Gulf Coast in Florida – Top Local Favorites You Can’t Miss 

Gulf Coast in Florida – Top Local Favorites You Can’t Miss

It’s easy to plan a trip for two to the Gulf Coast in Florida and hit all the popular tourist destinations. Many people do exactly that without realizing that they’re missing some of the most rewarding experiences.

There are restaurants, boutique shops, and entertainment venues that tourists either overlook or simply don’t know about. This guide will serve as a quick introduction to some of the hot spots that locals enjoy. Use it to plan an amazing vacation loaded with fantastic food and mind-blowing experiences.

Eat Like the Locals of the Gulf Coast in Florida 

  • The Black Pearl: This is an upscale restaurant located on Main Street in Dunedin, just a couple blocks from the coast. You will need to call ahead for reservations, but the intimate ambiance and delicious menu will make it worth that slight inconvenience. Many locals reserve this restaurant for anniversaries and other special meals.

  • Wheel Café: This is a well-hidden gem if you’re looking for a home-cooked breakfast before hitting the beach in Dunedin. It’s located on Main Street, but it’s tucked into Guy Plaza in a difficult-to-find location. It isn’t always crowded, but it’s one of the first places many locals go for the perfect omelet or the unique Elvis pancakes.

  • The Bakery: Coffee Stop: Formerly known as Sweet IRB, this Indian Rocks Beach hot spot is more than a place to treat your sweet tooth. The locals stop in after walks on the beach or trips to the dog park because they make a mean cup of coffee. You can also fill your plate with a variety of sweets or go for breakfast. Savory snacks are available as well. You’ll find it on Gulf Boulevard right along the shore.

  • Shorty’s Gourmet Deli & Breakfast: You’ll find this restaurant operating from a convenience store at 1261 Gulf Boulevard in Clearwater. They serve breakfast even when other restaurants have moved on to lunch, and locals depend on the cooks for affordable, quality meals.

  • Iguana Mia: If you’re in Ft. Myers, Cape Coral, or Bonita Springs, head to this popular Mexican restaurant for a wide selection of delicious food. While it is a chain restaurant, it’s one of the most loved by the locals.

Shop Like the Locals of the Gulf Coast in Florida 

  • Ellenton Premium Outlets: Escape the high-priced tourist traps and score some deals while you’re visiting St. Petersburg. You’ll have to drive about 25 miles to the north, but this is where the locals go to score brand-name goods at off-brand prices.

  • John Farmers Market: You can find a farmer’s market in most Florida towns, and they’re typically the best place to find fresh produce at reasonable prices. Most will sell handcrafted items made by locals as well as a variety of other products. This is a popular one in Naples, Florida, but ask around in any Gulf Coast town and you’ll be pointed in the direction of others.

Relax Like the Locals of the Gulf Coast in Florida 

  • Sharky’s Beach Bar: Located on Clearwater Beach near Seaside Inn & Suites, this is the perfect place to order a plate of loaded nachos and relax with a few beers. You’ll run into a lot of locals out for a good time, and you’ll rub elbows with other visitors who know where to go for an authentic waterside experience for adults. They don’t have a large food menu, but the bar and ocean views will keep you drinking for hours.

  • Harold’s Place: The Naples Daily News declared Harold’s Place burgers the best in Southwest Florida for more than two decades straight. The restaurant/tiki bar is located inside the Gulf Coast Inn on U.S. 41 North in Naples, and you can relax by the pool as you enjoy a burger and a few drinks.

Keep in mind that locals visit a lot of the same restaurants and entertainment venues that tourists find close to their hotels. They also spend time at small movie theaters and your typical stores like Walmart. Every Gulf Coast beach town also has their own off-the-beaten-path treasures, and you can often find those by simply asking servers, taxi drivers, and random people standing at bus stops. Locals are often more friendly than you may imagine.

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