Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Explore 50 Florida Gulf Coast Cities for Living or Visiting

There are about 700 miles of coastline along Florida’s Gulf Coast. With that kind of long waterfront coastline, it means there are Florida Gulf Coast cities all up and down the peninsula.

In fact, early explorers made outposts on the Gulf Coast to support their travels all through the Gulf of Mexico. Even before explorers, there were Native Americans who knew the value of the Gulf and settled villages there.

Many indigenous people, settlers and lost explorers found enough food from Gulf shores to sustain themselves. Today, we still value the Florida Gulf Coast cities and the opportunities offered by their location.

Why Do People Want To Live In and Visit West Coast Florida Cities

The easy answer is to say great weather and calm Gulf waters. There are many other reasons including history, culture, nearby attractions, ease of travel, and millions of acres of natural beauty.

  • From a historical standpoint, the Gulf Coast was explored many times from as early as 1513 and many following decades. Explorers were looking for riches and wealth for their respective countries. They never found the gold they were looking for or the fountain of youth they longed for, but they did settle in places we have cities today.
  • There is a cultural heritage in many communities that comes from hard-working people who made a living on the coast. Fishermen, sailors, boat manufacturers, marinas and boat owners create an affinity and respect for the Gulf.
  • Many Florida Gulf Coast cities are with a few miles of attractions that bring people from around the world.
  • Finally, the beautiful picture-perfect shoreline of Florida’s west coast is breathtaking. Visitors are impressed with sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
Sunsets on Florida’s Gulf Coast are just spectacular. Almost every town on Florida’s Gulf Coast has a place where people gather to watch the sunset.

West Coast Florida Cities

We have prepared a list of 50 cities along the Gulf Coast of Florida along with their approximate populations as estimates based on the 2020 census. Please note that population figures can change over time, and it’s a good idea to verify the most up-to-date population data from official sources.

Our 50 Florida Gulf Coast cities are listed by population from largest to smallest. We have some of the largest cities on the west Coast of Florida and some of the smallest. There are many more cities that we haven’t included. Watch for more in additional posts!

  1. Tampa – Approximately 399,700

One of the largest cities on the Gulf Coast of Florida and recently considered one of the best places to retire in Florida. It is known for professional sports with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Lightning, and Tampa Bay Rays across the bay.

  1. St. Petersburg – Approximately 271,900

Actually, on Tampa Bay with the Gulf of Mexico on the southern edge of the city, St. Pete, as we call it, is full of things to do like the Dali Museum, Tampa Bay Rays baseball and active waterfront. St. Pete has one of the best waterfront row of restaurants of all the cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The new Pier in St. Petersburg rivals any waterfront attraction in the state.

  1. Cape Coral – Approximately 200,971

One of the original retirement-planned communities in Florida. Many subdivisions were built on canals that were man-made. Near Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach. Across the Pine Island Sound from Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

  1. Clearwater – Approximately 116,900

Clearwater is a progressive city growing within its bounds. Recently opened The Sound, an outdoor entertainment center on the waterfront. Claim to fame is Clearwater Beach, one of Florida’s best beaches according to multiple sources.

Captain Memo's Clearwater Beach Pirate ship
Every Gulf Coast Florida City has plenty of things to do The Captain Memo Pirate Ship on Clearwater Beach is full daily
  1. Fort Myers – Approximately 87,103

Located on the Caloosahatchee River, this city was the summer home of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Large retirement communities surround the city. One of Florida’s best-known destinations to retire.

  1. Port Charlotte – Approximately 61,356

Port Charlotte is the spring training home for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This town on the west coast of Florida has seen multiple hurricanes and has bounced back bigger and better from all of them. A great fishing small town on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

  1. Bradenton – Approximately 58,285

Just north of Sarasota, Bradenton has become an active town for retirees who are looking for an affordable place to retire on the west coast of Florida. The city borders Anna Maria Island, a well-known tourist destination on the Gulf.

  1. Sarasota – Approximately 58,285

Culture and waterfront serenity come to mind when considering this Florida Gulf Coast city. It is the home of the world-renowned Ringling Museum of Art and has nearby islands of Lido Key and Siesta Key.

  1. Pensacola – Approximately 51,923

Pensacola is the furthest Florida west coast city. Besides its naval airbase, it is known for its long white beaches and an active job market for businesses supporting the airbase. The city is also known for one of the best naval air museums.

  1. Navarre – Approximately 44,876

This west coast of Florida city is just east of Pensacola and has a reputation for housing many of the officers and workers at the Elgin Air Force base. Beautiful town that is near the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area.

