We just got back from a six day trip to St. Pete Beach in Florida! It was mid eighties and sunshine the entire week. Just gorgeous. My happy place.
I always book a full vacation package with flights, hotel, and car rental so I don’t have too much of a hassle. I like when things are all neat in one place. I select an early morning nonstop flight for the way and an evening nonstop flight for the way back. Gotta sneak in that extra time!
Start your morning off with a coffee and breakfast at the airport. It sets the vibe. Brings me a little cheer before the dreaded flight. I don’t know what it is about flying, but I find things to be nervous about from taking off to landing. These flights I tried reading, editing photos, writing, but I couldn’t do it. Just sat and listened to the changes of sounds in the planes engine. 🙈 My husband slept and kept his headphones in watching podcasts, leaving me alone in anxiety. 😂
St. Pete Beach is nestled on the Gulf of Mexico, about half an hour from the Tampa airport. We drove straight there and first went for lunch since our hotel check in wasn’t until 4 pm. We hit up our long standing favorite restaurant, Crabby Bills. It’s located right on the main strip, Gulf Blvd, on the beach with a view, and has the best seafood. I have an obsession with their fish and chips! The waiters and waitresses are super nice and it’s a quiet family friendly place. If you like relaxing and good food, eat here.
This trip we stayed at the Don Cesar Hotel. Aka the Pink Palace. First I was drawn to the pink everything. A girls dream come true. Second, the history of the Don is fascinating. It was built in 1928 and served as a hotel until 1942, when the US Army bought it to use as a hospital. The owner who built it died in the front lobby and apparently he has been known to still roam the halls. We looked for his spirit, didn’t see it. It went into disrepair for awhile and was later purchased by another owner who renovated the entire hotel.
I’m not a fancy person by any means whatsoever, but I couldn’t resist this hotel for the pink and the history. I love unique places and this just fit it all. Just driving up to the hotel is fancy. There are bellhops always holding the door for you. Chandeliers lining the ceilings. It’s beautiful. The first time we tried using the elevator, we couldn’t figure it out so we used the stairs our entire stay. We were on the fourth floor so that was our workout to make up for the seafood and desserts!
Oh and almost everybody there is fancy. The women all wearing dresses and heels, hair done, the men in suits or whatever fancy men wear. I was the only person in that entire hotel wearing Levi’s cut off shorts and my hair a mess from saltwater swimming. It’s that kind of place.
Our room was quaint and adorable. Small, but so cozy! We had a pretty view of the quieter side of St. Pete Beach and the ocean. I actually got up early every day to just enjoy looking out the window.
The grounds were pink and beautiful. There was this hand painted dolphin statue that I loved. Everytime I walked by it I felt the urge to take a picture. The coloring changed with the lighting so it often took on a different shade of pink and colors.
They have free bike rentals included with the resort fee, which you have to pay separate from the hotel stay. You also have to pay to park in their parking lot. $24 a day. That’s on top of their daily resort fee, so keep that in mind if you plan to stay here! You’ll have a bill. The only activity we engaged in was the bike rentals. It was so fun to cruise down to Pass- a- Grille beach! Highly recommend. I honestly hadn’t ridden a bike in years, but I still had it. I did however crash a family’s beach duffel bag on the boardwalk and that was slightly embarrassing.
You know I’m all about my coffee. It’s the highlight of every single trip I take. There are two here that are phenomenal. Just over the bridge from the Don Cesar is Addicted to the Bean. This was our first trip going there and I love it! The guy working remembered me the second time in. I ordered my husbands americano, then started my drink. He’s like “same thing as yesterday?” Yes! I love when that happens. Delish coffee, good service. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos there.
Second coffee shop is a little French cafe called Cafe Soleil. Tucked in the corner by the Publix Market, it’s the cutest place and amaaaazing. We had breakfast with our coffee one morning and even though I got just a breakfast croissant, it was the best I ever had! You must visit.
