Saturday, May 20, 2006

Florida Beach Web Cams Keep Your Eye on the Beach

It used to be that the only way to know what it's like at the beach was to get in your car and drive there. Now, with the internet and camera technology, it is possible to click your computer mouse a few times and have a live view of a beach near you, or near where you are going. The technology isn't perfect yet, and the tourism industry has been very reluctant to put money into this emerging technology. It's such a no brainer. I can't believe they are so slow to capitalize on the demand for instant information.

What are some of the problems with today's beach web cams? Well, some of them don't provide a very good picture. Others are slow to load an image on your computer. Some provide "live" streaming video, and others only show still photos, which may or may not be updated frequently.

There is no doubt that the surfing industry has been the leader in establishing beach web cams, to provide surfers with up-to-the-minute information on surfing conditions around the state. In this respect the Atlantic coast of Florida seems to be way ahead of the Gulf coast.

This technology will only continue to grow and be refined. For now, many links to web cams just lead to error messages and frustration.

I've compiled a list of links to web cams that (as of this writing) are working properly. So visit my site at for photos and reviews of Florida beaches as well of lots of other Florida beach information. See my list of Beach Web Cams.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Best Guide to Florida Gulf Beaches

This book helps visitors and residents choose among the many beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast.

Ask anyone who has ever visited the Florida Gulf Coast what his or her favorite beach is, and you'll get as many different answers as there are people. There are so many different beaches that it can be difficult to know which is best for you and your family. Finding a place to park your car and access the beach is another challenge. In my book, "Florida Beaches--Finding Your Paradise on the Lower Gulf Coast," I provide visitors to West Florida's Gulf Coast with all the information they need to find the perfect beach.

I'm a third-generation native of Bradenton, Florida and I've visited every Gulf beach from the city of Dunedin to Marco Island and I've written detailed descriptions of ninety-six named beaches, and dozens of unnamed beaches, making it possible for anyone to quickly determine which beaches are the best for them, how to get there, and where to park. I've also included a chapter on how to avoid beach hazards such as sharks, jellyfish, sting rays, rip currents, red tide, crime, and other dangers.

As Florida's population increases, beach access is becoming more and more restricted. I've located and identified many hard-to-find beach access points. This 176 page book is filled with detailed information on beach access locations and fees, hours of operation, descriptions of facilities, type of sand and other natural and manmade features, where to swim and where not to swim, where to find a quiet secluded beach, and which beaches have free parking. Even lifelong Florida residents are surprised at the great variety of beaches on the Gulf Coast as they discover new beaches to enjoy.

In the book, I also give my opinion on the best beaches for swimming, walking, shelling, birding, camping, finding solitude, people-watching, and snorkeling. 48 black and white photographs and 25 maps make locating new beaches simple and easy.

For more information or to purchase a copy, visit

For the Media
"Florida Beaches--Finding Your Paradise on the Lower Gulf Coast" is the most up-to-date and detailed guide available for the beaches from Pinellas County to Marco Island. For more information or a review copy, please email the author, David McRee, at A media kit with photos is available at

Choose the Right Island for Your Vacation

The island you choose to vacation on can make all the difference. Each island on the Florida Gulf Coast has something different to offer. If you are looking for an island with plenty of entertainment possibilities other than the beach and nature, you should consider Clearwater Beach. There are plenty of shops to browse and a wide choice of restaurants and bars. The bayside marina has lots of tour boats, dolphin cruises, and fishing charters and you are just a short hop over the bridge from Clearwater, and not far from Tampa and all its attractions and nightlife.

Another good choice would be St. Pete Beach, which is also close to some fine nature preserves, namely Fort Desoto County Park (Dr. Beach's pick for the nations number 1 beach), Egmont Key, and Shell Key.

Also consider Siesta Key because of its proximity to downtown Sarasota where you will find plenty of culture, arts, music, shopping, various entertainment and nightlife, and lots of people and not a little traffic. The beaches of Siesta are the most beautiful anywhere on the Gulf Coast.

Another good choice would be Naples. Although the Naples beaches are not on a barrier island, they are great beaches nonetheless, surrounded by all the comforts of an upscale lifestyle. Fine dining, shopping, and entertainment are just steps away.

On the other hand, if you are looking to get away from it all, I would highly recommend looking into Palm Island (Little Gasparilla Island), located south of Englewood. You have to take a boat to the island, as there is no bridge. There are plenty of beach houses and several resorts. Getting around on the island is by golf cart or on foot. Only the residents have cars, generally. No nightlife here, and the only entertainment is found on the beach or in the water, or going for a walk around the island.

Another option is Sanibel or Captiva Island. World famous for their natural beauty they offer a truly unique experience in island living. It does come with a high price tag, although deals can be found in the off season if you don't mind staying a few blocks from the beach. Anywhere on Sanibel or Captiva is a beautiful place to stay in my opinion. If you don't stay on these islands, do yourself a big favor and make a day trip here. You won't be sorry.

If you want something different and don't feel like you have to stay near the beach, try spending a few days (or a month) on Pine Island. Find a place on the north end in the town of Bokeelia, right on Charlotte Harbor. Then take a day trip to Cayo Costa Island. Don't forget to take the side trip to Cabbage Key.

For something in-between, consider Anna Maria Island, Manasota Key, Bonita Beach, or Marco Island. My favorite would be Anna Maria.

