We arrived into Florida on the sunniest of afternoons (like one of those afternoons that was hot – even for Floridians), which instantly put a smile on my face.
It had just been grey in London and the weather was having one of those transitional “not-cold-enough-for-coats but also not-warm-enough-to-go-out-without-one” kinda limbo moments (which happens over that brief period just as winter slowly transitions to spring) and I’d had quite enough of it. 😀 I was ready for Florida’s sunshine.
We actually flew in directly from London into Tampa but our destination on this trip was to find ourselves what is officially one of the best beaches in the US (for many years running now) – St Pete and Clearwater.
The plan was to start things off in Clearwater beach – especially so seeing as Clearwater has topped the rankings for best US beach for a while now.
The place we would call ‘home’ in Clearwater over the next couple of days was a cute little spot called the Hotel Cabana Clearwater Beach. Now, I’ve got to admit, it’s a tad different from what we were used to (especially in Florida) but at the same time, it was kinda the perfect for the location too.
Hotel Cabana is a unique blend of boutique hotel / retro-motel and it’s actually really cool. Not to mention, it’s all of a 1-minute walk from the beach!
Seeing as the sun was about to set, we wasted no time in putting our stuff away and head down to the beach just in time to catch that daily show, before heading out for drinks and dinner. (All I wanted at this point was tacos and margaritas).
That sunset, by the way, was just incredible!
It was just the nicest ‘welcome’ to Clearwater…
…so much so that it took me a moment to stop and notice how fine (and white) the sand on the beach is!
It’s the longest stretch of fine sandy beach and is just the perfect place to watch the sky transition through a series of pretty beautiful hues as the sun dipped beneath the horizon.
Sunsets might be beautiful but my tummy was having none of it after a while as it screamed for those tacos and margaritas and with that, we decided to oblige it and go find ourselves something to eat.
The lady at the hotel recommended going to Frenchys but as we arrived at prime happy hour/sunset viewing time, the wait time here was fairly long and so, with a note to return to Frenchys the next day, we decided to deal with our hunger at Palm Pavillion (which has a ‘slightly’ shorter queue).
I wasn’t kidding about those margaritas and tacos either!
We also decided to throw cheesy fries, coconut shrimp and buffalo wings into the mix (I’ve got a thing for buffalo wings – had them for the first time after a night out in Vegas once and now HAVE to have them every time we’re in the US).
Suffice to say, by the time we were done with dinner, tummies full of delicious food, it was almost a challenge to walk back to the hotel (I’d clearly over-eaten and felt no regret about it).
The morning, jet-lag getting us up bright and early (and long sleep session leaving me rather well-rested), we decided to head over to Clear Sky café (which I vaguely remember someone recommending but only decided to go to as we found ourselves right next to it on the way out of town).
I went for the breakfast quesadillas…
…while Lloyd went for the huevos rancheros – both of which hit the spot perfectly!
Leaving Clearwater, we headed over to a spot that’s known for being one of the more wild and natural but also beautiful spots in Florida – Caladesi Island.
To get to Caladesi Island, you actually drive to Honeymoon island (which is worth exploring itself) and hop aboard a boat to Caladesi island.
This part of Florida is also well known for its Pelicans – they’re everywhere and I just find them strangely entertaining to watch.
For starters, they look almost pre-historic (almost like they’re related to Pterodactyls). Then there’s how clumsy they are when they land on water. It looks more like a drunken-dive than a calculated attempt to get into the water.
As we got onto the boat, the captain told us that if we were lucky, we might get to see some dolphin and I thought nothing of it until a few minutes later, there they were – dolphins!
It’s safe to say it might have taken us slightly longer than necessary to get to Caladesi Island than it should have as dolphin after dolphin popped up on different sides of the boat, almost like a welcome procession to Caladesi island.
Sidebar: I wasn’t expecting any so I had to fumble to get my camera and swap lenses to even get these photos as we were leaving.
Eventually, we arrived at Caladesi Island and wasted no time in heading out to explore. We only had a limited amount of time here though, in retrospect, I’d recommend leaving a few hours to explore here.
