Category Archives: Gulf Coast Lifestyle

lighted boat parade

Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Holiday Season in Florida

lighted boat parade in Tarpon SpringsThe holiday season in Florida might not have snow, but it does have plenty of holiday cheer. What we don’t experience with snow, we make up for with miles of seasonal lights and endless festivals. On the Florida Gulf Coast, the water plays a large part in our lifestyles, adding a dimension to events that is easy to appreciate. Holiday boat parades are popular, drawing lots of boaters and loads of spectators.

 

Snow Place like Tarpon

Snow Place Like Tarpon eventThe tourist town of Tarpon Springs, Florida, added an in-town festival to its yearly holiday boat parade. Snow Place Like Tarpon is a street festival held on the main street through Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Avenue is an interesting place on any given day, with old style buildings, multiple antique shops, a museum, and some great restaurants. For the Snow Place Like Tarpon event, Snow Place Like Tarpon holiday festivalmanufactured snow was blown from marquees, to fall on the people below. Vendors lined the curbs, with dancing girls in holiday outfits dancing in the streets. A snow slide occupied an empty lot filled with spectators. The vendors sold holiday crafts and lots of food, including great deserts. A holiday wagon ride was also running for the kids, as well as an outdoor movie screen showing Disney’s Frozen. Most importantly, Santa took Christmas wishes on the dock at the bayou. According to residents of Tarpon Springs, the crowds roving Tarpon Avenue were the largest ever to attend the event. Snow Place Like Tarpon ran from the antique district all the way down to Spring Bayou, where the holiday boat parade was scheduled to run at the end of the evening.

 

Holiday Boat Parade

holiday lights on boatThe holiday lighted boat parade entered Spring Bayou at the end of the evening events. The parade, illuminated the waterways of Tarpon Springs, thrilling happy spectators who had moved from the street festival down to the bayou. Onlookers lined the waterfront with beach chairs and cameras, cheering to the boats as they passed. The boats entered Spring Bayou with holiday music at high volume and their boat horns blasting. The reflection on the water added to the dazzle of the lights. The boat owners enjoyed the event too, turning back for a second spin around the shoreline. boat parade capture The lighted boat parade started and ended on the Anclote River, home of the famous Sponge Docks, the host marina being the docks at Captain Jack’s restaurant and bar. The boats returned by the same route, docking at the marina to enjoy nightcaps and banter about the parade. Snow Place Like Tarpon and the Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat parade made for a fantastic holiday themed night out in the famous tourist town.

 

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs FloridaTarpon Springs is a small tourist town on the northern end of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It lies along the Anclote River, home of the famous Sponge Docks, the leading producer of natural sponges in the world. It is known for its Greek community, pioneers of the area’s sponge diving industry. Greek food is a must when visiting this city. Tourist souvenirs are of nautical theme, with sponges sold in every shop. Handmade soaps and kitchen seasonings are also a hit in Tarpon Springs. Boat rides cruise the river, with some taking tourists to the coastal barrier islands at the mouth of the river. Tarpon Avenue is known for its many eclectic antique shops. The city is also a favorite stopover for those on bike rides along the 38 mile Pinellas Trail. Tarpon Springs is forty minutes or less to the north of other famous Florida Gulf Coast destinations such as Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and Clearwater Beach. If you plan to visit the Central Gulf Coast, put Tarpon Springs on your list of places to see.

 

Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade video:

Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade video (short version):

Other posts you might enjoy:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

 

Chowder Challenge 2014

Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Discovering the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge 2014

Pass a Grille Chowder ChallengeThe Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge happened last weekend, November 8th and 9th, bringing a lively event to a beach community that is a bit different from the rest of its neighbors on the coast. Pass A Grille is a laid back Florida beach community, sitting on a relatively small section of island. It is the southernmost inhabited section of the barrier islands along Florida Gulf Coast of Pinellas County. It is located just south of St Pete Beach and just north of the uninhabited Shell Key. Pass A Grille might not be the kind of place where you wind up often, it being the end of the road, with no way out other than the way you came in. The fantastic white sands of the Florida Gulf Coast line its shores, with beautiful views to the south of the barrier islands there. In the heart of Pass A Grille you will find Hurley Park, with a picnic pavilion, a basketball court, and a baseball field. On November 8th and 9th this year, Hurley Park became the staging ground for the annual Chowder Challenge, a chowder cook-off that set area restaurants against each other in a very friendly competition.

