It’s become a tradition for my family to travel to St. Petersburg, Florida once a year for some beach and family time. My nana and papa started this tradition, and it has since extended to my parents, my brothers, my nieces and I. We usually spend some time at the beach, at restaurants and browsing the art scene. There’s a bunch of wall art scattered around the city, and some really retro coffee shops too. The main attraction though is of course the beaches. Here are some of the beaches I recommend when visiting St. Petersburg.
Shell Key Preserve
Shell Key Preserve is a well kept secret in St. Petersburg. We took a private boat tour that a woman in our hotel recommended we use. It’s always great to get a recommendation from a local who knows a guy, rather than trying to scope it out yourself. The boat ride took us to a remote, shell – filled island. Every shell shape and size you can imagine. My dad, mom, brother and I all walked around the preserve and picked up a dozen shells a piece, at least. I ended up leaving the shells on the beach because I thought it was so beautiful and well preserved. I wanted it to stay that way. I recommend doing the sunset cruise so that you can experience the golden hour of the sun going down. We got to enjoy a full sunset before hopping back on the boat to head back to our original location.
St. Pete’s Beach
Of course, if you go to St. Petersburg, Florida, you must check out St. Pete’s beach. It is on the Gulf of Mexico side. The waves start out smaller in the morning and pick up in the afternoon. St. Pete’s beach is lined with hotel options straight onto the water.
The biggest, and most popular option for a hotel stay is the Don CeSar, or ‘The Pink Palace’ as many refer to it. Not only is this hotel very large, and very pink, but it’s also greatly historical. It once served as a facility for soldiers straight off the battlefield. There are photos of the soldiers playing volleyball, eating a meal, or relaxing and unwinding with their friends. We read about this history on some of the plaques inside the palace just near the ice cream shop on the lower level. If you need a mid-day drink, as beach go-ers typically do, stop inside the restaurant bar of the Don CeSar. You get a real glass to drink out of rather than a flimsy plastic one you usually get when going to a beach bar. You also have the option to take your fancy drink outside and look out onto the water while others wonder where you got that not plastic glass from. To have a martini in the middle of the day in one of those really thin and lovely martini glasses is enough to make any beach day feel like a luxury day at the spa.
While the Don CeSar is a popular hotel option, my family and I like to visit the Pink Palace for dinner and drinks, and then stay at one of the many motel options that line the water. There are different spectrums in terms of amenities and space. However, most of the motels have exactly what you need. Because on a beach vacation, well, you’re usually at the beach and not in your hotel room.
If you do happen to need a break from all the sunbathing, here are a couple of recommendations of where to stop in downtown St. Pete’s. The Morean Art Center. It’s a great spot to check out some artwork if you are in St. Petersburg. It’s got the The Chihuly Collection that is sure to wow anyone visiting, and my brother also has a piece displaying in the exhibit.
Another great option for walking around the St. Petersburg downtown area is to do a little coffee shop tour. Bandit Coffee Co, has wonderful fried chicken sandwiches and of course, coffee.