Recently Viewed 9
Favorites 0

Splashy Ventures 2020 Guide to Pinellas Beaches

South Beaches

Fort DeSoto (& Egmont Key)

Shell Key

Pass-A-Grille Beach

St. Pete Beach

Treasure Island

Middle Beaches

Madeira Beach

The Redingtons

Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores

North Beaches

Sand Key Park

Clearwater Beach

Caladesi Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Pass-A-Grille

Anyone who has a special place in their heart for lapping tides and warm sand knows that every beach is unique. If once you’ve seen one, you’ve certainly not seen them all.

There’s coarse sand and sugar sand—pink, or white, or yellow, or even black. Shell-covered or soft and smooth. Bathtub-warm waters or chilly currents. Lake-like bathing or roaring, toss-you-around tides (and in some cases, dangerous undertows).

But no matter the type of sun and surf experience you prefer, Florida has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches to choose from. And Pinellas beaches often rank high on the lists of top beaches. 

Looking for solitude? Check.

Looking for an active boardwalk with fun activities? Check.

Looking for a spot to stroll with your pup? Check.

Looking for a place to go with a wheelchair? Walker? Stroller? Check, check, and check.

Looking for a natural ecosystem teeming with marine inhabitants? Check

Soft Sand!

If you’re just in town for a short stay and don’t have any particular requirements other than sand and surf, then the best beach for you will probably be the one you can get to fastest and easiest.

In that case, the beaches nearest to our rentals in the St. Petersburg area could be Pass-A-Grille, St. Pete, and Treasure Island beaches.

But for those with the time (and sense of adventure) to explore, here’s our comprehensive guide of all our favorites in Pinellas County, starting at the southern end and moving north.

So pack your shades and sunscreen, and prepare for a trip to the Pinellas beaches!

Fort DeSoto North Beach

Fort DeSoto Park

Fort DeSoto really is America’s beach park—its long list of awards is proof. In addition to gracing Dr. Beach’s Top 10, it’s also been deemed Dr. Beach’s Best Family Beach and TripAdvisor’s Top Beach (more than once), just to name a few.

It’s a true choose-your-own-adventure destination with almost three miles of white sand beach, more than seven miles of waterfront, and endless options of how to soak up the sun. Visit to fish, bike, picnic, tour a historic fort, enjoy solitude, take your dog swimming, canoe, hike, launch a boat, or camp.

If solitude is what you seek, we can’t recommend pristine North Beach highly enough, where a 5-10 minutes walk from the parking lot will get you away from almost everybody.

Paws Playground is a popular area for dog parents. It’s also one of two county parks where your dog can go off-leash for a splash in the tide.

And if you want to venture out even further, catch the ferry to Egmont Key for a day of shelling and snorkeling, or to witness historic sights like the Egmont Lighthouse and Fort Dade ruins up close.

Shell Key Reserve

Shell Key

If you’re willing to rough it in exchange for a first row seat to untouched nature, then Shell Key is for you.

This undeveloped, 1800-acre barrier island is accessible by boat only. While there’s no shade or restrooms, there is an abundance of sensitive marine inhabitants that you’re unlikely to see on more popular beaches.

The Shell Key Shuttle departs on a daily schedule from Merry Pier in Pass-A-Grille. It’s just a quick 10-minute trip from the pier to Shell Key.

Pass-A-Grille Beach

Pass-A-Grille Beach

Looking for a quiet beach with nearby culture to enjoy once you’ve shaken off the sand? Pass-A-Grille is a small, historic coastal town at the southern tip of the Gulf Coast where quaint houses and beloved shops and restaurants line the streets. Stop into art galleries, grab a bite at an array of casual and fine dining spots, cast a line off the fishing pier, and watch surf lap the jetty.

For a quieter day on the sand, head to the northern end where the beach is wider and less inhabited. If you’d rather work on your tan between sampling local dishes and window-shopping, the southern side is for you. The beach here narrows as it approaches the jetty—and tends to be more populated.

Most of the dune walkovers have rinse-off stations at the end to clean off your toes and gear before loading back up in your car. Paradise Grill at 8th Ave has full bathrooms, along with outdoor showers for rinsing off. Stick around and you could be selected as the lucky volunteer-of-the-day who gets the honor of ringing the Paradise Grill bell as the sunset slips into the sea.

The beach offers ample parking on the land side of the dunes along Gulf Way from 22nd Ave to Land’s End. Parking rates are reasonable and can be paid via credit card at conveniently located machines. Parking is pay to park from 8 am to 8 pm. Learn more about the town of Pass-A-Grille here, or read more about its serene beach.

St Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach

“St. Pete Beach” refers to both a town and a series of beaches. This stretch of coastline ranges in personality: you’ll find both small mom-and-pop hotels as well as larger resorts here.

One thing’s for sure: you won’t be bored during your visit. Whether it’s stopping at a local shell shop, enjoying a fresh seafood dinner followed by colorful ice treats, or finding artisan goods at the ArtWalk, there’s an abundance of ways to spend the day.

The historic Don Cesar marks the southern tip of St. Pete Beach and the northern edge of Pass-A-Grille. Known as the “Pink Palace,” this luxurious grande dame of Florida hotels dominates the beach skyline. Don Cesar boasts an indulgent Sunday brunch that should be experienced at least once in your lifetime. (We recommend saving your appetite and your cash in preparation: the buffet is expensive and the options endless.)

