Tag Archives: Gulf Coast

Perfect vacation rental

9 Need to Know Differences between Hotels and Vacation Rentals

Towels and Linens at a Vacation Rental VS a Hotel

Vacation rental king size bedHotels and vacation rentals handle linens and towels very differently. In a hotel, you can get new towels and linens either every day or on the schedule you request. At a vacation rental, your towels and linens are there for the duration of your stay. The perk you will usually get at a vacation rental is an in-unit washer and dryer for your laundry. That is great for week long stays where you are visiting the beach often. It also means, however, that you will be washing the sheets and towels on your own. While an on-call towel service is nice, so is having your own washer and dryer for your one week to one month vacation accommodations.

 

Daily Cleaning at a Hotel Vs a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach hotelsHotels will clean your room each day if you let them, while vacation rentals leave that task up to you. The pros and cons are pretty easy to imagine. With a hotel, you get the cleaning done for you. In a vacation rental, you do the cleanup, but, in exchange, the space is yours without interruptions. That means leaving your personal belongings lying around in a vacation rental might feel more comfortable.

 

Staffing at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation hotelYour vacation rental staff is always willing to help you out but they are not onsite like a hotel. Help in a hotel is usually right downstairs in the lobby. For a vacation rental, the staff is in an office somewhere in town. While vacation rental offices (like ours) will respond to your call 24hrs a day, it might require a longer period of time to arrive than a hotel, based simply on distance. You might want to choose your vacation rental office based on office location, by the way. A remote office will be less capable of helping you than one closer by.

 

Hotel Check in VS Vacation Rental Deposit

Check in for vacation rentalVacation rentals and hotels operate differently regarding check in. Hotels will take your credit card number to secure your reservation and you pay for your room when you arrive. Vacation rentals most often take a deposit at the time of booking and the remainder upon arrival. This is where researching your vacation rental company becomes a good idea. Are they members of BBB? Are there reviews of at least some of their properties? See our blog on vacation rental scams for more information on how you might protect yourself.

 

Hotel Common Spaces VS Vacation Rental Properties

vacation rental with poolHotel and vacation rental grounds differ considerably. A hotel will always have common areas such as the lobby, rec rooms, restaurants, pools, and so on. A vacation home or vacation cottage, on the other hand, will often have yards that are yours to use. Rather than a balcony, many vacation homes will have patios. If you enjoy luxury accommodations and settings, a hotel is probably your style. If you are looking for spaces to call your own, a vacation home or vacation cottage might be the way to go.

 

Noise and Privacy in a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation rental spacesIt is easy to guess who comes out on top when comparing noise and privacy between hotels and vacation rentals. Despite the numerous pleasures of a hotel, they are meeting places for larger numbers of people than you will encounter at private residences. This is true even with beach vacation condos. The choice here is between a more dynamic hotel atmosphere and the quieter spaces of a vacation rental.

 

Hotel and Vacation Rental Age Requirements

Clearwater BeachThe difference in age requirements between vacation rentals and hotels is slight, but very important. While most hotels will allow 21 and up to book, the age is higher in most vacation rentals. Our requirement is 25 and up. Anyone who has gone to Florida during Spring Break will understand why that rule is in place. We do apologize to our college friends.

 

Hotel Dining VS Vacation Rental Dining

vacation diningMealtime at a vacation rental is a very different affair than at a hotel. Hotels rooms without kitchenettes offer very few options outside of ordering a pizza or going out on the town. At a vacation rental, how you eat your meals is completely up to you. Vacation rental properties will always have some sort of kitchen, even if it is a kitchenette. Vacation homes and vacation condos will usually have full kitchens, just like at home. Leave the pots and pans at home as these kitchens are stocked with at least the standard complement of kitchenware. If you want a kitchen, look for hotels with condo-style suites, or book your vacation in a vacation home, cottage, or condo.

