Your guide to Gulf Coast vacation rentals in Florida

As the Sunshine State leaves behind the coral-crusted Keys and the wavy Atlantic Ocean, it turns west and runs north, along the side of the dolphin-swimming Gulf of Mexico. It's here that you can discover some of the most celebrated beachfronts and beach resorts in the country – Clearwater, Sarasota Beach, PCB… there are lots. Gulf Coast vacation rentals can be big, look-at-me villas or quaint Caribbean-esque shacks shrouded by palm trees. Use this guide to find the one that's right for you.

What style of Gulf Coast rental should I pick?

Sometimes, choosing the right sort of vacation letting is just as important as choosing the right vacation destination. That's certainly true down on the sun-splashed Gulf Coast, where the difference between a deluxe villa in a complex and a romantic Caribbean shack on secluded sands is clear to see.

Florida Gulf Coast vacation rentals right on the beach

The most popular type out of all Gulf Coast rentals is probably the shore-side property. These come in different shapes and sizes but have one thing in common – they are just steps from the coast. You'll often pay a little more for the privilege of waking to the sound of the rolling waves, and you'll still need to decide whether it's a high-rise apartment on buzzing Destin Boardwalk or a loveable casita by wave-lapped Sanibel that you want.

Condo rentals in the vibrant resorts

The main resort destinations up and down this section of Floridian shoreline are masters of the vacation condo. Compact, modern, and capable of hosting both couples and larger groups, they are a versatile pad. And that's not even mentioning the enticing extras, which could be communal swimming pools by the quartz sands or a shared gym facility that has saunas and hot tubs.

Family vacation home rentals Florida Gulf Coast

Whether you're swinging in pirate ships over lazy river rides in the Shipwreck Island Waterpark of PCB or searching for manatees in the turquoise lagoons of Crystal River, it's hard to deny that vacations in this region are a doozy for families. Cue all the Gulf Coast rentals that are perfect for the whole troop. They typically have multiple bedrooms, bunks, big living spaces, and even covered pools.

Amazing locations to find Gulf Coast rentals

The Gulf Coast is a long and wiggling stretch of shoreline. Running from the Panhandle to the mangrove-fringed edges of the Everglades, it ranges through sugar-soft beaches and happening communities of water sports fanatics. Here are some spots worthy of attention…

The area around Panama City Beach

Spring break fever pitch takes over hard-partying PCB in March, bringing DJ-spinning nights and students to the glowing white shores. For the rest of the year, there's a distinct family vibe down with the condos of Front Beach Road and the porch-fronted cottages of Mexico Beach to the south-east.

Sanibel Island – where the feelings are always good

Artfully balancing laid-back coastal living with a taste of refined luxury, Sanibel Island offers up wood-clad casas between its cabbage palms and saw trees. Get here by hopping across the causeway from Fort Myers. Stay here by becoming enchanted by the boardwalk trails and wild birds in the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the pretty shell collections on the dunes, and the stunning sunsets.

Sarasota Beach – high living within sight of the sand

Luxury villas and trendy cottages welcome those with a little extra dosh to flash in Sarasota. A glitzy getaway destination with a curious circus museum, it's gilded with more than 35 miles of come-laze-on-me white powder and come-swim-in-me azure water. What more could you want?

Bonita Springs rentals for waters and Everglades

Bonita Springs vacation rentals are the place to go if you're pining after a less-trodden corner of the Gulf Coast. With the Little Hickory Island Beach Park and its undiscovered sands on the one side and the wild Everglades – check out the orchid blooms of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – on the other, stays here can be all about getting back to tropical nature.

How to score a bargain Gulf Coast rental

With so many destinations on the menu along the sun-drenched Florida shoreline, you can usually zero in on a home away from home that won't break the bank. The handy hints below can help you in the chase for a wallet-friendly bargain…

A few blocks back from the beach and bingo – it's cheaper

Everyone wants a salt-washed deck with a sizzling BBQ grill or hot tub overlooking the sky-blue waves and the glinting sands. But it's worth remembering that it's luxuries like that that can crank the cost of Gulf Coast vacation rentals skywards. In fact, hopping just a few streets away from the ocean should reveal plenty more affordable lettings.

Skip the peak seasons

Christmas and spring break see the beach resorts all along this section of the Sunshine State pack out to bursting. Reveling college goers meet snowbird families on the sands then, sending prices to the stars. For bargain hunters, the seasons of late spring and early fall are usually better picks, so long as you don't mind the possibility of a little extra rain and tropical temperatures.