If you’re feeling like an adventure close by, head to Fort DeSoto. It’s only about a ten minute drive from the Don Cesar. It’s got old fort ruins you can explore, beautiful coastline, and it’s quiet. Our last trip we went down the dock where the locals fish, and one of them told us to come watch the dolphins. He said there were plenty of fish and the dolphins would come in trying to catch them! It was so cool! There’s also a variety of bird species that fly around the dock and hang out next to the men fishing. Really fun to watch.
We didn’t do it this year, but on our last trip, we took a dolphin watching cruise in John’s Pass. They’d come right up to the boat and they’re adorable. 🐬
After trying a few different ice cream shops, Larry’s Ice cream is the top winner. We went there three out of five of our evenings. The first two nights were spent trying other places. I tried their birthday cake ice cream, because I’m obsessed with bday cake stuff and it was definitely the best I’ve had. I tried something called death by chocolate. Heaven. It was a huge slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting layered, served with vanilla ice cream and fudge. When I was face timing the kids that night and told them what I ate, my eldest was like “what? You don’t eat that kind of stuff!” 🤣 on vacations, I certainly will. Get it. Then our last night I simply got birthday cake again because it was that good. Oh we also got their mini donuts one day. They have tons of flavors and make them after you order them. It’s actually embarrassing the amount of sweets eaten in five days. I’ve been detoxing with smoothies and oatmeal since I’ve been back.
Besides Crabby Bills, Boardwalk Grill in John’s Pass was our other favorite. Super small place right on the boardwalk, with a view of John’s Pass. Which is named after a hurricane that created a Pass and the first explorer to cross it was named John. Fascinating story. 😂 Here, their fish tacos were my go to. Out of this world. And I don’t even want to say this, but they have fried Oreos. I’ll leave it at that.
We go to John’s Pass basically every day. It’s a fun boardwalk area with water activity rentals, the dolphin cruises, cute little shops. My husband likes the cigar shop where you can watch them roll cigars. They also have good coffee too! We’d get coffee and sit outside enjoying the air while he smoked a cigar.
If you’re into alligators and sea life, there’s an alligator exhibit at John’s Pass. I love it! It’s so fun to see baby alligators where they’re safely away from you and won’t eat you. They also have turtles and other marine species. You can even pay to hold an alligator if you’re wanting a fun photo. They have its mouth taped shut so it won’t get you. I really debated it on this trip, but didn’t end up doing it.
Then of course there’s the ocean and the sunset. Every evening is spent down there. You have to head down at about 645 to catch the full thing! And it’s not something you want to miss. There’s nothing prettier.
Also regarding the ocean, swimming. We swam every day on this trip which was a big jump from last trip. My husband had a shark scare on our first trip, which was a dolphin. Quite far away. 🤣 The water was amazingly warm this year and so fun to swim without having to worry about watching kids. I really dislike oceans with kids. I have had nightmares about that.
I can’t give any advise on avoiding sunburn. I think it’s inevitable. It was warm here for a month before we left so I had already managed to have a tan going. Regardless, with that and sunscreen on, I burnt. And I don’t burn easy! So it’s hopeless. We bought a bottle of aloe and used the whole thing within three days. Expect a burn.
Our last morning there, I got up at 530 Minnesota time to go see the sunrise and take a few photos. It was so quiet out and I walked down to the marina and just enjoyed the gorgeous sky and reflections. I love mornings. They are so tranquil and peaceful and the best time to get pretty colored photos. After my morning adventure, we went to get breakfast at a local restaurant called Skidders. I recommend Skidders or the Frog Pond for breakfast! Both are good! We then did one last stroll down the beach in Pass-a-grille, ate at the Boardwalk grill, stopped at the cigar shop, and headed to the airport.
I think that’s it! If you’re like me and like to relax, enjoy coffee shops, sunsets, alligator viewing, seafood, and desserts, St. Pete is where it’s at!
Hope you enjoyed!