This part of Florida's Gulf Coast is fringed by bays and inlets, low-energy expansive shallow salt marshes, creeks, mangrove swamps and barrier islands with miles of the whitest sand beaches found anywhere. Ideal for canoeing and kayaking, several Florida rivers empty into the Gulf of Mexico, the ninth largest body of water in the world and one of its most productive fisheries.
Ten counties range from largely undeveloped Hernando through the urban areas of Pasco, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee to the vast conservation areas of the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades in Collier and Monroe.
At Florida’s southernmost tip, the Florida Keys are surrounded by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and part of North America’s only living coral barrier reef. The keys offer excellent diving, snorkeling, sport-fishing, beautiful beaches and magnificent sunsets. The warm Gulf Stream, one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, originates in the Florida Straits (where many centuries-old ships are sunk) and flows to the Atlantic separating the Everglades, the Keys and Cuba.
Conservation areas along the southwest Gulf Coast include 15 aquatic preserves, 40 state parks, 14 national wildlife refuges, two national parks and the more than 110,000-acre Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.
Southwest Florida Gulf Counties
Hernando, once thought to be the Garden of Eden with its wildlife, wetlands and abundant seafood, is still wilderness and one small sand beach on Pine Island. (More)
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.