If you are coming to party, the choices are clear: Clearwater Beach or Fort Myers Beach.

For more info and lots of photos of the above islands and beaches, visit my website at


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gulfster is top info site for Gulf Surfers

When I was a young surfer, back in the 70's, we had to rely on the surf shops to check the surf conditions for us everyday. Their phone line was usually busy. If we were lucky we might get a recorded message. If we were really lucky we had a friend that lived at the beach and could call us. Now it's a little easier to get the latest surf condition report here on the central Gulf Coast, thanks to Ryan Clapper at

Ryan checks the surf in St. Pete EVERY day and snaps a photo or two of the Gulf and posts it on the website before 8am. What more could a surfer want? Ryan also gives a brief but to-the-point analysis of the surf conditions, and discusses the weather forecast and the surf outlook over the next several days.

If you missed the waves because you had to work, you can always go online that evening and see action photos taken of the surfers THAT DAY! A contributing surf photographer, Kim Bright, often submits outstanding photos from the Bradenton area. Even better, Gulfster has an outstanding photo archive, so you can see photos from all the great waves of the past few years, including some of those incredible hurricane swells. makes it easy for surfers to stay tuned to what's going on in the Gulf surfing world. From surf contests, to surf films, who's who, who's where, new products of interest to surfers, and links to sites useful to surfers, Gulfster delivers. There is even a classified section in case you are looking to buy or sell a used surfboard or skimboard, or whatever.

Gulfster is a high-traffic site, so if you have products or services that surfers use or need, maybe you should consider as a way to get your business in front of those surfer eyeballs.

David McRee --

Friday, May 05, 2006

Hoot--a completely unbiased review.

Florida Beaches
Tonight I contributed $15 bucks to the Carl Hiaasen fortune. We went to see the movie "Hoot," based on his book by the same name. Every time I see a movie after I've read the book, I always say: "The book was better." I suspect the same would be the case with Hoot, except that I didn't read the book.

Since the movie was filmed in Florida, some of it in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, and since I write about and photograph that island for my website,, I felt as though I'd be neglecting my duty as a Florida writer if I didn't see the film. I must confess, I didn't realize it was a movie aimed at 10 to 15 year-olds. Not that this should matter to me. After all, my favorite movies in the recent past are Madagascar and The Incredibles. I'll take a good cartoon or animation any day over a Bruce Willis bloodbath. But Hoot seemed already stale and, dare I say it, cliche.

---But that's coming from a slightly jaded native Floridian who, at 15, wrote letters to the editor of the Bradenton Herald about saving the spoonbills on Perico Island from condo developers. Now the condos are there and the spoonbills and other birds are mostly gone. Money always seems to win out.

But in Hoot, the good guys win and the message is that if we all understand what's really going on, we can stop it. Yea, right after they build MY condo on the beach they can stop all construction.

The scenery in the film was beautiful; a mix of Miami tropical foliage, Boca Grande island scenery, and some fresh water river scenery. Filmed in several locations, but made to look like it all took place in one community, Hoot is a story of the new kid on the block becoming involved in a plot by two local kids to disrupt the clearing and paving of a lot inhabited by burrowing owls. Complete with a dimwitted deputy, bumbling bad guys, parents who "don't understand," and an unlikely series of events that could never happen in real life, the movie is indeed perfect for young teens and pre-teens.

No foul language, no sex or innuendo, no murders, and no serious car crashes in this movie.

Perhaps I haven't been complimentary enough. Maybe its because at the St. Pete Times Festival of Reading, people lined up for 5 miles and waited all day to have Carl Hiaasen sign a copy of his book for them while I only sold eleven of my books.

Maybe I am just too old to appreciate a nice feel-good flick. Maybe I know that isn't the way Florida's story is going to end.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Hiaasen makes some nice donations to organizations that help conserve what Florida has left.

You go, Carl!


Monday, May 01, 2006

Free Ebook on Florida Beach Dangers

With so many people making Florida beaches their vacation playground, issues of beach safety are making the news more frequently. Florida beaches in general are very safe, but there are some things that visitors may not be aware of that could put a damper on their vacation, or worse. Awareness is knowledge, and in this case, knowledge is free in the form of an ebook written by David McRee, a Florida Gulf Coast beach expert, author, and webmaster of

Recently I received an email from the Chief of Safety for the Florida Air National Guard saying that this book is the most complete and comprehensive info on beach safety he's ever seen.

Beach Safety Book Cover.jpg

"How to Be Safe From Sharks, Jellyfish, Stingrays, Rip Currents and Other Scary Things on Florida Beaches and Coastal Waters," is a 70 page ebook with illustrations and photos that tells you what you need to know to help keep your Florida beach vacation a safe and happy one. It covers the following topics:
Rip Currents
Other Strong Water Currents
High Surf
Types of Surf
Boats and Personal Watercraft
Other Rays
Sea Lice
Alligators and Salt-Water Crocodiles
Nile Monitor Lizards
Other Things that Bite, Pinch or Stab
Spiny Fish
Red Tide
Water Quality and Harmful Bacteria
The Sun
Holes on the Beach
Shellfish Poisoning
Fish Poisoning (Ciguatera)
Crime and Personal Safety

Surf over to to download your free copy right now. And send copies to your friends and family members. Print out a copy to take with you on your vacation to Florida.