Captivating, Coastal Retreat

Plan a trip to sunny St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida and indulge in these bay-to-beach pleasures.

Photo courtesy of visitstpeteclearwater.com

A St. Pete beach getaway involves sipping sweet drinks and snoozing on the sand—the perfect fit for Coloradans seeking their ocean fix. It’s no secret this Florida Gulf coastal oasis offers culture and recreation, great views, and a friendly, artsy vibe.

Like Denver, its revitalized downtown overflows with street murals, fine art, craft brewpubs, museums, and superb sidewalk dining. But instead of mountains, you get bayside attractions and a serene coastline which earned St. Pete Beach TripAdvisor’s 2021 Best U.S. Beach ranking.

Every day feels like a holiday, whether you’re playing on the sand at the Don CeSar’s pink beach palace, or toasting bay sunsets at the new St. Pete Pier. It’s all a low-cost, nonstop flight away. Here, creatives don’t need day jobs. “Saint Paint” Derek Donnelly and aerial-net artist Janet Echelman were tapped to create artworks for the new Pier and visitors become honorary locals: Parkshore Grill, an award-winning bayside bistro, serves Elysabeth Vineyards wines produced by longtime guests from New York.

Photo courtesy of visitstpeteclearwater.com

What To Do

• The St. Pete Pier, a 26-acre eco-entertainment district jutting into Tampa Bay offers sunrises, sunsets, and Florida-fare feasting. Rent a kayak at Spa Beach. Relax on open-air decks with bites, sips, and glittering water views.

• Bicycle, drive or trolley between the bay and beach. Hit downtown rooftop bars like Pier Teaki and beachfront dive bars like Undertow for spectacular sunsets.

• Go art-spotting. Among St. Pete’s 500 street murals: striking portraits, flying pink elephants, even a pirate ship bearing the logo of the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. During the annual November SHINE festival, regional and international artists add fresh murals around town.

• Surreal art fills the bayside Dali Museum and its sculpture garden. In addition to Dali masterworks are special exhibits such as multimedia blockbuster Van Gogh Alive, on view through June 13.

• The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art is a must-see. Get glass-blown away at the sparkling, sprawling Imagine Museum. The Morean Arts Center and its Glass Studio and Chihuly Collection make eye-popping stops.

• Swim, paddle, jog, and sunbathe on St. Pete’s serene sugar-sand Gulf coastline. Along the bayfront, bike the 12-mile North Bay Trail. Stop at Coffee Pot Bayou to watch for manatees, or work out all day, bicycling between beach towns on the 50-mile Pinellas Trail, among the nation’s top railtrails.

Stroll Sunken Gardens, a century-old oasis teeming with tropical plants, flamingos, parrots, koi ponds and waterfalls.

Yummy curried mussels at Sea Salt. Photo courtesy of Sea Salt

Where To Eat

Sea Salt’s elevated dining room and deck is perfect for enjoying exquisitely prepared fish and oysters, plus an impressive wine list, salt list, cocktails, and happy hour fish taco specials. Don’t skip the salted-caramel chocolate mousse. Parkshore Grill doubled its bayside sidewalk seating due to fan demand; indulge in jalapeno margaritas and seasonal dishes.

• On new St. Pete Pier, dine at sunset at Pier Teaki’s highup deck and Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille’s private beach.

• In the booming Warehouse Arts District edging the Pinellas Trail, the Urban Stillhouse has become a brunch and dinner hit since opening last August. Go for Horse Soldier bourbon flights, smoked old-fashioneds, 445 brands of whiskeys, the yellowfin-avocado appetizer and live music. Nearby, Wild Child couples vegan gourmet with mezcal cocktails.

• By the Gulf, celebrate with fine wine, salads and mains in Maritana’s elegantly redesigned dining room.

• As a craft beer mecca, St. Pete’s lively settings include Cage Brewing’s mad-cap cat murals and Green Bench’s garden, where you’ll play lawn games while sipping brews infused with local coffee and honey. Download the Craft Brew Trail Passport.

The Don CeSar. Photo courtesy of visitstpeteclearwater.com

Where To Stay

• Since opening on the beachfront in 1928, the Don CeSar has hosted guests famous and notorious, and earned honors including a 2020 Conde Nast Readers’ Choice award. This year’s renovations make the family-friendly Mediterranean- style pink palace even more stylish. Newcomers include the swanky Lobby Bar, Beacon Pool Bar & Lookout, and Society Table (key lime cocktail sauce!). At night, lounge at the Don’s firepits by the palm trees. Excellence defines the Don: two oceanfront heated pools, pro spa and free morning use of paddleboards and kayaks. Walking around the enchanting resort is a vacay in itself.

• Another grand pink palace rises on bayside. Opened in 1925 The Vinoy was restored in the 1990s and recently brightened with a $50 million renovation.