 

Length of Stay at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach sunsetHotels will accept accommodations for one night while vacation rentals are intended for longer stays. Ordinarily, a vacation rental will limit the minimum stay to seven days, while some condominium associations will hold vacation rentals to one month minimums only. The plus side to this, of course, is that longer-term vacation rentals will often prove to be the better value for per night costs.

 

Other blog posts you might enjoy:

What Is a Beach Villa?

Regatta

How to Prepare for Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

 

 

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

 

Related Blogs:

What Is a Causway?

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

 

Low tide on Florida Gulf Coast

How Knowing Tidal Schedules Can Make or Break Your Florida Gulf Coast Vacation

Tides of the Florida Central Gulf Coast

Low tide at Honeymoon Island FloridaUnderstanding Tampa Bay tides might help you to enjoy your vacation more. Knowing the water level can help make activities like boating, fishing, and beach combing more enjoyable. The tides of Tampa Bay are more difficult to predict than you might think. Because Tampa Bay is so large, the tides take quite a while to reach the far reaches of the interior bay areas. You will find the tide on one side of the peninsula might be higher or lower than the other. While the interior coastline of Tampa Bay doesn’t have much in the way of beaches, if you are boating on the bay you will definitely want to check the proper charts. Fortunately, area residents know the different tidal areas and charts are available in which you can find the exact area you intend to visit. However, if you are cruising the beaches along the Gulf Coast, you will not find the tidal variations a problem, and you can check a single chart for all the coastal beaches. But why check the charts at all? Let’s take a look at some good reasons to know the tides.

Florida Central Gulf Coast Tides Might Leave You High and Dry

Sailboat at Honeymoon islandBoaters need to know the tides of the Florida Gulf Coast more than anyone. That seems obvious enough but how can that effect your vacation? Well, if you wind up on a boat, it might have quite a big effect. Because the waters of our harbors are so shallow, it is necessary for any boat with a motor to have sonar to detect depth. Running aground in the shallows is a serious danger. If you wind up renting a boat or Jet Ski, you need to be aware of water depth and keep to the marked channels. However, motorized boats aren’t the only craft that need to know how deep the water is. Even a tiny kayak can bottom out in our harbors, inlets and bayous. It is quite common for kayakers to get out and walk across low tide areas. While walking in the waters of the Gulf Coast can be pleasant, it can also be mucky. Planning your trip with the tides in mind is a good idea.

Plan Your Fishing Trip around the Gulf Coast Tides

Fishing the Florida Gulf CoastIf you plan to fish along our coastlines, you should look up the tides. Wading out into the shallows of the Gulf is much more pleasant at high tide when your buoyancy will keep you from sinking into a muddy bottom. You might also find the fish come in at high tide to feed in areas unavailable at low tide. Dolphins sighted fishing the shallows at high tide are proof of that. You can also use the tides to know when the best time is to catch fish in the tidal currents off the ends of the islands and at the mouths of inlets and bayous.

Low Tide is the Best Time to Walk the Gulf Coast Beaches

Clearwater BeachLow tide on the Florida Gulf Coast is one of the best times to walk the beach. The swath of hard packed sand is larger, and you will see many more shells. On the dry, tumbled sand, it is sometimes hard to find any shells at all. You will also find more unbroken shells near the waterline at low tide. You might even catch a glimpse of the live sea life down by the water. It is common to find living sea snails washed onto the shore, as well as live starfish, sand dollars, and clams. It can be interesting to see them in their natural state.

As far as high tide goes, you might find that it is the best time to swim, as the water is not so shallow.