Parking in St. Pete Beach is reasonable and available at a variety of points near the beach. You can pay via a credit card at conveniently located pay machines. Upham Beach at 6850 Beach Plaza offers quick access, and because there aren’t as many resorts, it’s slightly less crowded than some of the more mainstream St Pete Beach beaches. If a giant slide is up your alley, park near the Tradewinds Resort at 5500 Gulf Blvd.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Treasure Island beaches are a definite fan favorite among of our guests. Like many Pinellas beaches, Treasure Island has a lot of personality, and it can vary block by block. Rather than one beach, it’s really more like three sub-beaches: Sunshine Beach to the north, Municipal Beach or Treasure Island Beach in the center, and Sunset Beach to the south. 

There’s so much to love about Treasure Island, we couldn’t fit it in a short description (though we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a shout-out to the Sunday evening beach drum circle). For a more detailed tour of this unique stretch of the Gulf Coast, read our guide to Treasure Island beaches.

Parking is reasonable (with the exception of Sunset Beach which charges for parking 24/7).  Parking can be paid at most pay-to-park stations with a credit card or via the ParkMobile app. On the Sunshine Beach end, some street parking is free and non-permitted, but be careful not to block anyone’s driveway. (Just be neighborly and pay attention to the signs, and it should be smooth sailing.)

Stand Up Paddleboarding at Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, also called Mad Beach, is where you go when you’re looking for action. Not that kind of action—we’re talking about activities outdoors here. Rent a wave runner. Catch a sail on a pirate ship. Find a fishing charter, rent a paddle board or take a dolphin watch cruise. The choice is yours.

Mad Beach is also home to Johns Pass Boardwalk, where you can find just about any Florida souvenir you’ve been searching for. Bring an appetite for fresh seafood along the waterfront—be sure to stop at Scully’s, our personal favorite, or at the one-of-a-kind Waltz’s Fish Shack.

And it wouldn’t be a trip to Mad Beach without battling resident seabirds for the rights to your ice cream cone. (Here’s a tip: their offense has more practice than your defense.  We’re betting on the bird. Don’t get distracted from your prize.)

The Best Place to Spend Sunset

The Redingtons

Further north still you’ll come to the three communities referred to collectively as The Redingtons: Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Redington Beach. This spot is just about the center of our tour of the Pinellas County beaches.

The Redingtons is one of the most laid-back beach areas in the county. The main attraction here is a 1,000-foot long fishing pier where anglers will spend hours reeling in tarpon and snook (rental equipment is available).

You can learn about Mr. Redington himself and how the Redington strip ultimately became three towns here.

The Beautiful Gulf of Mexico

Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores

Further north—but still just 10 miles away from Treasure Island and 17 miles from Gulfport—is Indian Rocks Beach.

This three mile stretch of beach boasts a whopping 27 access points, which means you’re just a few minutes from dipping your toes in the tide no matter where you are.

Indian Shores is home to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, where sick and injured birds are rehabilitated for release back into the wild. Open seven days a week, this inspirational spot is well-worth a visit if you have the time.

Free street parking is available in Indian Rocks Beach (if you’re lucky enough to find it). We recommend leaving the hot car behind and seeing the sights from the Suncoast Beach Trolley.

Want to get a better sense of these small towns? Check out a great piece on Indian Rocks here.

Sand Key

Sand Key Park

Visiting Sand Key Park feels a little bit like being let it on a secret. It’s hard to believe this small, quiet park is so close to the hustle and bustle of Clearwater Beach.

Popular for beachcombers and wildlife enthusiasts alike, Sand Key Park includes a nesting site for endangered sea turtles. Its salt marsh is unusual for the area and makes it home to a thriving bird population including herons and anhinga.

The beach portion of this park has beach cabanas, a large bathhouse, a playground and a dog park. Rent bikes or kayaks to tour the park by land or sea. Beach wheelchairs are also available free of charge, and parking is cheap and abundant.

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

It’s big. It’s famous. It likely needs no introduction.

There’s not much you can’t do at Clearwater Beach (except, possibly, find time alone). One of the area’s main highlights, Pier 60 is home to a 1,080-foot fishing pier, multiple pavilions, a playground, and nightly entertainment.

Our suggestion is to get to Clearwater Beach early and stay there—it can be crowded and tough to navigate during prime traffic time in peak season. But with so much to do—from tropical party buffet cruises to helicopter tours—you won’t have any difficulty making a full day of your visit.

Caladesi Island

Caladesi island

If Old Florida charm is up your alley, make time to visit Caladesi Island.

While Gulfport and St. Pete Beach offer a tase of the Old Florida experience, large swaths of Caladesi look like the Sunshine State when it was just trade winds, sand, the sea, and wildlife.

The island is accessible only by private boat or ferry from Honeymoon Island, so you’ll need to bring most of whatever you need with you (on shore is only a small marina and a single food concession). Even on a warm day, it’s easy to cool off during the boat ride over. But there’s little shade on the island itself, so bring sufficient clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and water.