 

Entering the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Chowder Challenge desertsWe arrived at the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge as inexperienced novices, new to the ways of the competition. Hurley Park was filled to the brim with chowder lovers who had arrived before us. Vender tents lined the perimeter, with the rest of the grass area occupied by dining tables, every one filled with chatting chowder challengers. Souvenirs were available along with an inviting table of deserts just outside the gates of the baseball field. Entering the main event area cost $20, an entrance fee that purchased a wristband pass into the chowder sampling area. We paid while still in mystery as to what we would get. To put it simply, the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge wound up being more than worth it.

 

Serving up the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Chowder Challenge chowdersEntering the baseball diamond we saw the participating restaurants for the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge lining the outer edge. Plenty of room was left over for milling in the center of the field, a space used by many to aim for the next bowl of chowder. We were handed rectangular trays with papers set on them that showed the names of the competing Tampa Bay area restaurants. The labeled tray was accompanied by a score card. It took only a moment to understand the game. Under pop up canopies the restaurant representatives waited with vats of chowder ready to serve the hungry crowds. When we visited the first table, we were served a tiny cup of chowder, placed carefully over the restaurant name. We went from table to table, collecting more of the small cups, placed over the corresponding names of the restaurants. Then it was off to taste the chowder at the dining tables spread across the lawn. It was time to decide who was king of the Chowder Challenge.

 

Chowder Challengers at Pass A Grille

The Chowder Challenge had some great competitors, including some of the best restaurants in the Tampa Bay region. One of the remarkable characters of the event is that every single booth had smiling participants, happy to talk to event attendees or pose for photos.

  • Chowder Challenge LoewsShells Chowder ChallengeBilly’s Stone Crab
  • Brass Monkey
  • Crabby Bills
  • Gennaro’s
  • Jackie’s on Corey
  • Leverocks Seafood House
  • Loews Don CeSar Resort & Spa
  • Middle Grounds Grill
  • PJs Oyster BarFriendly Fisherman at Chowder ChallengeNori Thai
  • PJ’s Oyster Bar
  • Rick’s Reef
  • Ricky T’s
  • RumFish Grill at Guy Harvey Outpost
  • Salty Rim
  • Shark Tales of St Pete Beach
  • Shell’s Seafood
  • Salty Rim at Chowder ChallengeLeverocks at Chowder ChallengeSt Pete Produce & Deli

 

We did our best to catch every name, and to taste every chowder! If we missed your restaurant at the Chowder Challenge or somehow left off your name, please let us know and we will add you to our list!

 

Choosing the Chowder Challenge Champion

Chowder Challenge votingOur attempt at picking a winner at the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge went well – at first. With the first eight chowders to choose from, we picked our winners. When we went back to sample eight more, the trouble began. There really weren’t any bad chowders. On the higher end of the tasting scale were some of the best chowders we’d ever tried. Some topped out the list on traditional style chowders while others served up recipes we hadn’t heard of before, such as the Rumfish version of Caribbean Lion Fish Chowder or the Nori Thai chowder which included coconut. By the time we were done with our second tray of samples, we had to go get more score cards because our first ones were destroyed with too many conflicting marks – and yes, they had chowder on them. The final scoring was tallied via plastic gold coins, handed to us when we purchased our entry. Attendees received only three of the golden coins with which to vote. Each restaurant table had business cards or menus to remind us who they were, but they also had plastic beach buckets. The buckets were for the gold coins. Attendees were to choose their top chowders and drop the coins off at their three favorite restaurant booths. Chowder Challenge Chowder choiceWe grudgingly eliminated the runners up and dropped off our coins. Because we also made a mess of the second score cards, we can no longer tell you where those coins went. Our personal favorites were Ricky T’s, Salty Rim, Shells Seafood, Brass Monkey, Leverocks, and Loews Don CeSar, with our unique-recipe favorite going to Rumfish Restauant’s Lionfish Chowder. We hope the others will understand. We left the Chowder Challenge with full bellies and smiles on our faces, thanks to all the great chowders.

