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Florida's Emerald Coast Transportation

Tampa International Airport serves Tampa/St. Petersburg as well as most of Florida’s Gulf Coast. From Fort Myers to Spring Hill, most of the major cities on the Emerald Coast are a short drive from the Tampa area. If you are headed for Naples, Marco Island or the Everglades, Miami International Airport is closer than Tampa. Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers has flights from Miami and Tampa International and several flights from commuter and smaller airlines.

If you want to fly to the Panhandle, it may be difficult to get to your destination without a short drive. Jacksonville International airport has daily flights from around the country, so it is your best bet for visiting the Eastern Panhandle. Mobile (AL) Regional Airport only has connecting flights from Houston, Dallas, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte and Orlando. So if you’re traveling from one of these cities it might be closer to your destination.

From Tampa, I-75 runs south to Miami and north into Georgia. It also runs into I-10 which connects Jacksonville with Tallahassee and the rest of Florida’s Panhandle coastline. If you want to take a scenic drive along the western seaboard, you can take Highway 41 from Miami, through the Everglades and north to Tampa. Highway 98 runs along the coast of the Panhandle west to Pensacola.

Florida's Emerald Coast FAQ

1. What type of golf does Florida offer?

Much of Florida’s tourism industry was originally rooted in the peninsula’s southernmost regions. Due to its consistently flat topography, most early courses offered beach golf filled with palm trees and lots of water. The first tourist golf courses were located near Miami and Palm Beach. This is the state’s flattest area and Florida golf quickly became stereotyped.

Beach golf has continued to thrive in Florida, but today it offers more than just white sand and sapphire pools. Along the Gulf Coast and in Northeastern Florida, newer courses are being built on rolling pasture lands and in pine forests. Courses like World Woods Golf Club, Southern Dunes and Camp Creek are breaking the mold in Florida.

2. What are Florida’s most notable Gulf Coast golf destinations?

Florida’s panhandle is home to many coastal courses. Pensacola, Panama Beach and Tallahassee are established golf destinations, while Destin draws vacationers to its enormous Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The Brooksville area, north of Tampa, is rapidly becoming a Florida favorite as more and more courses are built there each year. World Woods Golf Club and The Dunes at Seville are located here. Southern Florida cities like Fort Myers, Naples and Marco island are also popular with vacationing golfers.

3. Florida’s western Gulf Coast is also known as the Emerald Coast. Where does this name come from?

The water along Florida’s Gulf Coast is exceptionally clear and sparkles a lovely shade of blue-green during the day. When they light reflects off the water, it is said to look like emeralds. Micro-algae in the water are reflected by the sun giving the water its green tint. The water is so clear because there are no large rivers dumping sediment into it.

4. What is the area’s most complete resort?

While this is certainly up for debate, one of the largest and most popular resorts is in Destin, between Panama City and Pensacola. Sandestin Resort is a mega-complex straddling 2,400 acres between the Gulf and the Choctawhatchee Bay. It is home to four 18-hole courses and rivals any resort in the South.

Its two marquee courses, Burnt Pine and The Raven, are respectively designed by brothers Rees and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Both courses are among the best in the Panhandle.

5. What else is there to do along the Florida coastline?

If the beaches aren’t enough for you, there are numerous theme parks and zoos along the coast. Tampa is home to Adventure Island and Busch Gardens. The Clearwater Beach Marine Aquarium, just north of Tampa, is a non-profit marine animal rehabilitation center. You can see dolphins, sea turtles, river otters and many other sea creatures. If you’re near Naples, the Caribbean Gardens is home to many African predators and local ocean animals.

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