Category Archives: Florida

Grand Plaza Beachfront Hotel St Pete Beach

Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort – St Pete Beach

If you are planning a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida and looking for a hotel recommendation, read on.

The Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort is situated on St Pete Beach just 25 miles from Tampa International Airport. The colonial style decor is fresh and tropical and has a sense of grandeur. It is a popular choice for beach weddings and there is a strong sense of occasion about the place.

Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort Entrance Lobby

Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort Entrance Lobby

The pool is right on the beach, which gives a nice little breeze and front row seat to the gorgeous sunsets.

All set up for a sunset wedding.

All the rooms have balconies, but we opted for a double balcony suite. It was huge and had incredible views of the gulf.

The two beds were in one bedroom which also had incredible views and a balcony.

This was our Queen Bed

There was also a double bed on the other side of the room.

The living area had a sofa and dining table and chairs, with a kitchenette, with sweeping ocean views from every room.

It was the perfect place to enjoy a glass of bubbly and watch the sunset.

Picture perfect sunsets every night.

The morning views weren’t too bad either.

Walking down onto the soft white sandy beach, you can see how the trees form perfectly for a wedding ceremony.

 

Bongos, the beach bar and restaurant has ample seating with live music from the afternoon until late.

Level 11 is the rooftop bar. Here you can enjoy 360 degree views of the Gulf and the Bay.

When it comes to cocktails, I head straight for the Margarita (no salt). I’ve had a few over the years, but the Spiced Mango Margarita was amazing.

Location

5250 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach, FL 33706

Phone: (727) 360-1811

You can follow them on social media and share your photos when you visit

Facebook – The Grand Plaza

Instagram – The Grand Plaza

A Day At Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a rescue centre dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine animals. During our Florida trip earlier this year, we were invited to take a look around.

Dolphin Tale

Anyone who has seen the film Dolphin Tale, will be familiar with Clearwater Marine Aquarium and resident dolphin, Winter. The incredible story of her recovery was featured in the film which raised much needed funds for the centre at the time.

photo credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Winter and Hope holding fins

Winter’s Inspiration

At just two months old, Winter was found stranded in Mosquito Lagoon, near Cape Canaveral, Florida. She had become entangled in a crab trap line, which dolphins do not usually survive. The circulation to her tail flukes had been cut off, but she was able to be freed from the line. Winter was taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where her extensive injuries were treated. Although exhaustive efforts were made to promote healing, her tail could not be saved. Despite overwhelming odds against survival, Winter’s energy and ability to adapt to her new physical form surpassed expectations. She made a complete recovery and adapted to a new swim pattern. She even managed to learn to eat fish on her own, roughly 12 pounds a day!

Winter was rescued at a very young age and with no tail and no ability to hunt or survival skills, she could not survive

Winter is the first dolphin to be fitted with a prosthetic tail. Having suffered such a debilitating injury, Winter’s story inspires thousands of kids and many wounded soldiers.

One of the first prosthetic tails made for Winter

Winter Zone

As you can see from the image below, there are three pool areas for the dolphins to swim in. The back pools are for when the dolphins want some quiet time. They are free to swim to all areas at all times.

Winter playing with her toys

During our visit, we saw Winter and Hope in the main pool of the ‘Winter Zone’. Marine staff play with them as part of their care programme.

Daily presentations include:

  • Dolphin Anatomy Game
  • Resident Dolphin Talk
  • Rescue Demonstration
  • Tail Talk

Hope enjoying some play time.

Stingray Feeding

The stingrays are incredibly graceful creatures and at certain times of the day you can try feeding them yourself. We stuck to just watching one of the marine centre staff doing it, but I did manage to touch one as it glided by.

Education

Humans are the biggest reason that animals end up in the centre. Clearwater Marine Aquarium use the stories of these rescues, to educate millions of people, so they will not need to rescue animals in the first place. One of the fun ways they do this, is by having a diver host an underwater quiz.

If you think you know the answer, post it in the comments below.

The centre has plenty of information for all ages to understand.

Positive messaging to show how we can help the environment.

Rehabilitation & Release

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a working animal hospital. Team members and volunteers work to rescue marine life and nurse it back to health.

When the animals are able to survive on their own they are released back into their natural habitat. Most of the work is with sea turtles. The centre has released hundreds of animals into the wild including 45 endangered sea turtles at one time and more than 50,000 sea turtle hatchlings.

photo credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

If the animal is unable to survive on it’s own it will be cared for at the centre. This is decided by government agencies that oversee Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and all rescue centres in the United States.

Nicholas is one of four resident dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

If you are visiting the St Petersburg and Clearwater area, I strongly recommend a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We had a wonderful day and it will be top of my list of things to do when we return to the area.

Location & Opening Hours

Open 7 days a week.