Once you’re arrived, launch out on a canoe, learn more about wildlife at the interpretive center, bring the kids to play at the playground, or unpack a picnic at the pavilion. Showers and beach wheelchairs are also available.

While pets are allowed on Caladesi Island, they’re not allowed on the beach or the ferry, so the only way Fido can join is if you bring him over on a private boat.

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island

Like Caladesi, Honeymoon Island offers an away-from-it-all experience, but with no boat or ferry trip required.

True to its name, Honeymoon Island State Park really was a place for honeymooners back in the day.  Another fun fact: only 385 acres of this park are visible, while another 2400 acres of this park are submerged beneath gulf waters.

Swimming, fishing, shelling, hiking, and bicycling are all popular activities at this low-key beach destination. There’s also a three-mile trail through virgin slash pine forest—you’ll be hard-pressed to find as lush a hike on any other beach.

Sunset Pass-A-Grille Beach

Beach Info

Start here for the perfect Pinellas County Florida beach!

35 miles of white sand beaches.
361 average number of sunny days here each year
2 award-winning beaches (one of them twice!)

With statistics like that you’re bound to spend some serious time, outside on the beach.

We have divided this white sand wonderland into three sections – North, Central and South and provided descriptions and links to help you decide where to best spend your beach time. Click on the button to see our beach guide.

Enjoy!

Beach FAQ’s

Here you can get answers to your questions!

Here you can get answers to your questions!

Can I have alcohol on the beach?
Generally, no. The majority of the beaches along St Petersburg/Clearwater prohibit all alcoholic beverages, although there are some exceptions. Madeira and Redington beaches allow the consumption of alcohol, except for drinks in glass containers. Treasure Island permits it also, north of 99th Ave and south of 85th Ave. (This basically excludes the Sunset Beach area that surrounds Caddy’s. You can drink on Caddy’s beach but only if you buy the alcohol there.)
Are pets allowed on the beach?
Generally, no. Pets are banned from all public beaches in Pinellas County, but both Fort De Soto and Honeymoon Island have terrific dog beaches.
Can I have a fire on the beach?

Also generally a no. And also something that’s really likely to get you caught. Ever tried having a low-profile, smokeless fire? Exactly. If your trip won’t be complete without a bonfire or grill at the beach, you may be able to have one at Redington Beach or Indian Shores IF you get a permit. Madeira Beach provides fire service to Redington Beach, so they are the ones that have the permits. The application is available online here: http://www.townofredingtonbeach.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Bon-Fire-Permit-Application.pdf. Permits are only accepted November 1st to April 30th, and you must call again to verify weather conditions and that the permit will still be valid the day before your permit valid date. The number to call to verify is 727-391-3400. The permit allows a fire at 160th Avenue Beach Park Area. (This starts to sound like not so much fun to me. And all of our rentals except Fish Camp have their own propane grills.) I’ve read that Indian Shores allows a beach fire for cooking as long as it is a contained grill or hibachi, but I have been unable to verify this. Some resorts along St Pete Beach have bonfires, the most notable being Postcard Inn for their New Year’s Eve party on the beach. This is definitely worth a visit if you’re in town during this time.

Can I camp on the beach?
No overnight camping is permitted on any Pinellas County beach, other than at Fort DeSoto Park or the Shell Key Preserve.
Is clothing optional at the beach?

Nope. The only clothing-optional beach is near Miami and probably best saved for another trip. There are some nudist resorts in Pasco County, but that goes beyond the scope of this post.

Florida Shell Shop Treasure Island (New)

Why You Should Visit The Florida Shell Shop on Treasure Island

If you’re vacationing on Treasure Island, The Florida Shell Shop should be on your to-do list.

The Florida Shell Shop is a real treasure. Sure, you can buy “shells” at the local grocery or drugstore, or even try to harvest your own (please don’t!). But if you do that you’ll miss experiencing a nostalgic slice of Florida that is still thriving today – The Florida Shell Shop.

Read on for our tips on experiencing this tidbit of authentic Florida. 


Move slowly so you can take it all in. See the colorful carryalls mid-photo? These are for the shells you’re almost certain to want to collect.

What Can You Find at The Florida Shell Shop?

  • Shell wind chimes
  • Big shells
  • Shell wall signs
  • Small shells
  • Shell coasters
  • Shell greeting cards
  • Tiny shells
  • Shell jewelry
  • Coral
  • Real buoys
  • Fake buoys
  • Huge shells
  • Stained glass shells
  • Shell greeting cards
  • Really tiny shells
  • Shell Christmas ornaments
  • Shell identification guides
  • Shell books
  • Shell stickers
  • Shell food (Ok, not really shell food, but Florida-related sauces, candies and other treats)
  • Shell Christmas trees

They might even have a copy of The Shell Seekers lying around if you look.

Why The Florida Shell Shop Matters

The Florida Shell Shop was established in 1955.  That’s a long time ago folks.  Before I was born and I’m OLD. It’s also a family-owned business.
We are huge supporters of local businesses and family-owned enterprises, so we like to point them out just in case you are too.

April St Petersburg Area Events Splashy

April Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday ArtWalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

I’m afraid they’re going to get wet

St Anthony’s Triathlon

As I sit here nursing a foot energy, the thought if a Tri seems next to impossible.  