 

​Official Winners of the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge 2014

The official winners according the official Chowder Challenge Website were:

Golden Ladle:  RumFish Grill at Guy Harvey Outpost for its Caribbean Lionfish Chowder
Peoples Choice 1st Place:  Shells for its New England Clam Chowder
People’s Choice 2nd Place:  Gennaro’s for its Gennaro’s Clam Chowder
People’s Choice 3rd Place:  Friendly Fisherman for its Clam Chowder
Celebrity Chef’s Choice:  Shark Tales for its Fresh Seafood Clam Chowder
Celebrity Chef’s Honorable Mention:  Lowes – Don CeSar for its Conch Chowder
Celebrity Chef’s Honorable Mention:  Shells on St Pete Beach for its New England Clam Chowder

 

Looking forward to the Next Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Billys at Chowder ChallengeWe will return next year to the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge and here is why. The food was remarkable, giving us a wide variety of the best chowders our region had to offer. Despite the miniature size of the bowls, we were eventually unable to get to the bottom of the final samples, so it was satisfying for the big eaters too. The restaurant participants were all smiles, happy to be there and very personable when approached. Further, and possibly best, were the fellow attendees. The tables were large, fitting more than one group at a sitting. When we sat down, the conversations were easy to start because each person attending was also sampling the chowders. Don Cesar at Chowder ChallengeThe exchange of ideas began immediately, concerning which chowders were best, and which restaurants had cooked them. Because of the constant flow of attendees moving from the chowder serving area to the seats outside the baseball field, we wound up sitting in two different locations, each time striking up conversation with other happy chowder tasters.

For all of those reasons, we are looking forward to the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge next year and we hope to see you there too.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

5 Favorite Party Spots at Clearwater Beach

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

John’s Pass

 

Clearwater Beach crosswalk

Walking the Streets of Clearwater Beach

Walking the Tourist District of Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach causewayOne of the great things about Clearwater Beach is that you might be able to spend the length of your vacation without using your car. Your on-foot beach vacation can include going to the beach, dining, nights at Pier 60, all the shopping Clearwater Beach has to offer, and even some famous area attractions. The entire island is only three and a half miles long and much of that is residential. The tourism area of Clearwater Beach is approximately 1.5 miles long.  Your walk could be much shorter, depending on where you start. From the central roundabout, the tourist district reaches half a mile north and one mile south. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin, is a one mile walk. If you enjoy walking, or don’t want to bother with your car, then you will surely enjoy a vacation at Clearwater Beach.

 

Where to Walk on Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Mandalay AveAt the north end of the tourist district of Clearwater Beach you will find a perfect area to lie out on beach right alongside of some great restaurants. Just south of that you will encounter the shopping area of Mandalay Avenue, which is almost like a large outdoor mall. Of course, this ‘mall’ has a road down its center! Lining both sides of the street are clothing, souvenir and surf shops, as well as a very good selection of restaurants ranging from simple diners up to the high-end hotel resort restaurant inside the Sandpearl Hotel. There are also a number of very nice bistros. At the center of the beach is the roundabout, Pier 60, and the Clearwater Beach Marina. Pier 60 is the home of the nightly Sunset Festival. At the marina you can catch a fishing charter, a harbor cruise, sunset cruise, dinner cruise, dolphin sighting tour, or you can rent a watercraft to tour the harbor on your own. Clearwater BeachThe south end of Clearwater Beach has the long, beachfront walkway known as Beach Walk. There you will find more great restaurants, bars, and another hotel resort restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa. South Beach district of Clearwater Beach also has miniature golf, bike rentals, and the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, where you can get more information on the area. All told, it would take longer than most vacations last to visit each gift shop and dine at every restaurant on Clearwater Beach.