10.00 am – 6.00 pm (Regular hours)

10.00 am – 8.00 pm (Extended hours)

Clearwater Marine Aquarium
249 Windward Passage
Clearwater, FL 33767

Watch one of the Live Webcams

Download the App

To get the most out of your visit, download the free app, available on the App Store and Google Play Store. Here you will find maps, presentation times and exhibit & animal information. You will also find tips to enhance your experience, and receive updates during your visit.

St Pete Beach New Year Celebrations

St Pete Beach

Although the cruise was over, we still had one week of sunshine and New Year Celebrations waiting for us in St Pete Beach. We picked up a hire car, drove to St Pete Beach and arrived at the hotel,  just in time to watch the sunset.

Dolphin Beach Resort

I chose this hotel because it is located right on the beach and has a heated pool. It’s cheap and convenient.

PJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar has also been at St Pete Beach for decades and serves incredible Oysters Rockafella, Clam Chowder and Lobster.  They also have the best coleslaw I have ever tasted.

New Year’s Eve

We had a beach day on New Year’s Eve.

I watched the sun setting on the year which was a wonderful way to say goodbye, reflect and give thanks for another year on this incredible planet, and to prepare yourself for the new goals you have set yourself for the year ahead.

New Year’s Day

I was keen to check out the Guy Harvey Outpost due to his connection to the cruise ship Norwegian Escape.

The Guy Harvey Outpost is a Tradewinds Hotel that has been designed by the incredible marine artist and conservationist.  I have so much to say about this amazing place, so I have given it a blog of it’s own.  However here is a little video I have put together to give you a feel of the place.

You can see photos and read about it in my blog here

On January 2nd the weather changed, just as predicted.  It wasn’t cold, just overcast and with a bit of a chill in the wind, getting out of a heated pool was a bit uncomfortable.  It was a good opportunity to go and check out the other activities available on St Pete Beach.

 

Lido Park is a lovely play area just a short walk from the Dolphin Beach Resort. It also has a picnic area and an outdoor gym.
After the park, we popped into Chick-fil-A.

They have a great indoor kids play area. Joshua didn’t want to leave, but we had packing to do.

Time To Say Goodbye

So the time had finally come when we had to say goodbye to our lovely beach, friends and Florida. But hopefully, it won’t be so long until we are back again.

Useful Links

Dolphin Beach Resort

Busch Gardens – Tampa

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Tampa Cruise Port

Chick-fil-a

 

SaveSave

Guy Harvey Outpost – Rum Fish Grill

The Guy Harvey Outpost

Guy Harvey is responsible for the artwork on the hull of the Norwegian Escape, so I had to go and check out the Guy Harvey Outpost and the much talked about Rum Fish Grill restaurant.

The restaurant is probably the most interesting looking restaurant on Gulf Boulevard.

Rum Fish Grill main entrance

A Tradewinds Beach Resort

I arrived early so had plenty of time to look around and take photos.  The hotel is located behind the back of the restaurant, leading onto the beach.

Opposite the hotel entrance behind the restaurant

Everywhere you look there is more amazing artwork.  The hotel rooms from the outside looked very clean, fresh and appealing.  I would definitely like to stay here on my next visit.

Stunning artwork on the hotel walls

You can enjoy your Starbucks near the hotel reception while enjoying the beautiful artwork.

Both outside and inside the hotel lobby

Every part of the hotel reflects Guy Harvey’s passion for marine life and conservation. Even hallway to the pool and beach area is beautiful.

The ultimate place to spend Christmas on St Pete Beach

You can enjoy a drink or something to eat between cooling off in the pool.

2 pools and a lovely bar restaurant facing the beach

There is a surf simulator for hotel residents and private cabanas for hire, as well as hammocks to relax and unwind in.

Take it easy in one of these hammocks

or take in a sunset with friends at this luxurious lounge area

The kids get their own hang out

We headed back to the Rum Fish Grill as we still hadn’t seen one of the main attractions.

Joshua was fascinated by the fish and the tank

There is a viewing area for the fish tank which is outside of the restaurant.

An incredible dining experience

Rum Fish Grill

When you dine in the Rum Fish Grill, you get an ipad which not only has the menu and games for the children to play, but there is a fish identifier which is really fun and helps you to learn more about the marine life in the process.  Please note that the fish in the tank are NOT the fish on the menu.

ipad with menu, games and fish identifier

My mahi mahi fish tacos with healthy greens

I can honestly say the fish I had was so tender and tasty, it was the best fish I have ever had.

Grouper fingers and sweet potato fries from the kids menu.

The man himself, Guy Harvey, man of many talents.

There is a gift shop by the restaurant which sell all sort of things, such as clothing, artwork, homeware and this gorgeous flip flop plate.  I would have bought it, but didn’t think it would make it back in one piece.  It has given me the idea to do a transatlantic from Florida to Southampton after a big shopping spree here.