Perhaps you feel differently.  Or maybe you just want to show some support for those who are so ambitious.  At the very least you need to know where they’ll be and where the streets will be closed.

St Anthony Triathlon Maps

Clearwater’s Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, Clearwater

Ten days spent celebrating sand.  Activities include The Giant Sandbox (shh, don’t tell my cats), the Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit, sand sculpting classes, live music, fireworks., movies on the beach and more.

For the Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit, eleven world-class sculptors create sand sculptures according to a changing annual theme.  The Walk is housed under a 21,000 square foot tent.

https://sugarsandfestival.com

Tampa Bay Caribbean Carnival

Tampa Bay Caribbean Carnival

This year’s event will be held at the Florida State Fairgrounds on April 25th, 2020.

Now in its 15th year, this festival continues to preserve and enhance the cultural and historical legacy of Caribbean American heritage.

Events include exhibits, crafts, a street parade, a Steelpan Jamboree, top-name entertainment and vendors, a Jouvert morning experience, and high-stepping masquerade bands.  This might be the most colorful and lively festival the area has to offer and it is held in the beautiful month of April. I can’t think of a better reason to give it a go.

Green Thumb Festival

The Green Thumb Festival is St Petersburg’s annual Arbor Day celebration.

Plants, flowers and plant and flower lovers come together, along with individuals and families looking for a fund weekend activity.  

There will be more than 120 – yes one-hundred-and-twenty – plant and flower vendors and exhibitors. 

Held at Walter Fuller Park at 7891 26th Ave N on April 25th and 26th from 9 am to 4 pm

Check out the website here

Tampa Bay Blues Festival

A 3-day rite of passage for blues fans each spring.  Recipient of the Blues Foundation’s “Best U.S. Blues Festival” in 2011, this event keeps people coming back year after year.  Unfortunately. this event is not pet-friendly. 

April 3, 4, and 5, 2020

Check out the history section of the website for a list of past performers. Held in Vinoy Park, downtown St Petersburg.

http://www.tampabaybluesfest.com

Mainsail Art Festival

Also held in Vinoy Park in downtown St Petersburg. Ranked one of the Top 20 Fine Art & Design Shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine.  2019 marked the 44th year of the festival.

April 18th and 19th, 2020

15th Annual Fun in the Sun Day

Family fun for everyone!  

April 11, 2020 from 10 am -12 pm at the Gulfport Recreation Center, 5730 Shore Blvd S)

Free festivities including an egg hunt, riding in a police boat, a fire truck an ambulance and more!

Pass-A-Grille Beach

Pass-a-grille is a little haven in the middle of bustling St Pete Beach. Or more accurately, at the southernmost tip of St Pete Beach.  

As you pass The Don CeSar, Gulf Blvd gives way to Pass A Grille Way, and the road becomes a palm-lined, single-lane-each-direction road.  Little McPherson Bayou is on your left and the massive Gulf of Mexico is on your right. 

The vibe changes.  Almost instantly.  No more mid-rise or high-rise hotels or condos, only one traffic light, the traffic slows and you begin to realize that you are on the way to someplace special.

Even with the mutli-story homes that have been replacing the small bungalows in recent years, there is just a feeling of more openness.  You can see the water on the left (Little McPherson Bayou and then Pass-A-Grille channel). And you begin to sense the Gulf on your right.

Grab your favorite flotation device and insert yourself here

High surf sunset at PAG beach

If you turn right when you see the sea Critters restaurant, you’ll dead end at Gulf Way.  Turn left and head south and the Gulf will be on your right the entire way. 

There is plenty of parking and ample beach walkovers all the way to the end.  You’ll find the beach gets a little more crowded as you reach Historic Pass-A-Grille, down around 10th Ave. 

Insider Tip: Parking meters

There are only a handful of free parking spaces around, so bring a credit card to pay by the space at the machines provided.

Sand Dunes rentals sets up the yellow umbrellas early on July 4th, awaiting the throngs of sun-seekers

Sand Dunes operates lounge chair rentals, umbrellas rentals and on calm days, SUPs.  See our blog post here for more info.

The outdoor (and only) dining area at Paradise Grille

On holidays and some weekends you may find some vendors set up in the patio are at Paradise Grille

The area around 10th – 8th Ave is really the predominant shopping and restaurant area of Pass-A-Grille.

This is where you can find one of my favorites, Paradise Grille, along with The Hurricane and the Brass Monkey.  Oh and Paradise Sweets, home of coffee and ice cream. 

The water was clear and calm and the skies fair Independence Day morning

Beach and Paradise Grille as seen from the water

If you go at before sunset, The Hurricane or Paradise Grille or The Brass Monkey all offer fabulous settings for sunset viewings. 

Paradise Grille has the Nightly Ringing of the Bell every night at sunset. The grille itself closes about a half hour after this bell has rung, so plan accordingly. My meal of champions? The cheeseburger and a screwdriver.

Stand up paddleboarding is great on a calm day

Or windsurfing on a not-so-calm day

Boogie board with a human booster (sling shot method)

Insider Tip: When Nature Calls (Er, Restrooms)

Restrooms (and separate changing rooms) are available at Paradise Grille

The beach is a great place to view incoming storms

Other highlights are a dog beach (as you round the tip and head back north). Merry Pier, fishing on the Pass-A-Grille channel side. 

