Mother Nature rules in this beachfront community bordered by three bodies of water and miles of soft, powder white sand.
1 of 6Photo: Michael Hanson
Located about an hour south of Sarasota and an hour and a half from Ft. Myers, Englewood was founded in 1896 as a fishing village. Although fishing still plays a part in the local economy, today the area around historic West Dearborn Street boasts home decor and antiques shops, unique restaurants, and a growing art scene.
This laid-back attitude, coupled with affordable real estate, makes this place popular with retirees, families looking for that small-town feel, and entrepreneurs.
The abundant coastline has inspired hundreds of artists to move to the area, and Englewood is now a self-proclaimed "art town," thanks in part to Lois Bartlett Tracy a nationally known artist from Englewood who established Artists Acres here in the 1950s as a place for creative people to live and work.
2 of 6Photo: Michael Hanson
From the boardwalk at Englewood Beach, families gather in the shade of striped umbrellas and play Frisbee on the sand. The rolling blue-and-green Gulf of Mexico is dotted with sailboats and bright parasails.
Most residents in the small town of Englewood (population 14,900) have stories about sea cows crashing beach weddings, or stopping by waterfront homes on the Intracoastal Waterway. On the Gulf side of town, you can spend hours watching dolphins play in the waves.
3 of 6Photo: Michael Hanson
Englewood Beach is the most popular—a sandy stretch with calm surf, pavilions, and volleyball/basketball courts across the street from local restaurants and bars.
Shark teeth and seashells sprinkle the sandy shores of Stump Pass Beach, where dogs are allowed in the park and on the boardwalk (not on the beach).
Indian Mound Park has a public boat ramp and wooden picnic tables overlooking the water.
4 of 6Photo: Michael Hanson
Where to Eat & Drink
A laid-back Old Florida establishment overlooking Gasparilla Sound, you can find plump, sweet coconut shrimp.
Lock 'N Key Restaurant
At Englewood Beach, the casual, open-air atmosphere is the site for a crab cake sandwich with a spicy kick.
Gulf View Grill
Next door, the Gulf View Grill serves fresh daily catch, such as red snapper with hollandaise, and a mean oil slick martini.
Zeke's Bayside Bar & Grill
For the perfect end to the day, take in the blazing orange sunset from a table at the bustling Royal Palm Marina.
Vino Loco (left)
For something more low-key, wind down with a chilled glass of Chardonnay and organic, fresh-caught shrimp chueca.
5 of 6Photo: Michael Hanson
What to Do
You'll find chic beach home decor—from durable rugs to comfortable couches—in Southern Design Living (left). Each month there's a farmers' market, an antique car show, and a music or seafood festival on tap. Birding on Manasota Key and golfing at one of four challenging area golf courses are year-round activities.
West Dearborn Street is bordered by Lemon Bay and is the hub for arts, music, and eats. One-of-a-kind paintings, handcrafted jewelry, and framed photographs can be found at the Arts Alliance of Lemon Bay. Fabulous European antiques and gifts, including 19th-century brass candlestick holders, are part of the unique collection at the Blue Pineapple, and Deborah's Interiors is the chic spot for colorful throw pillows and shell-inspired accents.
6 of 6Photo: Michael Hanson
Where to Stay
Board the 5-minute car ferry to Palm Island Resort, then revel in the satisfying crunch of seashell-covered pathways beneath your private golf cart. Tastefully decorated beachfront villas, cottages, and homes have full kitchens (don't forget to stock up at Publix on the way over) and screened-in porches. Keep an eye out for green gopher tortoises, brown pelicans, and dolphins in the surf.