 

Clearwater Beach Pedestrian Safety

Clearwater BeachWhile walking the beaches and sidewalks of Clearwater Beach, visiting the shops, and dining at the many restaurants, you will want to keep your mind on safety. At times, the pedestrian traffic at the beach can be quite heavy. While that contributes to a fun beach resort atmosphere, it also means that pedestrians and motorists need to be mindful of one another.

Crosswalks and Traffic Lights at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater BeachWhile the freedom of walking the fun tourist district of Clearwater Beach cannot be denied, it should not be done carelessly. Both motorists and pedestrians have rules for safety to follow. First, and most importantly, are the rules for motorists. Driving more than 25 miles an hour at the beach is flirting with disaster. While not getting a ticket is one good reason not to speed, the real purpose is to protect people on foot.

Stop for Pedestrians at Clearwater Beach Crosswalks

Clearwater BeachMotorists visiting Clearwater Beach need to know that stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks is the law in Florida. That means if you see a pedestrian on the sidewalk waiting to cross the road, you need to stop your car and let them go. Not doing so can get you a ticket, which is a vacation memory you don’t need. Responsibility also lies with pedestrians. Be careful at crosswalks. Not everyone knows they need to stop! Wait until you are sure the motorist knows you are crossing and has stopped.

Clearwater Beach Crossing Lights

Clearwater Beach crosswalkClearwater Beach has a crossing light for pedestrians. Cars need to stop for these lights but so do the pedestrians! Crossing against this light on foot can be dangerous. The same is true for the standard crossings at intersections with traffic lights. While it might seem safe to cross against the signal, the curves of the road and the landscaping at Clearwater Beach can often hide automobiles from view. Cars can surprise you more often than you would imagine while you are right in the middle of the street.

Walking and Driving Clearwater Beach at Night

Clearwater Beach at nightNighttime at Clearwater Beach is a time for even greater caution. Fun on vacation can include getting a little tipsy for some. At night, more so than in the daytime, people will cross the road at random spots. This is jay walking and should not be done, but since it is common, motorists need to keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians. You should slow and stop your car for someone crossing the street at Clearwater Beach no matter where they cross.

Rules of the Road at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach roundaboutWhile navigating Clearwater Beach, realize that the roundabout is meant for cars. While you will see something that looks like a sidewalk out at the center of the roundabout, it is not meant for pedestrians. Crossing into the center of this traffic circle is not safe on foot and should not be done. You should also know that at the small bridge leading into Clearwater Beach, you will find a pedestrian underpass that provides a very safe crossing. Motorists should always give bicyclists three feet of space when passing them. It is the law to do so in Florida. For a safe ride along the causeway to Clearwater Beach, use the bike path that runs along the waterfront.

Walking the Streets of Clearwater Beach

Walking the streets of Clearwater Beach is fun. The strolls up and down the gift shops and restaurants can create some fond vacation memories. Just stay alert and know the rules, and your journey through the treasures of Clearwater Beach will be one to remember.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

Secret Caladesi Island Shell Tree

 

 

Salvador Dali Museum

Salvador Dali Museum

Salvador Dali Museum Grounds and Gift Shop

Salvador Dali MuseumThe first impression of the Dali Museum comes from the impressive exterior. The new Salvador Dali Museum, opened in early 2011, is an impressive structure of concrete and glass that is designed to be a tribute to Dali’s style. Built into the concrete of the building are large stones, naturally found in Florida. Aside from the building being visually unique, it is also designed to protect the priceless Dali art collection inside from potential hurricanes. At the back of the museum are tables and chairs under large umbrellas next to a beautiful, landscaped garden. Salvador Dali MuseumA wishing tree is pinned with the adhesive wrist bands that serve as passes within the museum, while just beyond is a maze created by sculpted bushes. The garden area, the swirling patterns in the natural stone, the stark concrete walls, and the curving, multi-faceted windows succeed at impressing the visitors even before they have entered.

