No need to leave the country to get the Caribbean beach experience! Discover Caribbean waters, blue lagoons and seafood dinners with a view in St. Petersburg Florida. Take an excursion to a glorious state park, see dolphins frolic in the water and enjoy a relaxed, low-key getaway – without busting out your passport.
How to Get the Caribbean Beach Experience, in St. Petersburg Florida
When I think of Florida, I think of visiting my mom, or hitting the Orlando theme parks. But after this last Florida trip, now I think of Caribbean waters and white sand! I had no idea that St. Petersburg, on Florida’s West Coast, looks and feels like the Caribbean – for less money, and no passport needed. Combine that with an urban downtown that offers great restaurants, high rise apartments, and a mix of funky retail shops and upscale boutiques and you have the makings of a memorable family vacation. The Tradewinds Island Resort is great for a family vacation or girlfriend getaway, at prices that won’t break the bank.
Family Things to do in St. Pete
St. Pete, about an hour and 45 minutes from Orlando (without traffic – I hit a bad stretch and it took me three hours and 45 minutes from Tampa) has a small downtown that is fun to walk around. It feels very urban, with local shops and a few chains like Starbucks. There is ample parking and lots of restaurants to choose from.
If you like kayaking, biking or running, head to Fort de Soto State Park, about 10 minutes away. The water here is gorgeous, with a picturesque emerald green water lagoon, white sand beach and plenty of parking. We kayaked through Mullet Key Bayou and photographed dolphins, osprey and their nests. This was my favorite place in St. Pete and I wished I could have stayed longer to rent bikes and explore more. There are kid’s bikes, surreys, tandems and miles of flat road to ride.
Fishing is a must in St. Petersburg but book early because the excursions fill up quickly. We could not find an open time slot so we opted for a dolphin tour in Madiera Beach, about 20 minutes away. Almost as soon as we left dock we saw several dolphins. While I enjoyed the trip, my teens might have tuned out after the first dolphin sighting. Younger kids, however, would love the sights and sounds.
Where to eat
Downtown has several seafood restaurants where you can get local fish and enjoy the spectacular views. TradeWinds Islands Resort has quite a number of dining options, including a new restaurant, RumFish Grill,where you can swim with the fish in the giant aquarium, or watch others take the plunge. My omelet was terrific and best of all, the manager kindly accommodated my request for a healthy smoothie, using fresh fruits and vegetables (not a mix).
For a view of the intercoastal and a funky chic Mediterranean vibe, check out Hotel Zamora. I had a delicious and healthy lunch there and would definitely go back for dinner. My favorite place, though, was Locale Market in Sundial Plaza- and Chef Michael Nina and partner Chef Don Pinta Bona make the whole place just cool. Long farm tables that complement the farm-to-table daily menu, various food stations with different options, great wines and an outdoor patio. Next time I want to try the Farmtable Experience, a private dining experience for up to 10 people and Chef.
Chasing gorgeous sunsets became a hobby on my visit. We ate crab legs with beer on the upstairs deck overlooking the ocean at Crabby Bills and caught a post-rain sunset while enjoying grouper at The Hurricane on Pass-a-Grille Grille. The seafood was good at both restaurants but the views make the meal.
Stay: Tradewinds Resorts in St. Petersburg
Island Grand Waterfront Resort is steps from the beach and includes most on-site activities with a GoPass wristband- $35 per person per day and includes access to amenities like mini-golf, paddleboards, unlimited turns on the High Tide Slide (a 3-story water slide on the beach), Triple Wipeout- a surf simulator, beach towels and beach games like corn-hole tournaments, fishing lessons, campfire s’mores, yogafit and a dive-in movie. An on-site company rents stand up paddleboards, skim boards and other water equipment.
The KONK (aka Kids Only, No Kidding!) Activities Center is for kids 12 and under and available at an hourly rate. Splash Island Waterpark, Tradewinds’ floating playground, costs an additional $15 an hour. I was told the additional fee was for crowd control, but I am not a fan of additional fees. Charge me up front so I don’t have to think about budgets when I travel with 3 kids.
The Island Grand is the main part of the resort, where I stayed. Next door is the Guy Harvey Outpost, a smaller, more upscale sister property and its restaurant, Rumfish Grille where you and/or your kids can swim in the aquarium while diners watch. Amenities and activities are shared between the properties.
The pool was super clean. Between the two resorts there are actually seven to choose from, including one for adults only at both Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost.
There are two fitness centers and a spa. On Friday, Saturday and Sundays mornings, you can take a free outdoor yoga class. There are also two tennis courts and you don’t have to bring rackets; it’s free to use theirs.
Pet World (my name for the area) is a real bonus for people who travel with their pets. It is a fenced in area where dogs could play that included dog treats and toys. There are ground level patio suites nearby where you can sit and watch the play area while your dog tires himself out. It was a cute, thoughtful touch.
The spacious accommodations are great for families. Hallways and doors are a favorite of mine for family friendly suites. My room had both plus a full-size kitchen, living room with pull-out, queen-sized, and separate bedroom. There was enough room to move about so families can get out of each other’s way when they need to. My teen son would have loved having the living room to himself to spread out. There was a flat screen TV, a balcony, and open breezeways to the rooms.
What Works for Families
- Variety of free activities for kids
- Lots of room in both the guest rooms and the resort
- Full size kitchen
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- You may have to shell out extra bucks for the water playground and bungee trampoline if your kids are so inclined or for some of the KONK activities
- If there is a convention, the common areas will be very crowded (there were two conventions when I stayed there)
Note: I was a guest of St. Pete’s and Tradewinds Island Resort. Opinions and fading tan are all my own.