Historic Merry Pier has fishing trips, trips to the Shell Key Preserve via the Shell Key Shuttle, sunset cruises and more.

The beach is quite wide at the northern end, gradually narrowing as you head south.  By the time you get to the jetty at 1st Ave. the beach is at its narrowest.  Check out the satellite view on Google maps.

Sometimes, just being still in the water is all you need

The end of another great evening at the beach

Weekdays are always less crowded than the weekends, unless of course it is a holiday.  On holidays we go early – as in 9 am – and you will find the yellow umbrellas set up and waiting for the crowds. But even on holidays it isn’t too crowded to enjoy, especially at the northern end of the beach.

The beach is wide there, and the Gulf of Mexico even wider.

The way sunsets were meant to be enjoyed

Traveling to St Omer by Car

Our driving guide assumes you’ll be starting from Blenheim, Nelson or points further south. If you’re coming from Picton, everything will be the same except you won’t go through Havelock.  Your points of interest will then start at Linkwater.

The drive should take about 2 hours from Havelock if you don’t make any stops.  The best time of day is midday, especially on a day when it is sunny or partly cloudy.  The water will look an absolutely brilliant turquoise and you’ll have some excellent viewpoints along the way. 

Blue water and skies; green and gold slopes are the colors of the Marlborough Sounds

You’ll see things that the average person driving in the sounds doesn’t see, as many of them start in Picton and make it no further than Queen Charlotte drive (the first leg of the trip) or Portage.

If you have GPS and cellular data available on your phone, you can plug in our address and Google Maps will absolutely take you there. 

Points of Interest

The driving details below are more to help you if you don’t have a smart phone or data available. And to provide fun tips along the way.

Greenshell Mussels welcome you to Havelock

Havelock is the last “major” town on your way to St Omer.  Major means it has gas, a grocery store and several restaurants.  It is also home to the Havelock marina, and where a lot of boat tours and mussel boats leave from. 

This handsome (and tasty) devil looks like he knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he? Havelock is known as the Greenshell Mussel Capital. As you venture out in the Sounds, you’ll find the farms in the water and mussels on the menu.

  • Havelock Groceries – The Four Square Supermarket here is not near as large as in other towns, so it should not be your main place to stock up with provisions.What Havelock lacks in groceries, however, it makes up for in restaurants.

These little beauties are just waiting to tempt you.  Just give in already!

  • The Havelock Marina –the Slip Inn Cafe is a lovely spot to grab coffee and watch the comings and goings in the marina. On a wet or foggy day, it just hits the spot. Plus, they make a mean Flat White
  • Shiloh The Blue Shop Kaffe is a must stop for coffee, preferably a Flat White, and a pie.  Or two. Maybe three. My favorites are the Chicken & Leek, the Pork Belly & Mash and the Mexican Pulled Pork. These are combos you won’t find elsewhere.  If you’re coming through before 1:30 or 2, they should still have pies.  After 2 it starts to get iffy.  They close at 3pm. It is located in a clue building with a railing almost directly across from Havelock Takeaways

Havelock Takeaways – it is difficult to choose between the burgers and fish/chips

  • Havelock Takeaways – just across the street from Shiloh Blue, Havelock Takeaways is a real gem.  If you’ve arrived past coffee and pie time, or you just need some fish and chips, then this is your stop. Quite possibly the best chips I’ve ever had, anywhere. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Like most chips, they’re a tad on the greasy side.  And like most chips, they come wrapped in paper.  Don’t lay the paper on your lap! The Blue Cod is pricey at $10 per piece, but the pieces are deceptively large.  You won’t need as many pieces as you think.  Especially with those scrumptious chippies!

Where else can you eat with little green mussels on your roof? Do they click click click like reindeer?

The Mussel Pot in Havelock is a Kiwi institution (the good kind) serving New Zealand’s famed green lip mussels. If you just can’t get enough mussels, then this stop is for you. Plus the place is just darn cute. How often do you find mussels on the rooftop?

Those views

Point of Interest # 2 – Cullen Point Lookout

From Havelock, head out on State Highway 6, turn on Queen Charlotte Drive.  This is where you’ll find several scenic overlooks in the first few kilometers.

All the viewpoints will be on your left when you’re headed out to St Omer, making it easy to pull in. I recommend you pull in to each one.  There are maybe 4 or 5 at most, each with a slightly different view.

 If the weather is brilliant you won’t be sorry!

The message is clear.  This is your last chance for fuel.  Oh and for ice.

Point of Interest # 3 – Linkwater

Your first left turn will be in about 12 kms at Linkwater, when you turn onto Kenepuru Road. Linkwater will be your last chance to buy ice or gas.  You’ll be on Kenepuru Road for the rest of your trip. There are a couple of restaurants in Linkwater, and a place that says they rent mountain bikes for $25 per day. 

Also heed the warning on the sign about fuel.  You won’t need a lot fuel once you arrive at St Omer, but you do need some to get back! Make sure your tank is topped up.

Outdoor dining at Te Mahia Resort

Point of Interest # 4 – Te Mahia Resort

Te Mahia Bay Resort is located directly across from Nopera and St Omer, so if you look out from Te Mahia you can see the area. 