The doors open onto the gift shop, which is stocked with plenty of items related to Salvador Dali’s trademark works. Salvador Dali MuseumCoffee cups, melting clocks, books of Dali art, T-shirts and hats, puzzles, and prints of Dali’s work to hang on your own walls are just some of the things you will find in the Dali Museum gift shop. Just beyond is the ticket counter, the museum café, and they centerpiece spiral staircase. The upper floor, on which you will find the art displayed, has an interior observation deck where you can peer over the harbor and marinas of St Petersburg, Florida, including the popular St Petersburg Pier and its iconic inverted pyramid building.

While all of these things are interesting in their own right, you will see them all before your reach the very best part, which is the gallery displaying the paintings of Salvador Dali.

 

How to Tour the Salvador Dali Museum

Salvador Dali MuseumAt the ticket counter of the Salvador Dali Museum each visitor is asked how he or she would like to experience the gallery. One can simply stroll the gallery viewing the art, of course, but two other options are available. A guided tour will explain the life of Salvador Dali, the history of the Morse family collection, and, of course, the individual paintings of the Dali collection. The third option is to use a pre-recorded audio tour with headsets. By tapping the number displayed next to some of the paintings, visitors get to hear about the painting’s history and how it related to Dali’s life, along with a brief interpretation of the piece. Regardless of which method you choose, the overall experience at the Salvador Dali Museum is guaranteed to be rewarding.

 

Salvador Dali Art Collection

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

The art inside the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida, is from the private collection of the Morse family. The Morse family collected the works of Dali for many years before deciding that a more formal setting than their home was needed. As you tour the gallery, you will see, up close, some of the most famous works of Salvador Dali. The gallery setting is a large room with high ceilings. Art is hung on the main walls and on solid partition walls that rund down the center of the room. The partitions walls provide the sensation of being in your own space to observe the works of art. Nothing (visible) separates the visitors from the artwork, allowing you to get as close as you like to the paintings. The gallery offers the freedom to tour at your own pace, and to study the works of art from any angle or distance you choose. The generous arrangement leaves the visitor free to appreciate the remarkable paintings of Salvador Dali in a very personal fashion.

 

St Petersburg Museums

The downtown area of St Petersburg, Florida is home to the Salvador Dali Museum. Also on the waterfront, you will find the St Petersburg Museum of History, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Chihuly Collection.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Top Theme Parks near Clearwater Beach

Central Gulf Coast Museums

 

Clearwater Beach T shirts

Gift Shop Essentials at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Tourist Shops

Clearwater Beach gift shopsWhen you visit Clearwater Beach, it is impossible to miss the gift shops along the main drag. Clearwater Beach is divided into two areas, North Beach and South Beach –at least according to the locals. It’s okay to consider Clearwater Beach all one place. It is a small barrier island and it is conceivable to walk from one end of the shopping district to the other. It is 1.5 miles from the Surf Style beach shop at the far end of South Beach to the North Beach parking lot that sits between Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and Palm Pavillion Beachfront Bar and Grill. Of course, you might want to pace yourself, because you will walk more than 1.5 miles if you stop at every T-shirt and souvenir shop along the way. We suggest dividing your Clearwater Beach souvenir-crawl into two outings, one for North Beach and one for South Beach.