I wanted EVERYTHING in the gift shop

If you are visiting the St Pete Beach area, please go and check out this place.  This is a very popular place to eat, therefore you will require a reservation for the restaurant. This can either be done at the hotel or on Open Table.



Our Family Christmas In Florida 2015

Spending our first Christmas In Florida

It was something I had always dreamed of doing, but had not managed to do in the past. To be able to spend Christmas in Florida was simply incredible. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you are thinking about escaping the cold at this festive time. Here are just some of the reasons why.

Farewell Blighty

Tip – First of all, when travelling long haul to somewhere like Florida, use an airport lounge. A No.1 Lounge pass is £25pp or free if you have a Barclays Travel Plus Pack

Arriving in Florida

The best part of flying to Florida with a 2 year old boy, was meeting the other desperate parents,. To give nearby passengers a break, they had congregated at the rear galley (sorry crew).  Most of all, having cleared around 50 or so laps of both aisles you probably wont get DVT. Our first glimpse of the Florida sun made it all well worth it.

Car Hire Tip

Avoid picking up your hire car from the airport because short queue takes for-ev-errrrrr!!! It’s the last thing you want to do after a long flight if travelling with children. So get a taxi and pick up you pre booked hire car locally the next day. Make sure to include all insurance, local taxes, unlimited mileage, sat nav and child seat at time of booking as this will make a huge saving.

Also, it is best to use a major credit card (one that racks up free airmiles) for holding deposits, otherwise companies will put a hold on funds in your bank account which can take a while to be released back to you.  The same applies when on a cruise.

Tampa to St Pete

I took a cab to the Beachcomber Beach Resort on St Pete Beach.  It cost $72 dollars but I notice that the local company, Bats Taxi charge $54, as a result it is worth booking directly with them before you leave home.  This was the the first time I had seen the hotel decorated for Christmas and it was beautiful.

They recently refurbished the hotel rooms and the bar known as Jimmy B’s Beach Bar  giving a plusher feel to the resort.

Good Morning America

Since we woke up at 3am, we were ready for the beach by sunrise!

St Pete is one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida therefore I wasn’t going to miss my first glimpse of it in over four years.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Beachcomber Hotel which is a great value considering the location, facilities and atmosphere.

Not too far from St Pete Beach is Madeira Beach where you will find the beautiful John’s Pass Village. They have an annual Christmas Boat Parade. The boardwalk was beautifully lit up and the parade was amazing. I met my friend Deb of 22 years and as Josh slept through the whole thing, we went for a drink and had a good catch up.

To The Rescue

When I picked up my hire car from Dollar, I discovered that you have to fit the child seat yourself and I’m not a great with diagram instructions.  I had heard that Fire and Police Stations often supply and fit child seats, so we made our way to St Pete Beach Fire Station (any excuse!)

The fireman was friendly, helpful and gorgeous!  He explained how to adjust the seat straps, as a result I was able to install it myself. Consequently, we had photos with one of the fire trucks, which was decorated with a Christmas bow.  Another fireman came out to Josh with a plastic firemans’ hat and a sticker.  It  made Josh’s day……… and Lucy and I were quite pleased too.

Back at the Hotel

Josh loves the pool.  This is where Lucy learned to swim many years ago, so it holds fond memories.

 

A Day at Walt Disney World

No trip to Florida would be complete without a visit to Disney.

Click here to see the fabulous photos from our day in the Magic Kingdom

Shopping Tips

Realising I hadn’t brought the lead to download and charge my GoPro, gave me the perfect excuse for a trip to Target. It’s a great store and stocks Mossimo which I love.

Tip – For most things the first place to try is Walgreens, as they actually had the cable I needed for about $5 instead of the $20 multi charger pack I ended up having to buy at Target. There is one on St Pete Beach and on Treasure Island.

Joshua enjoyed playing in the soft golden sand of St Pete Beach

The hotel next door to us is the Guy Harvey Outpost, named after and designed by the artists who painted the hull of Norwegian Cruise Lines‘ newest ship Norwegian Escape.

Guy Harvey is a well known for painting the hull’s of the newest Norwegian Cruise Line ships.

Carolling on Sunset Beach

My friend Deb, had invited me to join her on Sunset Beach for some Carolling.  We met at 5pm and people had put a lot of effort into dressing their dogs, golf buggies and themselves for the occasion.

Local people and businesses open their doors to the “carol singers” and provide them with a drink and a snack.  As a result there were a lot of people taking part.

We had popcorn and a shot of Fireball Whiskey at the first stop. Due to my naivety, I was keenly waiting for the singing to start, but I didn’t hear anything.  Deb had warned me that there would be a lot of drinking. A song sheet was handed and some singing did take place.

After a few stops I was ready to call it a day, since I had a 4 hour drive to Fort Lauderdale in the morning.

Recommended Reading – Part Two – The Cruise