Drying out Live Starfish and Shells

Seashells for salePlease don’t do that. Because we are a popular tourist resort, it is a good idea for visitors to leave live sea animals alone. If each tourist took live starfish or sea snails from the shore, it could have an impact on the sea life. Leave the live animals in place so that the next tourist can experience the pleasure of seeing them too. Gift shops and even the beach Walgreens have shells and starfish for sale that are in perfect condition. Also, store-bought shells and starfish already have the odors removed, which is more difficult to do on your own than you might think. Trust us when we say that odor free mementos make much better souvenirs of your Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Other posts you might like:

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

Central Gulf Coast Fishing Secret

 

Clearwater Marina

Fishing Charter Hotspots on the Florida Gulf Coast

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf shores fishing

Dunedin Causeway, Florida

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico is lots of fun. While this blog is about charters, be aware that you can also fish from beaches, piers, causeways, and other great locations. Wading into the coastal waterways is popular, especially in Clearwater Harbor or St. Joseph Sound. Our coasts are very shallow, so you can wade out a surprising distance. If you take a drive down the coastal roads of Clearwater and Dunedin, you will spot fishermen wading far out into the harbor. However, the shallow waters are home to certain types of fish, while the deeper waters off the coast are home to completely different varieties. That is why fishing charters on the Central Gulf Coast are so popular.

 

Find Fishing Charters on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Fishing Gulf of MexicoFinding a fishing charter near Clearwater Beach is not difficult. In fact, you will find fishing charters on the Central Gulf Coast are plentiful. A walk down the docks of Clearwater Marina will light up the eyes of anyone who likes deep sea fishing. You have the choice of small private charters or very large fishing vessels.

Map of Florida Gulf CoastYou will also find a lineup of fishing charters at the Dunedin docks, just north of Clearwater on the coastal road. If you are closer to the southern beaches of St Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, or the Redington Shores area, you will find fishing charters along the intra-coastal waterway, or at the popular tourist docks of John’s Pass.

Prices will vary, usually related to the size of the boat or the quality of the charter. Some are simple fishing trips. Others include perks like a cooler of beer and snacks. The charters usually run from 4  to 8 hours. The minimum of 4 hours is necessary because of how far out your captain will have to go in order to reach deep waters.

 

Best Fish of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater Marina fishing charter

Clearwater Beach Marina

The Gulf of Mexico has some delicious fish, and the Central Gulf Coast of Florida is no exception. Topping the list of yummy Gulf Coast fish are flounder, grunts, Spanish mackerel, dog fish, and grouper. (If you catch a black grouper, make sure that’s the one you cook up!) The recipe you use is up to you, but if you don’t feel like cooking fish on vacation, that’s ok. Many of the local restaurants will cook your fish for you! That’s right, the local cooks will take your fish and serve it up restaurant style. It’s a great way to go, and it makes for some fond Florida Gulf Coast vacation memories too.

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf Coast Sand Bar Hangouts

Understanding Florida Gulf Coast Weather

 

Monkey at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Local Secret #18

Florida Gulf Coast Primate Rescue

ChimpanzeeThe purpose of the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary is to provide a place to live for rescued and donated primates. They have a growing collection of animals, not all of them primates, which is open for public viewing. Inside you will see lots of monkeys and apes, including chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, spider monkeys and more. Additionally you can see alligators, tortoises, and an assortment of birds. The sanctuary is privately funded, so it does not come off as a major theme park like Busch Gardens, but the animals are well cared for and casual observation shows a lot of happy, furry faces.

 

Florida Gulf Coast Secret Primate Sanctuary

BaboonsWhy is the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary on our local secrets list? While they certainly do advertise, you will not find neon lights flashing on the roadside. The unassuming sign for the sanctuary has pictures of the animals, and the parking lot is a simple strip off the side of the road. The setting does not necessarily leap out at passers-by. You might need a local to help you arrive!  However, for animal lovers and for those who want close by entertainment for the kids (or grownups) the sanctuary is a fun place to visit. The staff give helpful information and you might even get to pet a live alligator -a small one. Give the sanctuary a try!

Safety Harbor Museum

Clearwater Beach Volleyball

Gulf Coast Local Big Bird Secret

 

Clearwater Color Run

Clearwater Color Run 2014

Is the Clearwater Color Run a Race or a Party?