There’s a nature hike to go on (which we did part of), there’s a gorgeous beach here and it’s just such a great opportunity to get lost in nature here. (The island is only so big so you can’t really get lost here but you know what I mean).
We hadn’t planned on spending more than a couple of hours here so decided to head out on the nature walk first, before heading towards the beach. (It’s easier to head back to the dock, to catch the boat, from the beach).
That beautiful fine sand you find on the beaches here is all over the island and it’s absolutely gorgeous! It just reminded me of afternoons spent cycling on islands the Maldives, surrounded by nothing but beautiful green plants.
Eventually, we made our way over to the beach, with just barely enough time to take it in (we’d ended up spending more time on the hike than initially planned) before hopping back on the boat.
Back at the dock on Honeymoon island, those pelicans were still at it except this time, they were joined by an Osprey (which is probably the first time I’ve actually seen an Osprey up close).
Can you see yet what I mean about how pre-historic these pelicans look?
Anyway, enough about pelicans! We were positively ravenous by this point and had nothing else on our mind but lunch!
For lunch, we headed over to the Olde Bay Café in Dunedin (which is pretty close to Honeymoon Island – in fact, it’s kinda on your way out of the island).
The food here is nice, light and thoroughly welcome. Lloyd went for the wraps and made the classic mistake of ordering chips instead of fries.
Chips do not mean the same thing in the UK as they do in the US and despite knowing this for ages, years of ordering chips in the UK are hard to forget as you sub-consciously order the same thing in the US just to remember that what you’ve actually ordered are what we’d call crisps.
I went for the grilled grouper (a local favourite) and coleslaw.
By the way, have you seen how huge grouper can get? Google it now! (Just search for ‘large grouper’)
Given my relatively healthy lunch choice, I decided I deserved dessert (I always find a way to convince myself that I deserve dessert) and went for Key Lime pie to satisfy my sugar craving. *licks lips*
We decided to check out Dunedin after lunch on a leisurely walk through the town, in part to walk off lunch but mostly to check out Dunedin.
Dunedin is actually quite cool and a fun spot to while away the afternoon (though one of the locals we ended up randomly striking up a conversation with said we had to come back at night as that’s when the main street truly comes alive).
Our walk through the town soon led to a craft beer Brewery – the Dunedin Brewery. Turns out this place is the oldest brewery in all of Florida and a bit of a historical piece worth checking out.
I want to tell you I tried to indulge in the history but I’d be lying, I was in it to try out the craft beers. Lloyd couldn’t have a drink as he was driving so I was chief beer tester (a role I took quite a shine to).
From left to right we have ourselves – the Flash Light, the Red Head, the Apricot Peach and the American Classic.
I was so convinced that the Apricot Peach would be my favourite (all of what it is is what I love) but no, the Flash Light and the American Classic are the true heroes of this bunch!
After a little while here sampling beers, we decided it was time to head back to Clearwater beach – just in time for sunset!
This time it was a tad cloudier but no less pretty as the beach at sunset is just such a brilliant place to be!
It’s also every bit as scorching hot as the day before so it’s just brilliant.
This evening though, we came well prepared and made our way over to Frenchys for dinner before the rush of the day.
Although the queue was considerably much shorter, we still had to wait to get a table (which I don’t begrudge – you don’t really wanna eat in a place no one else wants to, there’s usually a reason for that).
Thankfully, like I said, the wait was much shorter – I can’t remember exactly how long it was (10 minutes maybe? The live band had just started playing some hit and I was too into those songs by this point to care too much).
Dinner took a similar theme to the day before – frozen margaritas to start, swiftly followed by coconut shrimp and chicken bites (#noregrets – I like what I like 😄).
We then went for the grilled grouper, coleslaw and fries (not chips! Lesson learnt by this point).
To finish things off, we got ourselves a peanut butter, chocolate pie. (Not the official name but when you look at the menu, you’ll know exactly what I mean).
Going to Frenchys turned out to be just the perfect way to finish off the evening and indeed, our final night in Clearwater.