 

Souvenirs from Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach gift shopSouvenir shopping at Clearwater Beach is not for the meek. You will find trinkets and keepsakes everywhere you go. Even if you stop at the Barefoot Beach House for ice cream or coffee you might walk away with a souvenir. Make sure you stop by Pier 60 for the daily Sunset Festival, which runs two hours before and after sunset. There you will find all manner of gifts and personal memorabilia for your Clearwater Beach vacation, including painted shells, beach photos, jewelry, and beach themed art of every description. Along the beachfront roads, every T-shirt shop we visited while researching this blog had an area set aside for jewelry, seashells, or other small souvenirs. Shot glasses, coffee cups, and other items with logos were also popular. You will have no trouble returning home from you vacation with a souvenir that says Clearwater Beach.

 

T Shirts and Beach Apparel at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach gift shopsOn our casual survey of Clearwater Beach gift shops, we discovered one overwhelmingly popular item on sale in every shop. That item was the forever-popular T-shirt. More than any other item, T-shirts dominated the stock along the beachfront. And, as you might imagine, lots of them had Clearwater Beach logos. And why not? One of the best ways to remember your fun-filled vacation is to wear a T-shirt you bought. Of course, you don’t have to buy just a T-shirt. Board shorts are a top seller for the guys and popular for the ladies is the beach dress, often worn over the over a bathing suit. With a beach dress in your bag, you are ready to for a quick dinner following your afternoon at the beach. Of course, if you want to wear something a little nicer for a dinner out, you can find that too!

 

Additional Beachwear for your Clearwater Beach Vacation

Clearwater Beach gift shopsWhile you are shopping for your day at Clearwater Beach, don’t forget to buy the other essentials. A sun hat is a good idea, especially in the summer.  You will probably want to shade your face by late afternoon. The other necessary requirements for your Florida outfit are flip flops or sandals and, of course, sunglasses. That might sound overly touristy, but really, these are the clothes you need to navigate the beach in comfort. The Clearwater Beach sands are bright-white in the sun, making sunglasses a good idea. Walgreens beach suppliesFlip flops don’t collect sand like other shoes and so are ideal for the beach. Lastly, don’t forget to get a beach towel or beach blanket. Hotel or household towels just don’t cut it. A big beach towel or a Mexican throw blanket are perfect for marking your territory on the beach. With these essentials in you beach bag, you are ready for your perfect vacation at Clearwater Beach.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Johns Pass

Ultimate Tourist Attraction at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

How to Prepare for Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

 

vacation activities

How Big is your Vacation Activity Zone?

How Close do you stay to your Vacation Rental?

beach vacation rentalWhen you go on vacation, do you stay near your vacation rental or do you strike out to explore everything in the region around you? Some folks are happy to sit on the porch or balcony of their vacation rental and look out onto the world from the shade, comfort, and air conditioning of their unit. Others will keep within a zone in which they can walk. Others might take a single trip in the car during their stay, while still others might head out into the region surrounding their vacation rental each and every day. Which type of vacation goer are you?

 

Making the most of your Vacation Rental

beachfront rental condoHanging out in your vacation rental is not all that bad! Many of the vacation condos and vacation homes on Clearwater Beach and the other beaches of the Central Gulf Coast have large interiors with comfortable amenities. Vacation rentals will usually have some type of kitchen as well as televisions, cable service, and Wifi. If your rental comes with a pool, you might have all you need to keep you happy. If you have a beach view, then you really are at the beach when you sit out on your balcony. If long walks aren’t your thing, then a holiday spent inside your vacation rental might be the perfect getaway. And, if you are looking to relax in peace and quiet, sitting out on a patio or reclining by a pool is a great way to go.