Te Mahia is a key stop on your trip, particularly if you purchased coffee at Shiloh Blue Kaffe in Havelock.  A bathroom stop should be top of mind just about now. 

The thing to beware of about Te Mahia is the road going in and out (really more like down to it and up from it) is very narrow. So you’ll need to be on your best courteous driver behavior and forgiving if you meet Mario coming the other way.  The good news is that the road is fairly short and there’s also a good chance you may not meet another car at all.

Follow the signs down this short road to restrooms and the wharf. Then come back to the shop for Bliss Balls.

You’ll see this signage as you arrive at the resort.  To the left is the resort, restaurant and gift shop.  Straight ahead is the wharf and public restrooms. 

The restrooms are not fancy but they’re clean and new.

 A short walk past the restrooms takes you to the wharf. The shuttle for Raetihi leaves from here and you can also pick up the Kenepuru Water Taxi. (with prior bookings)

Bliss balls are a must.  Guard yours carefully or buy more than one.

Te Mahia is also home to a coffee and gift shop.  Chances are you’ll find some unique gift items here, but the key takeaways are Bliss Balls and ice cream. 

Obviously, the ice cream you’ll have to eat on the spot.  And you may be full from Havelock.  But Bliss Balls – those you can buy and take away.  They’re sold at the counter near the register, labeled clearly so you can’t miss them.

I find Bliss Balls all over NZ, but in the US I’ve never found them at any restaurant or store. So depending on where you’re traveling from, you may or may not have heard about them.

Portage is your next stop

Point of Interest # 5 – Portage

Portage is both a community and a hotel/resort. The setting is absolutely gorgeous and one of the key attractions is that it is just a short walk from the Queen Charlotte track.

 Recently purchased by THC Group, the resort (“The Portage”) is being redeveloped and it shows. If you’re in need of a snack, there are three options, ranging from a café & lounge bar open all day, to a fine dining restaurant open for dinner.  Hours are seasonal and the hotel is still ramping back up after the remodel, so it might be best to check ahead if you’d like to be sure of a meal.

Last bathroom stop before St Omer at Kenepuru Head

You reach the far eastern end of Kenepuru Sound and the end of the south shore at Kenepuru Head.

Pull into the camping area at the sign and you’ll find these restrooms.

Turn left here

Shortly after the Kenepuru Head campsite you’ll come to this fork in the road.

Anakoha and Titirangi Rds are to the right.  Don’t go that way.

Turn left instead.

 At this point you have 23 kms left to St Omer.

Nice low spot to pull over and stretch.  If you can pronounce Ohauparuparu Bay correctly you must be a Kiwi.

Point of Interest # 7 – Ohauparuparu Bay

Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the name of the next stop. Neither can I. 

Ohauparuparu is a camping site on one of the few flat areas you’ll come to right next to the road.  It’s a fairly sheltered spot and looks like it might be a nice spot for a swim, if you’re so inclined. No facilities.

Another helpful sign

Point of Interest # 8 – Waitaria Bay

Your last big turn (left again) is at Waitaria Bay.

You’ll see this red building (house?) on the left at your turn.  It’s hard to miss.

 From here on out you’ll start seeing mussel farms.

You can’t miss this one

Shortly after this turn you’ll see a series of mellow yellow buildings on the right. This makes up the Waitaria Bay school.  Ten area children are bussed to this school that covers grades 1-8. 

Your destination – St Omer Bay and Nopera

Where to Rent Baby Gear – Pack Less Play More – Gulfport, Treasure Island & St Petersburg

3 Simple Steps For All The Gear Your Baby Needs

We know traveling with your baby or toddler can be stressful! They crave their routines and traveling is anything but that!

Cribs, car seats, stollers, high chairs, booster seats, pack n plays, bouncers, booster seats – I could go on and on.

Even if your car would hold all these items or the airlines would let you check them all, do you really want to? 

Enter Pack Less Play More. This “easy button” business helps you order your baby equipment online, have it delivered to your vacation rental and they’ll pick it up after you leave.  Three simple steps:

  1. Choose
  2. Reserve
  3. Secure Checkout

Fun in the sun and surf

Cleaning and Sterlizing

Babies and toddlers are messy! One of the reason we refer our guests to this wonderful company is the care they take in cleaning and sterilizing their equipment after each use.  

Pack Less Play More cleans their rental items with  100% all-natural cleaning products.  You can read about how the clean cribs, strollers, car seats, toy boxes, high chairs, booster seats, and bouncers here.

The Process is Easy and Packages are Available

The process is easy – just click and reserve. Have it delivered before you arrive.  

Packages are available too, with fun names like the “Everything is Covered Package” or the “Biggest Bang Package“.

A few baby-oriented beach items are available too. Sand toys, Kidco Go-Pods. and Beach Baby Cabana & Sunshades.

March St Petersburg Area Events Splashy

March Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday ArtWalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

Spring Training

Sometimes it just doesn’t get much better than lounging about, watching professional ball players warm up for the season.
While Florida teams are a bit more spread out than in say, Phoenix, you can still catch some spring training in Tampa or Clearwater. Check out the schedule here.

IndyCar Racing Series Grand Prix of St Petersburg

The Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg will be March 13 through March 15th in 2020.

