Gulf Coast Florida lifestyle 101: Load up the car with a cooler (water, ice tea), great tunes and overnight bag. Point the car north, or south with only one goal: where to lunch, sip and supper. After that, any cheap motel will do--and even the more expensive resorts are offering Florida resident (staycationer) specials as well as low summer rates for all. Here are some of our favorites:
Caliente: Just north of Tampa and technically, a nudist resort but clothing is optional and the music/party scene is amazing on weekends, and open to the bikini beautiful public. Great food, cheap drinks. Skinny dipping Sunday is all the rage, replacing Shephards in Clearwater Beach as the place to be scened!
Crystal River & Homosassa: Old Florida at its best, complete with manatee watching, fishing, river airboat explorations, golfing, kayaking, and during Aug. snorkeling and scalloping season is not to be missed. Brunch at Plantation Inn And Golf Resort, then tour dozens of tiki bars along Crystal River.
Caladesi Island, Florida: An unspoiled sanctuary and America's #1 Beach 2008 after Ft. deSoto lost its tiara to this sugar sand star near Dunedin. Nature trails and family-oriented nature center and not much else other than picnics on the beach or in shelters. Caladesi Island Ferry (727) 734-1501 departs from Honeymoon Island State Park to Caladesi, where you can surf fish, shell, kayak, dock your boat at the marina and cruise the snack and gift shop.
Mount Dora, Lake County: If you love vintage trains, historic architecture, antiquing, kitschy shops and true Southern hospitality, this getaway is for you. You can fish, take a sunset cruise, walk Palm Island's nature trail or wittle away the evening at an outdoor cafe, take afternoon tea at Windsor Rose www.windsorrose-tearoom.com or sample the grape at Ridgeway Winery. The annual bike fest in October attracts thousands of cyclists and fans.