The Other St. Petersburg
When you think of St. Petersburg you may instantly think of Russia. Time to think again. St. Petersburg is also a city on the central west coast of Florida, on Tampa Bay. Sometimes called the Bay Area or Tampa-St.Pete.
Beautiful St. Petersburg Beach
St. Petersburg is an easy flight from almost anywhere in the U.S. You can easily arrive using the very small St. Petersburg Airport or the larger Tampa International Airport. St. Petersburg is across the bay from Tampa. Once you're in St. Pete you have easy acccess to St. Pete Beach, which is on the Gulf of Mexico. Clearwater, Dunedin and Tarpon Springs are also a quick drive away along the coast. Renting a car is essential if you want to explore the region. However, sitting on a beach for a while isn't such a bad idea either.
Birds abound at Caledesi Island
If you want white sandy beaches head to St. Pete Beach for a large selection of hotels and rentals to choose from. One of our favorites is the Sirata Beach Resort. It has a great location, beach front accomodations and surprisingly good restaurants with a variety of tasty dishes. Once you chose your home base you'll need to decide what else you want to see. If you like beaches you won't want to miss Fort Desoto Park. Consistently rated one of the best beaches in the world, Desoto still provides ample opportunities for you to find a secluded spot for sun-bathing or picnicing.
You'll also want to check out Honeymoon Island and Caledesi Island. Both are state parks where you can explore old Florida beaches. There's terrific bird-watching, sun-bathing, kayaking is a relaxing, uncrowded setting. This area is by far our favorite part of the western side of Florida. Although there are tourists, the pace is slow, the crowds are thin and it's totally relaxing.
Grouper - always a Florida delight.
Florida Food Rocks
As you would expect, there are plenty of sea food choices available everywhere. Since this side of Florida is so casual and relaxed we love the many, many restaurants on the beach. One of our favorites is Caddie's where you get one of the best grouper sandwiches in the Bay area and a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Go for a drink or stay for the day - whatever works best for you. They're more than accomodating. It's on Treasure Island, which is a few minutes drive from St. Pete Beach.
Downtown St. Petersburg also has a lot of choices for dining as well, from Italian, Spanish, Mexican to Continental, American and more. Spend the day walking around downtown. There are lots of quaint shops and yummy restaurants you'll enjoy.
We also enjoy Fresco's Waterfront Bistro, considered a fine-dining spot. This waterfront restaurant is a perfect place to meet friends for drinks and enjoy the view of the bay. The food is typical Gulf Coast cuisine along with some unique modern dishes.
St. Pete also has some world class museums. The Dali Museum, containing the world's most comprehensive collection of Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali is definitely one to see. The Chihuly Collection showcases the unique artwork of Dale Chihuly. The Museum of Fine Arts features works by Cezanne, Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, Rodin, O'Keefe and more. They also have a lovely cafe with a fantastic view of the downtown waterfront. The Pier downtown also offers a nice place to stroll where you can take in a variety of interesting galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
Several excellent theater companies and the St. Pete Opera Company provide excellent on-going entertainment. Check out what's on the calendar for the time you plan to visit.
Sponge boats at Tarpon Springs
If You Want More
If you're up for a little driving you'll be in for some wonderful surprises. Tarpon Springs is a quick drive (less than an hour). When you arrive you'll think you've arrived at a small seaside Greek town. This sponge-diving spot is loaded with Greek restaurants, bakeries and many other shops. Go for the day and plan on having a hearty Greek lunch at one of the many delicious restaurants from which to choose. Be sure to save room for an authentic and decadent dessert, good for sharing.
You can also drive into Tampa which is full of restaurants, casinos and shopping. The Hard Rock Cafe Casino is huge and has the usual Hard Rock Cafe along with other dining choices.
Across the other side of the bay is Anna Marie Island, Longboat Key along the way to Sarasota. If time permits don't miss the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. It's a beautiful property with lots of amenities. Have a drink and watch the sunset if you like. It will be memorable.
So, if you're looking for sun, fun and lots to see and do you should check out Florida's quieter coast. You may be surprised at how much there is to love about it and what you'll find there.