This IndyCar race has been held in St Petersburg since 2009. And a recently renewed agreement means the race will be returning to the area for the next 5 years as well.

If you’re an IndyCar fan, the significance of the season opener needs no explanation for you. If you’ve never been to Grand Prix before, St Petersburg is a great place to get your feet wet.

Check out the website here and plan your adventure now.

Florida Strawberry Festival

Pop one in your mouth. Or maybe a few dozen

Did you know about Florida’s love affair with the strawberry? No, not the orange. (Or any citrus, really.) The strawberry! The first time I visited the Florida Strawberry Festival I thought it might be somewhat unique. It’s not. There are strawberry festivals all over the United States and even some in Canada, Australia, Italy and Japan. You can find a website with links to worldwide strawberry festivals here.

But we’re talking about the Florida Strawberry Festival, held in (where else?) Plant City, Florida in late February and early March. 11 days in all.

The website is https://flstrawberryfestival.com. You van find out about rides & attractions, musical talent and visit the livestock show. Visit the website and signup for updates via email including 2020 dates!

Gulfport Pink Flamingo Tour of Homes

Gulfport’s tour of eclectic homes returns on March 7, 2020.

This year’s event will focus on the east side of the historic downtown.

Tickets can be purchased online at visitgulfportflorida.com or at Gulfport Beach Bazaar on Beach Blvd.  Facebook page here.

 

Run for the sake of cupcakes in Pass-A-Grille, will ya already?

Race for the Cupcake

March is all about races here, and this event is no different.
OK, well it is different in that it involves you moving at high speed. Ok just moving, maybe not a high speed. And not in an IndyCar or a boat.
So before you head out to the Pink Flamingo Tour of Homes, head out to Hurley Park at 1501 Gulf Way in St Pete Beach for the 2020 Race for the Cupcake.
Proceeds from this event benefit Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a non-profit program that encourages girls to develop self-respect, to be joyful and confident, and to live a healthy lifestyle through interactive lessons, running games, and a culminating celebratory 5k run.
Sounds worthwhile to me! Plus you get a cupcake! You can find the website here.

Cuban Sandwich Festival

If you’ve ever had a REALLY good cuban sandwich, the finding out that a Cuban Sandwich Festival exists is probably just a big dull “duh” to you. Am I right or am I right?
Ever since I fell in love with the idea of a Cuban sandwich after Jon Favreau’s “Chef” in 2014, Cuban sandwiches are on my short list of favorite foods to try at new eating establishments.
(If you must know the other items on the list are crab cakes, fish spread, flan, lobster bisque and tortilla soup.)
Now this is just a guess, but I have a hunch that a great place to sample some really tasty cuban sandwiches just might be at a Cuban sandwich festival. Just sayin’ I have the inside scoop on this.
The 2020 Tampa area event is on Sunday, March 29th at Centennial Park in Historic Ybor City at 1800 E. 8th Avenue in Tampa.
The event is an international competition that attracts cooks from all over the world.

Maybe not quite this small

2020 Florida Suncoast Tiny Homes Festival

Oh, the irony that the 2020 Florida Suncoast Tiny Home Festival needs a larger venue.

I should just stop there.

Anyway…The 2020 event will be held March 28 and 29th in England Brothers Park in Pinellas Park and will feature more than 30 tiny structures.

If you’ve been binge-watching Tiny House Nation, then this is for you. Where else can you try on so many small structures, even if just to assure yourself that your McMansion is perfect for you?

Still, as the owner of a 330 SF “tiny home”, I’m intrigued.

Website here: tinyhomestpete.com

Gulfport Grand Prix

It’s fair to say that this event is not without controversy in our sleepy little community. Because during this event the area is anything but sleepy.
Still, for 3 days at the end of March, this boat show and boat race is happening and Boca Ciega Bay is a rather unique area to experience an event like this.
Visit the event’s website for the schedule maps, and other helpful information.
And one thing is guaranteed – you’ve never seen Gulfport like this!
GrandprixGulfport.com

Reggae Rise Up Music Festival

It’s hard to think of better music for a festival than reggae.

And it’s even more difficult to think of a better location and time of year for any music festival than Vinoy Park in St Petersburg in March.

2020 Dates are March 20-22.

Visit the website at reggaeriseupflorida.com for festival info, including the lineup, tickets, what you can bring in and what you can’t and even how to get involved.

Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival

When an event is in its 46th year, I think it is safe to say it has been a success.
The 46th Annual Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival takes place March 14 and 15th in beautiful Craig Park. This park is ocated between Spring and Whitcomb Bayous.
Tarpon Springs was voted best Historic Small Town for 2018 by USA Today. Tarpon Springs is home to the Sponge Docks, brick streets, Victorian mansions and intimate bungalows.
The arts festival is juried, so you won’t find any mass-produced items here.

Tomilson Park in Gulfport

Green space and outdoor fitness done right

Can you say face-plant?

The recently renovated Tomlinson Park Complex in Gulfport Florida has a little something for everyone:

  • 1-acre man-made pond with fountain
  • Nature Boardwalk
  • Walking Trail
  • Playground equipment for children ages 18 months through 12 years old
  • Fitness and exercise area for adults
  • Batting cage
  • One softball and one baseball field

Spidey-wall contraption

I think half the challenge is figuring out what to do here

What do you even do on these?​

The park has both softball and baseball fields, providing one of two homes for Little League.