Clearwater Color RunAttendees to the Clearwater Color Run in January of 2014 were in for more than just a race. Long before the race began Coachman Park filled with racers in white shirts and their camera-toting companions. Tents dotted the field, selling T-shirts, drinks, and unique photo opportunities. An instructor on the Coachman Park stage led a large number of participants in a Zumba dance warm up. Once at the starting line, an MC standing on top of a tower next to the gates kept the crowd lively by throwing give-away items into the throng of runners. The atmosphere of the Clearwater Color run seemed more like a party than a race before the starting gun ever fired.

 

Clearwater Color Run Is Not Your Ordinary 5K

Clearwater Color RunThe Clearwater Color Run was a lot like other 5K races with one distinct difference; the racers get pelted with colored paint dust along the way. Standing at the first station we saw the racers doused with purple. The cloud plume was so thick we could barely see the people inside. Coming out the other side, the color-stained runners were smiling and laughing. When we moved to the 4.5 kilometer mark, the smiles were fewer, but the spirits of the runners were still high. Many of the participants gave us cheers as they ran by, headed down the last slope toward the finish line. By this time they had gone through all four color tossing stations and were completely covered with bright dust.

 

The Clearwater Color Run After Party

Clearwater Color Run after raceWhile there was no official after party for the Clearwater Color Run, the festivities at the finish line did just as well. The organizers held a contestant dance off on the stage while music blared and bubbles from large machines filled the air. At regular intervals the guys on stage called for a color toss, in which all those gathered nearby threw colored paint dust into the air. It was a great event for all ages, with lots of teens and kids of younger ages participating. The Clearwater Color Run was promoted as the happiest 5K on the planet, which it seemed to do a pretty good job of delivering.

 

 

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Dinosaur World Florida

Dinosaur World

Florida Road Trip Adventures #1

Dinosaur World (1)Dinosaur World Is Fun for the Whole Family

Dinosaur world is great fun for kids but parents will enjoy it too. The dinosaur models are full size and placed amid Florida brush and tall palms, giving the park an authentic setting. Kids get very excited to see the life size dinosaurs. The park takes over an hour to walk around, with enough displays to satisfy even the most avid little dinosaur enthusiasts.

Dinosaur World Is an Interactive Kid Experience

Dinosaur World has great extra activities for kids. Young visitors love the fossil dig, where they get to take home real, fossils from the age of dinosaurs. Some of the dinosaur models can be touched, including the carnivore that where kids can peek out at the mom and dad photographer from inside the mouth. A shelter at mid park lets kids dust off a large replica of stegosaurus dinosaur bones. A few other treats can be found along the way.

Dinosaur WorldDinosaur World Gift shop

The gift shop is a kid paradise, with walls lined with dinosaur toys. Actual fossils are for sale for the grownups. The gift shop greets you on the way in but if you want to catch it on the way out, that’s OK too.

Dinosaur World Is a Great Outing for the Kids

If you want to spend half a day entertaining the family, Dinosaur World is a great diversion. Be sure to take your camera to get shots of your kids alongside these behemoths from the past. Florida’s Dinosaur World is in Plant City which is within an hour of the cities of Tampa and Clearwater.

Moccasin Lake Nature Park

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

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Tarpon Springs sunken s hip

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

Gulf Coast Local Secret #17

Does the Gulf Coast Have Sunken Ships?

Of course the Gulf Coast has sunken ships! You will find that any harbor locations around the world have long histories of sunken ships. Before European ships arrived, Native Americans plied the waters in smaller craft. The coasts of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida have been in use by large ships since the Americas were first settled. Settlers, war ships and even pirates used the shores of Florida, especially Tampa Bay, where Fort De Soto State Park still displays cannons used to defend the mouth of the bay. The maritime history of the Florida Gulf Coast is fascinating, and worth looking into.