 

Using your Vacation Rental as Beach Vacation Headquarters

Beach vacationWhen you rent a vacation rental on the beach it’s because you want to be at the beach! That’s fairly sound logic. Once you have arrived at your beach rental, it is sometimes hard to take the time to put away your luggage before heading out to the shore. The beach has soothing qualities that few people can deny. The sound of the waves and the feel of the sand combine with the beauty of the beach and water to create a sensation people will travel quite far to experience. So is it wrong to plant yourself on the beach and enjoy the sun and sand and sea every day of your vacation? Of course not! The beach is a favorite travel destination for very good reason. Enjoying your vacation to the fullest is easy to do at the beach, even if you do no more than walk from your vacation rental to the sand each day.

 

Choosing a Favorite Day Trip from your Vacation Rental

Lowry ZooSpending your days sunning and swimming at the beach is hard to beat, but once in a while, it is nice to break up a vacation with a day trip to an interesting nearby location. That is easy to do on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. A drive or a trolley ride up and down the coastline will take you past a host of other beaches. You will pass from major resorts to ma-and-pa style beaches and back again in a very short amount of time. Each beach community seems to have its own personality, so you can choose the one that suites you.  You could also visit one of the many tourist towns nearby for a dinner or a stroll down the main street. The one-day trip is a popular distraction for those who want to see nearby theme parks like Homosassa Springs, Dinosaur World, the Lowry Park Zoo, or Busch Gardens in Tampa. When your one day diversion is over, feel free to relax in your vacation rental or on the nearby sands of the beach.

 

Seeing it all on your Florida Beach Vacation

Great blue heron The dynamic, action packed beach vacation is often the choice of the adventurous souls among us. After you have walked the nearby beaches of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island it might be time to get into the car and head out to nearby tourists stops. How else can you see it all? You can choose tourist areas such as the St Petersburg museums, John’s Pass tourist shops and restaurants, the Florida Botanical Gardens, downtown Dundein, or the Tarpons Springs Sponge Docks. But if those aren’t enough, you should know that the region surrounding Clearwater Beach and Central Gulf Coast of Florida have more nature parks than you might think possible. Give the parks a try, if you enjoy hiking on wilderness trails or seeing the diverse wildlife of Florida, including the amazing variety of birds. If you choose to have a dynamic vacation touring the region surrounding the beaches, be warned, there is more to do than you can achieve in a single vacation. And please, Clearwater Beach and the Florida Gulf Coast have some of the best beaches in the world, so make sure you spend some time enjoying them too!

 

Other posts you might enjoy;

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

5 Best Places to Escape at Clearwater Beach

 

Clearwater Beach vacation

Spoil Your Vacation at Clearwater Beach

Defining Spoiled

The word spoil has a list of different definitions. While they all follow a common theme, they are not all alike.

The common modern usage of the word spoil means to ruin or degrade, such as

  • 1. A spoiled child, 2. Spoiled fruit, 3. Spoiled plans.

The word spoil comes from an older usage however, originating in the days of attacking and looting cities. It means to loot the valuables from a location, such as a city or town. It is synonymous to despoil, as in

  • 1. Spoils of war, 2. A spoiled city, 3 spoiling enemy villages
great blue heron

Great blue heron on a spoil pile

Another definition comes from the byproducts of construction or mining. Waste materials created from drilling or digging are called spoil. An example would be spoils from a basement excavation being used for landscaping.

  • 1. A large spoil pile

So what does all of that have to do with a Clearwater Beach vacation? Let’s see!

 

Pirate Spoils at Clearwater Beach

Pirate ship

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

Did you know the Florida Gulf Coast has a pirate history? It’s true. Tampa Bay area is no stranger to pirates. In fact, the modern Gasparilla Invasion celebrates a pirate who sailed the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gasparilla treasure, along with some others, is rumored to be hidden along our shores. Many of those pirate spoils, taken from victories over merchant ships, have never been found! Have they sifted down deeper into the sands of the beach? Has the landscape shifted and put the pirate spoils under waters of the Gulf of Mexico? While you walk the sands of the beach on your Florida Gulf Coast vacation, will you inadvertently walk several feet above the long lost treasure of pirate spoils? It’s possible! Rumor has it that, after large storms on the Gulf, coins from pirate conquests might wash up on the shore. None of our guests have discovered pirate treasure yet (that we know of), but it is fun to imagine coming across a coin poking out of the sand.

