A day at the beach should last all summer, and winter for that matter. And it can in Clearwater, Florida. (www.clearwaterflorida.org/visitor) The talcum powder like sand, the wide stretch of natural beach, the nearby amenities, the chance for glorious sunsets, a calm surf, and easy beach access all make this area a perfect anytime get away. If flying in to the Tampa/St. Petersburg airport, it’s an almost direct shot over on highway 60 to the Clearwater/St. Pete peninsula. Along the pleasant drive, you will find a stretch where water is on both sides of the road, and you may even get, as I did, a surprise welcome to the area by seeing a pair of feeding dolphins.
The Sandpearl resort hotel (www.sandpearl.com) is your prime home base for upscale comfort. While on your fantasy escape why not experience the best. From the moment you enter the circular drive with valet parking to the expansive lobby complete with an infinity fountain view of the ocean, to the Geoffrey Smith bronze sculptures and the chandeliers which dangle with large sea shells, you can feel the luxury touches, of nature blended with mankind.
It’s the little things that make you happy in a hotel and an efficient elevator is key. The Sandpearl has the fastest, yet smoothest elevator imaginable. Of course a silky bed and balcony views of the ocean or pool, a well appointed bathroom and widescreen TV is a given. The room service food charges and quality are comparable to any resort.
My party was hosted with an extra-ordinary wine paring dinner at the Sandpearl’s Caretta on the Gulf Restaurant. The chef and sommelier knew what they were doing, and their suggestions were encouraged. Out by the pool, a martini (sadly only in a plastic glass) and a light meal was sampled at the ocean side, Tate Island Grill.
While your Sandpearl room is enticing, being outside is a mantra in Clearwater. My outside adventures took me via ferry to Caladesi State park, (ww.floridastateparks.org/CaladesiIsland/) which is a wilderness island preserve, where sea shelling is encouraged. Here, by stone ruins, they tell of early settlers and their hard luck life style as well as poison ivy and snakes. I saw it all, but didn’t touch, but did find some shell keepsakes.
If you ever wanted to learn to sail your opportunity awaits at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center (www.clearwatercommunitysailing.org), where classes are available and easily booked. The youthful and congenial instructors ease you into the basics of sailing. Or if you are a pro you can rent a craft there as well.
There’s no need to wish to be a Johnny Depp-styled pirate when you can be one for two hours aboard Capt Memos Pirate ship excursion. (www.captmemo.com) The three decked ship with accompanying pirate crew is a fun family pastime, where children’s pirate themed games are played, water gun fights break out, and even a chance at pirate musical chairs. For adults, the time gliding over the calm waters of the gulf, getting lost in the clouds, or conversing with new friends is as natural as the constantly changing scenery.
At the open air Bright House Field baseball park down in St Pete its fun to take in a game of the Threshers vs., who ever. (www.threshersbaseball.com) This is the training park for the Philadelphia Phillies, with the Threshers as their farm team. The park is a delight when the setting sun is at your back, illuminating the players perfectly. Food and beverages are easily available and impromptu seating is usually no problem. It really doesn’t matter if you have a favorite team or not as being out in the fresh Florida air, with a competition as entertainment makes for a relaxing evening. And while in the St Petersburg area, surreal art lovers enjoy checking out the Dali Art Museum. (www.salvadordalimuseum.org/) Thursday evenings the admission is only five dollars.
Food and drink are necessary treats on a vacation, and the Clearwater Columbia Restaurant (www.columbiarestaurant.com) offers a fresh made exceptional Sangria prepared at your table. Their signature house salad, along with a variety of entrées makes Columbia an upscale experience at reasonable prices. Of course at their open air bar, I had to test their signature 1905 Martini with cheese stuffed olives. It passed with flying colors. If you don’t mind the over popularity of dining at Island Way,(www.islandwaygrill.com/) you will rejoice in their food selections. Along with culinary delights the restaurant is appointed with a variety and quite extensive display of art glass. If you can, make reservations, as in season its not uncommon to see a line of hungry patrons forming outside.
A visit to Clearwater would not be complete without a stop at the Marine Aquarium. (www.cmaquarium.org) Here the star is Winter the Dolphin with the prosthetic tail. Internationally known as a survivor, this beloved dolphin has adapted to using an artificial fin to propel itself, after having lost its fin as a youngster due to a lobster trap mishap. Winter is inspiration to all ages of limb handicapped persons. And did I hear a chant? Winter, summer, spring or fall; Clearwater/St. Pete has it all! (www.clearwaterflorida.org/visitor)