Insider Tip: Go early in the day or late in the day

Especially in summer. Most if not all of the equipment is in full sun. For a shaded playground try RW Caldwell Park.

There’s a pond with waterfowl and fish.  Plus trees along the perimeter can provide a great backdrop for walking your furry friend.

Time to work on that upper body strength kids

This looks like hard work

Tree spears for climbing

Where to Find It

Tomlinson Park Complex Gulfport Florida
19th Ave S and 54th St S
Open 7 am to 9 pm.
Gulfport has two little league fields – this one at Tomlinson and one at Hoyt Field.

I like the imagination that went into some of these contraptions

The pond is home to a few waterfowl and fishies!

One of two places Little League plays in Gulfport

Chili Verde – Mexican Paradise Found Right Here in St Petersburg

This Newcomer is Getting Attention

The food at Chili Verde is awesome. Awesome as in I think about it even when I am not there. Awesome in that I think about it even when I have leftovers in my fridge.

Awesome in that I check my leftover container multiple times to make sure no one in the household is stealing bites. (Or worse, eating all of it!)

Just go knowing there’s no memorable atmosphere, no famous chef, no killer margaritas and no hour-long wait. Just authentic food you may never forget.

You can get your tacos crispy

How I Found It

Ironically, my journey to Chili Verde started at VIP Lounge in Treasure Island.  After yet another trip to VIP where the wait was an hour or more in the middle of a weekday afternoon, Terry and I took to Yelp and Google. We were starving and we wanted Mexican. Now.  Deciding that both Agave and Chili Verde sounded like solid options, we let the direction the car was already headed make the decision for us. Chili Verde it was.

We drove onward, me chattering on about how it must be new because I drive that way all the time and I couldn’t place it.   We arrived at the appointed location and turned left into…a former gas station?

You know what I’m talking about.  Once a gas station in appearance, always a gas station in appearance. And not what I was expecting.  But my stomach, 170+ reviews on Yelp and almost 700 – yes, seven hundred – reviews on Google with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars suggested we give it a shot.

My Trifecta – Enchiladas Verdes made with ground beef, steak and chicken quesadilla and those beans!

And what a shot it was.  I had the Enchiladas Verdes made with ground beef. I love enchiladas – chicken enchiladas, cheese enchiladas, spinach enchiladas, seafood enchiladas – you get the idea.  If you love enchiladas you’ve probably tried them every way imaginable.  Enchiladas to me always seem decadent.  Lots of cheese, usually.

The Enchiladas Verde

Chili Verde’s Enchiladas Verde are different.  Maybe it is the delicate corn tortillas that seem as though they were made seconds before moving on to the their enchilada destination.  Maybe it is the generous smothering of the light verde sauce. Maybe it is the delicate unmelted grated cheese on top of the mound of shredded lettuce piled on top.  After almost a dozen servings of this same dish, I’m still not sure.  But trust me, it’s good.

Accompanying the enchiladas are rice and beans.  I’m not a huge rice fan, but I usually end up eating it all.

Now for the beans.  I love beans.  Whole, refried, churro-style, black, pinto, you name it.  These are quite decadent and I have taken to ordering an extra side.  I want to know and don’t want to know how they’re prepared. I’m afraid my nutritionist might not approve…

Close-up of the enchilada goodness

The Quesadillas

Equally delicious but definitely heavier and more filling are their quesadillas.  We usually get the steak-chicken combo, and get an extra to take home nosh on.

This is the combo steak-chicken quesadilla with everything

Steak combo quesadilla – In case the first photo didn’t snag you

The Tacos

The tacos are little bits heaven.  Traditional Mexican street tacos with tortilla, meat, onions and cilantro.  If you want tomatoes, lettuce etc you can ask for it American style.

They’re sold individually, but I bet you can’t eat just one.  Order 3 and try the Barbacoa.  It is truly moist, flavorful and tender.

St Pete Foodies named Chili Verde one of the 10 Best Places to get tacos in St Petersburg Florida in 2018.  https://stpetersburgfoodies.com/restaurants/best-places-in-st-petersburg/10-best-taco-places-in-st-petersburg-fl-2018/

Barbacoa Tacos – looks pretty healthy to me!

 

Insider Tip: Yep, it used to be a gas station

Whatever you do, don’t let that deter you.  

Hmm. I wonder what this used to be?

In 2018 St Pete Foodies included Chili Verde as a notable newcomer on its list of the 10 best St Petersburg restaurants list.  Since my personal favorites Red Mesa Restaurant and VIP Lounge are on that list I knew they were on to something.  But I was already on to Chili Verde.  And so were a couple of my friends! When I was so gracious to share my Chili Verde discovery with a couple fo so-called friends, guess what? They already knew.

My dream at present is to make it there some day before 10 am, so I can try the Chilaquiles.

I don’t believe the Cydesdales are real

The Details

Chili Verde, 2801 22nd Ave N, St Petersburg, Fl 33713-4248.  They’re open late.

Yelp

Facebook page

Trip Advisor

It’s a small Mexican market too

Insider Tip: Second location coming to the Skyway Marina Village shopping center!

Stay tuned for more info