 

Spoil Islands of Clearwater

Spoil island

View from one island to the next

The harbor that runs between the City of Clearwater and Clearwater Beach is very shallow. Navigating a boat through the waters requires staying within the marked channels or having a sonar to check the depth under your boat. The boating channels that run the length of Clearwater Harbor were created in the 1950’s. The waste material from dredging, called spoil, was dumped in piles at regular intervals. The spoil piles collected vegetation and local wildlife quickly, becoming established islands in a very short time. The islands soon became a playgrounds for local boaters, an attraction the islands maintain to this day. The small islands, wrapped in shallow vegetation or covered with small forests of pines, palms, or oaks, are open to boaters and campers. The spoil islands are property of the State of Florida that has no plans to develop the islands or charge for their use. The islands make great stopovers while cruising the waters of the harbor on a motor boat, kayak, or paddle board. They are great places to relax or walk the shore.  Taking a picnic basket or beach chairs to the islands is a popular past time for those who know this local secret. If you are planning on boating the harbor on your Clearwater Beach vacation, be sure to check them out!

 

Go ahead and spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation

Clearwater BeachWhen we say spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation, we are talking about having fun.

Walking our shores under the Florida sun, you can imagine our pirate history. Is there a pirate chest of gold somewhere beneath your feet? Are the spoils of a pirate raid buried under your vacation rental unit? Will you find pirate gold underneath a seashell on the beach?

While boating our beautiful turquoise harbors, look to one of the tiny spoil islands. The small islands are usually empty, ready for you to land and claim the territory for your own –at least for a little while. Occupying your own island for a few hours of your vacation might give you some fun vacation memories for you to treasure.

So go ahead. It’s okay. Have some fun and spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

How to Successfully Use Vacation to Relieve Stress

What Is a Causeway?

What Is a Beach Villa?

 

Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Pinellas Trail Scope

Pinellas TrailThe Pinellas trail currently consists of 37 miles of pathway that runs from Tarpon Springs in the north down through multiple communities until it reaches downtown St Petersburg at the southern end of the Peninsula. The trail is dedicated to Fred Marquis who was instrumental in the development of the pathway. Despite traveling through nine cities, the trail most often passes between tall trees that provide much welcome shade and solitude. You will find multiple opportunities to sightsee along the trail, the type of attraction depending on which section of the trail you choose. (We particularly like the connection to the bike path leading to Clearwater Beach.) Pinellas TrailThe path will take you past waterways, interesting features of small communities, and the more complex sights of the larger cities of the peninsula. Taking the entire trail is a bit much for most people so just pick the area you are most interested in seeing. The trail winds through Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg. Choose your favorite city and get started on your tour of the Pinellas Trail!

 

Pinellas Trail Experience

Pinellas TrailDeciding which part of the Pinellas Trail is the best for you is a matter of personal preference. Some people enjoy the long stretches of wooded pathway while others like the stopovers in popular cities like Tarpon Springs or Dunedin. At Clearwater, you can take a diversion on the bike path over the causeway to the beach. In Largo you will pass by the large grounds of Largo Central Park and, farther south, Walsingham Park, home to Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village. Passing from Seminole to St Petersburg, you will have an opportunity to cross the longest bridge on the trail, spanning the waters of Long Bayou, with sweeping views across the water to the north and south. The trail begins –or ends- at the docks in St Petersburg, a great place to bike and walk along the scenic downtown waterfront. Regardless of where you use the trail, you are bound to have a relaxing and interesting experience. The memorable sights and enjoyable stretches of the Pinellas Trail are worth visiting.

 

More Information on the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas TrailHere are some links to more information as well as some maps of the trail

Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Guide to the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (map)

St Petersburg Bike Map

 

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