day class or playtime.

10. Spot a Gator at Everglades National Park

Florida’s famous Everglades is packed with outdoor activities for the entire family. Take adventurous little ones on a walk along one of the sturdy, raised boardwalks that cross over alligator territory. Grab a bike and ride along the smooth Shark Valley road, or through one of the designated trails in the area. Buy your park pass online to access the park as soon as you arrive.

11. Enjoy the Mermaid Show at Weeki Wachee Springs

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a historic Florida nature park that offers not only great views and picnic spots but an unforgettable show. Book a seat in the 400-person auditorium to watch a rendition of “The Little Mermaid” performed live underwater by experienced divers in mermaid costumes. After the show, head to Buccaneer Bay water park to enjoy the waterslides.

12. Spot Exotic Animals at Naples Nature Center

A 21-acre nature preserve along the Gulf Coast, Naples Nature Center is a great spot for kids and families who are interested in discovering and protecting wildlife. Take an afternoon stroll along one of the public trails, or join a boat tour for an unforgettable nature excursion.

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