  1. Dunedin – Approximately 37,773

If there are quaint towns on Florida’s west coast, Dunedin is at the top of the list. Known for excellent restaurants, several breweries, and Honeymoon Island State Park nearby. Dunedin is also the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

small towns on Florida's gulf coast - Tarpon Springs
There are some very unique towns on Floridas Gulf Coast One of those is the Greek village of Tarpon Springs The Sponge Docks is where sponge divers dry their sponges
  1. Panama City – Approximately 36,908

Panama City is on the northern part of Florida’s Gulf Coast. While Panama City Beach gets all the publicity, Panama City is the larger city. It is also the home to Tyndall Air Force Base.

  1. Tarpon Springs – Approximately 25,032

Tarpon Springs was named the Greekest place in North America. The city is known for a dozen or more exceptionally good authentic Greek restaurants and the sponge docks along the river. Perhaps one of the best cities on the Gulf to visit for a day trip in Florida.

  1. Venice – Approximately 24,413

One of our favorite Florida cities on the Gulf Coast and known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. Venice has several beaches that are known for finding shark teeth that wash ashore. Nice downtown area for shopping in Florida small towns.

  1. Fort Walton Beach – Approximately 22,186

Well known tourist destination and just across the bay from Destin Florida. Also has some neat coastal condos for people who spend their cold winters here.

Florida Gulf Coast Town - St. Pete Beach
Weddings on Florida Gulf Coast beaches are a big business. This one was taking place on St. Pete Beach.
  1. Naples – Approximately 22,039

Besides being one of the most upscale Florida cities on the Gulf Coast, Naples is also known as the gateway to the Florida Everglades. Very exclusive shops in downtown Naples and some good dining.

  1. Punta Gorda – Approximately 20,369

This Florida west coast city is a small Florida town with a big fishing problem! Not really a problem, but fishermen come from all over Florida for inshore fishing for speckled trout, redfish and snook.

  1. New Port Richey – Approximately 16,745

Located just north of Tarpon Springs and 30 miles northwest of Tampa, New Port Rickey has long been known as a great place to retire on the west coast of Florida. Most waterfront Florida cities on the Gulf Coast are more expensive to live in than this city on the coast.

  1. Niceville – Approximately 15,976

The first time Florida Travel Blog was in Niceville, all we could think of was the name “Nice”ville. It was truly a nice Florida town on the west coast. Nice community recreation and nice surroundings make this a nice town north of Destin and Fort Walton Beach on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

  1. Marco Island – Approximately 15,760

Marco Island would be everyone’s favorite place to live on Florida’s Gulf Coast – if they can afford it! Just a beautiful island on the Gulf that is maintained and policed properly. No crime, lots of sun, lots of water, lots of beaches, lots of boats, and lots of charm.

  1. Homosassa Springs – Approximately 14,998

Just south of Crystal River Florida, this is an unincorporated community on Florida’s west coast. It is known for the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Center and the ability to swim with the manatees.

West coast towns in Florida - HarborWalk Destin
The half-mile HarborWalk is a fun place to stroll down the docks at Destin, Florida.
  1. Destin – Approximately 14,991

If we were asked, what is just one place to visit in the panhandle on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where would it be? Our answer would be Destin. Just a small town on the west coast of Florida that seems to be designed for the tourist trade. Beautiful beaches, a big Harborwalk, good accommodations, and water sports activities throughout the town.

  1. Panama City Beach – Approximately 13,376

Ok, this is a fun place, this is a family place, this is a good retirement place, this is a great beach place, EXCEPT none of this is true during one time of the year – Spring Break! The rest of the year this is a fun place to visit for families.

  1. Miramar Beach – Approximately 9,125

Miramar Beach is another census-designated area that is unincorporated. It is essentially between Topsail Hill State Park on Route 98 and Destin. This is an area of condominiums and beaches along the Gulf Coast. It’s a really congested area unless you are on the waterfront.

  1. St.Pete Beach – Approximately 9,000

Just a few miles south of the better-known Clearwater Beach along the Gulf Coast of Florida west of Tampa. Great beach for families, weddings and large groups.

  1. Fort Myers Beach – Approximately 7,581

Fort Myers Beach was one of the top beach destinations in Florida until September 2022. Hurricane Ian devastated this barrier island west of Fort Myers. At this time the island is rebuilding. More than 60 percent of the structures on the island are completely gone. Almost all the rest needed major repairs because of wind and surge flooding. Give these determined islanders a couple of years and you will be enjoying the beaches again.

  1. Naples Park – Approximately 6,711

Most people, including us here at Florida Travel Blog, didn’t know this designated community existed prior to this research. We considered the area north of Naples to be part of the city proper, not so! Many of the condominiums, homes, and upscale shopping north of 11th Street in Naples become Naples Park.

  1. Gulf Breeze – Approximately 6,609

Located on a barrier island west of Pensacola, Gulf Breeze is nestled away almost like a park. Beautiful sandy beaches, lush palms, and splendid views make this a great place to live or visit.

