We loved our three week trip to Florida last September so we thought we would try another three weeks, but with different locations. This time we began our Florida visit on St. Pete Beach.
St. Pete Beach is one of several islands just west of St. Petersburg, Florida. It features great white sand beaches, lots of shopping and dining, and it’s connected to nearby islands via State Route 689. Given all that, it’s a great place to vacation!
Our hotel, The Postcard Inn, is located mid-island and is situated right on the beach. We checked in and headed for that beach…hoping to soak up some rays and hopefully spot some sea life. But no, it began to rain…and rain…and rain. We looked at the weather map and all of South Florida was covered with red, yellow and green. Argh! Time to find a dry place to wait it out!
We headed north on Route 689 to Madeira Beach and pulled into John’s Pass Village; a collection of shops, restaurants and aquatic fun (wave runners, parasailing, etc.). We made it through the torrential rain to The Hut, a restaurant/bar right on the water.
The Hut is a bit of a misnomer as this place is two stories and about half the size of a football field. It has dining on the water (not tonight) and live music every night. There were leaks every where and growing puddles of water but that didn’t stop the fun. The band was louder than the rain and there were plenty of fans to finally dry us out. What a great way to get out of the rain!
It was still raining the next day but we weren’t going to let that stop us. We headed for Anna Maria Island City Pier which is one of my sister Sheryl’s favorite spots. Luckily, we caught a break in the rain and enjoyed a basket of peel-n-eat shrimp while watching fishermen from all over the world trying to catch Spanish Mackerel. This is a great place to people watch and also to animal watch. I spotted two dolphins while we ate and we saw all kinds of fish pulled up. These fish are not like the bluegill back home as these have sharp teeth and have to be handled with gloves!
Next up was dinner and we went back to one of the places we found and loved 15 years ago, Shells. Shells was a Florida chain with over 25 locations and some of the best shrimp linguini I’ve ever had. A few years ago they went out of business, but now they’re back! I simply had to have the shrimp linguini and it was just as wonderful as I remembered…perfectly cooked shrimp and pasta with just the right peppery taste. Yum! We hit happy hour too, so wine was just $2…can it get much better!?!?
Speaking of happy hours St. Pete Beach and its adjoining islands have lots of happy hour specials. Not only can you get bargains on drinks, but you can also get some great food at low prices. We tried to time our hunger so that we could take advantage of these specials. (Trust me, that’s not easy with Mona!) Usually our day would start with a light breakfast and then around 4 or 5 PM we’d hit a happy hour for $5 shrimp or oysters and then close out with a late night snack of more seafood. Happy hours are a great way to save some cash while eating some of the local specialities.
One of the great things about St. Pete Beach is walking the beach at night. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see a great sunset and you can hear live music from the beachside bars and restaurants. Due to the monsoon rains we only got to see one sunset, but we hit the live music every night. Our favorite was at the Toasted Monkey; where we could watch the band, enjoy great food and meet fun new people. It’s a great way to spend an evening on the beach!
Another must-do while in this area is to drive across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I remember crossing this bridge in awe when I was 9 years old. It’s probably why I’m a bridge geek to this day. But, alas, the bridge I remember had to be destroyed after an accident with a boat back in the 1980s. Not to worry, the new bridge is bigger and better with a huge golden cable-stayed span of over 1200 feet. The bridge and causeways cross over 4 miles of Tampa Bay giving you incredible vistas in every direction. And, you often spot dolphins as you cross; how cool is that!?
We cross the Sunshine Skyway 4 times during our visit, with the last crossing on our way south to our next stop: Key West. See you there!