 

Sunken Ships on the Florida Gulf Coast

ShipwreckA number of websites help divers and others locate known shipwrecks along Florida’s coast. If you are a diver, these are great resources. However, if you are the average tourist, it is not likely you will be diving on shipwrecks. So how can you see your own sunken ship?

 

Tarpon Springs Sunken Ship

Tarpon Springs (7)This local secret turns out to be in Tarpon Springs. Tarpons Springs is a fun, Greek-style tourist destination with enough shops, boat tours, and dining to keep any visitor happy. Located on the Anclote River, Tarpon Springs is known for its Sponge Docks, where the catch of the day is sponges. Little known to most of those walking the docks is that Tarpon Springs has its own sunken ship that you can see. Protruding from the waters of the Anclote River, you can catch a glimpse of part of this ship, identified by the pitch of its mast and derricks. Look for it midway down the docks. If you are lucky enough to take a boat tour past this ship wreck, the guide will surely tell you all about it, and you will get a close up view of this modern sunken ship.

Related Posts:

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Florida deer at sunset

Sunset Deer Sightings

Gulf Coast Local Secret #15

Large Deer Population in Florida

Florida deerFlorida rarely drops below 50 degrees in the winter, making it a great place for wildlife. While this attracts species that don’t tolerate cold easily, it also makes a perfect environment for just about everything else. Florida has a thriving deer population. While it might seem difficult to see deer in an area as populated as Tampa Bay, you might be surprised.

 

Where to See Deer Every Night

Florida deerDeer sightings on a nightly basis can be almost guaranteed for our local secret #15. Well-known by locals, Chesnut Park is a great place to visit any time of the day. The park has endless picnic spots, more hiking trails than most other parks, and has lakefront access and a boat ramp onto Lake Tarpon. In addition to the possibility of alligator sightings, you can also see the local deer population. The park is home to dozens (if not more) of deer which come out of their hiding places in the forest when the sun goes down. The park closes officially after sunset but you still have time to watch the deer come out. Keep your eyes sharp toward the edge of the forest. The baseball field is one of favorite sunset hangouts. Try this park out -it’s a great place to visit –and then wait for the sun to set. You should get to see quite a few deer.

Where to See Great Horned Owls on the Florida Gulf Coast

Clearwater Beach Seagulls

Dolphin Jam

Florida Bald Eagle

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Gulf Coast Local Secret #14

Bald Eagles Live on the Florida Gulf Coast

Bald EagleBald Eagles are primarily a northern bird but did you know they also live in Florida? They summer in the far north and then some migrate south or gather along the coasts of Alaska and Canada in the winter. However, the ones that live in Florida enjoy the same weather as the rest of us in the Sunshine State, which means you can find them here year round. Like so many other birds, Bald Eagles nest along the Gulf Coast. Finding one of their nests is a rare treat for locals and visitors alike.

Local Pride toward Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

Homosassa Springs

Bald Eagles are no longer on the endangered species list but they are still under protection by law. A casual search on the Bald Eagle locator found over 44 nests within 15 miles of Clearwater Beach (2012.) However, you might find the local populace is quite protective of their Bald Eagles. Be sure to obey any signs posted regarding approaching the nests to closely.

Were to see a Bald Eagle

Florida Bald EagleWhile you can go to the locations listed on the Bald Eagle locator application, it might be easier to see them in a park, where you can approach on a hiking trail rather than someone’s front yard. Honeymoon Island is a paradise for birds, containing nests for Ospreys, Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. When the Bald Eagles return to nest, the rangers are usually the first ones to notice. They will let you know where the birds are and you might also see signs along the nature trail. Be sure to obey signs in the state recreation area. The eagles in this park enjoy a fair amount of protection from park caretakers. You will not get a close up view so be sure to bring your binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. Despite the distance, this location makes the local secrets list because it is easier to find, the nest site is fairly predictable, and it is not on private land.

Related Posts:

Where to See Great Horned Owls on the Florida Gulf Coast

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Clearwater Beach Seagulls