  1. Sanibel Island – Approximately 6,372

Much of what we stated about Fort Myers Beach applies to Sanibel. Homes and cottages were destroyed by Hurricane Ian in September of 2022. The rebuilding is in progress and the community will survive this storm.

Florida Gulf Coast cities - St. George Island
Many island towns on Florida’s Gulf Coast have magnificent beaches like Siesta Key, Lido Key, Marco Island and this one at St. George Island.
  1. Siesta Key – Approximately 5,454

Siesta Key is a unique place on our list of Florida Cities on the Gulf Coast. It is an island with a big reputation for the 11th best beach in the world. It has also been named the number-one beach in Florida many times.

  1. Mary Esther – Approximately 4,136

Mary Esther Florida is another neat waterfront community that doesn’t get the publicity that its nearby neighbor of Fort Walton Beach gets. Same waterfront amenities and gorgeous views.

  1. Port St. Joe – Approximately 3,400

This historic town on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been around since 1835. Its deep water harbor was the scene for battles over the salt trade the Confederates didn’t want to give up. The Union Army discovered the mines and destroyed the salt trade.

  1. Crystal River – Approximately 3,108

Crystal River is one of our favorite fishing towns on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is fun to sample the fresh fish at local restaurants and take boat tours on Kings Bay. There are three main springs that feed the river and draw manatees and that is why Crystal River is known as the Manatee Capital of the World.

  1. Carrabelle – Approximately 2,818

This is another northern Florida city on the Gulf Coast with a major fishing problem! Carabelle is also the home of one of our favorite dive bars in Florida called Harry’s.

  1. Homosassa – Approximately 2,637

The small village of Homosassa is just 4 miles south of Crystal River. It is also near the Homosassa Wildlife Park. The Homosassa River also runs through the town that runs into the Gulf of Mexico. The flats at the mouth of the river is notorious for superb inshore fishing.

west coast florida cities - Gibson Inn apalachicola
Many Florida Gulf Coast cities have quaint hotels to stay in like The Gibson Inn in Apalachicola.
  1. Apalachicola – Approximately 2,458

Apalachicola is a rejuvenated town that went from the largest oyster producer in the Gulf to a quaint tourist town. The quality of the surrounding water destroyed the oyster business so the city reinvented itself from a fishing village to a tourist attraction as a historic small Florida town on the Gulf Coast.

  1. Hernando Beach – Approximately 2,255

Between Weeki Wachee and Spring Hill, on the Florida Gulf Coast is a village called Hernando Beach. This small designated community is a retirement village and fishing community with over two dozen canals. Most of the homes in Hernando Beach are canal-front with access to the Gulf.

  1. Anna Maria (Island) – Approximately 1,800

Anna Maria Island is at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It is a small colorful community that has legislated against high-rises. The pristine white sandy beaches of the island are popular with residents and tourists alike. Anna Maria is always one of the cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast that we love to visit because it reminds us of old Florida beach communities.

  1. Boca Grande – Approximately 1,714

One of the most famous fishing destinations in the world. Known as the Tarpon Capital of the World, Boca Grande is annually filled with fishermen each spring. They are all trying to catch the elusive tarpon in Boca Grande Pass flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

  1. Rosemary Beach – Approximately 1,655

Rosemary Beach is on the easternmost end of one of the most scenic highways in Florida. Route 30A starts of US Route 98 and runs west for 28 miles of beaches, resorts, colorful homes, condominiums and shops. The Seaside below is almost a duplicate.

Florida Gulf Coast Cities - Seaside
Seaside is one of the many small beach towns in the Florida panhandle with beaches like this.
  1. Seaside – Approximately 1,556

Seaside is a similar community that is much like Rosemary Beach above. Seaside is a mile or so past Rosemary Beach on Route 30A. One of the key differences between the two is that Seaside is a more recent town that is colorful with many shades of white all along the road.

  1. Mexico Beach – Approximately 1,242

In 2018 Mexico Beach was hit with one of the strongest hurricanes that ever hit the panhandle of Florida. This small town on the Gulf Coast had almost 100% of the structures that suffered major damages. On our most recent visit this summer, the town is coming back, but very slowly. We were amazed that more homes and buildings had not been completed.

  1. Steinhatchee – Approximately 1,049

In the Big Bend area of the Florida Gulf Coast, the Steinhatchee River flows into the Gulf. At the mouth of the river, the town of Steinhatchee prospers as a retirement fishing village. Small but colorful town.

  1. Chassahowitzka – Approximately 915

This is the second of the cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast that we were not aware of prior to this research. This designated area is south of Crystal River and Homosassa. It is a community near a wildlife refuge with the same name.

  1. Cape San Blas – Approximately 855

If you look at a map for Cape San Blas, you can easily see why it is called “Cape”. The village is located at the tip of a barrier island. Cape San Blas is known for its remote miles of untouched beaches near St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.  Bird watcher’s paradise in this special place in the Gulf.

  1. Panacea – Approximately 735

Panacea is a town on the Gulf Coast with a few dozen homes scattered along the coastline. It is overshadowed by other more famous cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Fishing is the primary lifestyle in many Gulf towns.

west coast florida cities - Cedar Key Shops
The waterfront shops and restaurants in Cedar Key have survived numerous hurricanes.
  1. Cedar Key – Approximately 702

About 100 years ago the number of people in Cedar Kay was nearly 700 people. Not much has changed in the historic old Florida Gulf Coast town. Famous in the early 1900s for making the cedar used in pencils, until over-harvesting the cedar trees. Now, Cedar Key is quite famous with tourists and using aquaculture for farming clams and oysters.

  1. Yankeetown – Approximately 581

This west coast city on Florida’s Gulf Coast is 100 years old, but that is relatively new compared to other cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Located between Crystal River and Cedar Key, the Withlacoochee River runs through the village. This makes the town a popular place for fishermen.

  1. St. Mark’s – Approximately 319

St. Mark’s is a great little town on the edge of the big forests of northern Florida. It is on the confluence of the St. Mark’s River and Wakulla River as the flow into the Gulf. We like to visit St. Mark’s and visit the Riverside Café which has the best hand-breaded fried mushrooms in Florida. It is also off Route 98 where many other Gulf towns are located.

  1. Horseshoe Beach – Approximately 206

Horseshoe Beach was in the national news when Hurricane Idalia recently hit the Big Bend area of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The news wasn’t good. Numerous homes were all but flattened by the winds and storm surge. Horseshoe Beach is along the Gulf Coast north of Steinhatchee and south of St. Marks.

As we noted, we could have another 50 or hundred West Coast Florida cities that were not mentioned. For the most part, these are some of the most important cities and some of the spectacular towns on the west coast of Florida.

St. Mark's Lighthouse - Gulf Coast towns in Florida
There are several lighthouses in the Florida Gulf Coast cities like St. George Island, Boca Grande, Tarpon Springs, Pot St. Joe, and this one at St. Mark’s.

Why Are Florida Gulf Coast Cities So Popular

Florida’s Gulf Coast is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The region is home to many beautiful cities that offer a variety of attractions and activities. Here are some reasons why people should visit cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast:

  1. Beaches: Florida’s Gulf Coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beaches are known for their soft white sand, clear blue waters, and warm sunshine. Many have been named some of the best in the world.
  2. Historical Culture: Florida’s Gulf Coast is rich in culture and history. The region is home to many museums, art galleries, and historical sites. For example, the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota is a must-visit for art lovers, while the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a great place to learn about marine life 
  3. Outdoor Activities: Florida’s Gulf Coast offers a wide range of outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, kayaking, and hiking. The region is also home to many state parks and nature reserves where visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
  4. Shopping and Dining: Florida’s Gulf Coast has many shopping districts and dining options that cater to all tastes and budgets. For example, Naples is known for its high-end shopping districts, while St. Petersburg has a vibrant food scene with many restaurants serving Florida fresh seafood.
  5. Events: Florida’s Gulf Coast hosts many events throughout the year such as music festivals, art shows, and food festivals. 

These are just a few reasons why people should visit cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast. With so much to see and do in the area, it’s no wonder that it’s such a popular destination.

How To Visit West Coast Florida Cities

Florida Gulf Coast Cities - Riverside Cafe St. Marks hurricane pole
Residents of Florida Gulf Coast cities are very hearty soles. We see some unique sights like this Hurricane Pole. Every line on it represents where the water came up to on the pole. Each line represents a different hurricane.

Several highways along the coast make visiting Florida’s west coast cities much easier. Roads like US Route 98 run from Crystal River clear through the panhandle.

Florida has a program whereby scenic highways that are historic, unique, and naturally beautiful are called Florida Scenic Highways. This program has several hundred miles of scenic highways along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Route 41, better known as the Tamiami Trail, goes from Tampa through Naples and into The Everglades. In the panhandle, state Route 30 A is designated as a Florida Scenic Highway. 28 miles of spectacular beaches.

Plan each visit carefully. We recommend you confirm certain attractions are open and their operating hours are published correctly.

Remember Florida is a very large state. It is not likely you will want to visit a town in the panhandle and a town in South Florida on the same day.

Memories can be made on all of your visits. We firmly believe Florida Gulf Coast cities are some of the most photographed places in the state. The natural surroundings are some of the most unique in the state of Florida.

Originally published at https://floridatravel.blog/florida-gulf-coast-cities/

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