When I visited St. Petersburg Clearwater, it was on a business trip, so there wasn’t much time for sightseeing. However, there was a little bit of time to enjoy some of the fun things to do in and around the St. Petersburg Clearwater area, just enough to make me interested in more.
Look for Manatees
Did you know that manatees, also known as the sea cow, are most closely related to elephants? Florida is home to West Indian manatees that can be spotted in a number of places, including Fort De Soto Park at the tip of St. Petersburg. If you have difficulty finding manatees, head north from St. Petersburg Clearwater to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Here visitors can find manatees every day of the year in the park’s underwater observatory, along with other native Florida wildlife. Because the park is also connected to the river, it is also possible to see wild manatee from the park’s observation pavilion. Since the water is so clear, it is far easier to see the wild manatees than it is at Fort De Soto Park, where you can really only see them when they surface.
Paddle Board through the Mangroves
I was lucky enough to spot manatees twice during my short time in St. Petersburg Clearwater, and the first time was while paddle boarding in Fort De Soto Park. Even if the water is a little rough in other places, many times you can still find calm water for paddle boarding in Fort De Soto Park. Such was the case during my visit, and a few friends and I went paddle boarding with SUP Escapes. The park, which is made up of five interconnected keys, has wetlands, mangroves, and 328 species of birds. We saw lots of birds, fish that jumped out of the water, and even a small hammerhead shark. At the very end of our paddle, we were lucky enough to have a manatee swim by.
Stay at the Legendary Pink Palace of St. Pete Beach
While my hometown of San Diego has the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, St. Pete Beach has The Don Cesar, also known as the Pink Palace. The Don Cesar opened in 1928 and was visited by celebrities including F. Scott Fitzgerald. During World War II the hotel was used as a hospital and later was converted into the VA Regional Office. The Don Cesar was refurbished and re-opened in the 70s as a full-service resort and was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Pink Palace is right on St. Pete Beach and offers a full calendar of activities for its guests. These include providing complimentary kayaks and paddle boards every morning for two hours, beach yoga, and more. There are restaurants, bars, and Spa Oceana.
Take a Sunset Cruise
Since St. Petersburg Clearwater is surrounded by water
, while visiting one wants to find as many ways as possible to enjoy the water. One of the fun things to do in St. Petersburg Clearwater on the water is to take a sunset cruise. StarLite Cruises offers a sunset cruise and evening dining experience aboard the Starlite Sapphire with a restaurant-style menu. I was very surprised by how good the dinner was. Two of the menu’s favorites can be enjoyed with the Surf & Turf, a combination of the chateaubriand and the stuffed shrimp.
Eat a Bowlful of Seafood
On our way back to St. Petersburg Clearwater from Homosassa Springs, we stopped at Peck’s Old Port Cove for a dinner of seafood and had an incredible dinner of Peck’s Famous Crabs, one dozen garlic sautéed blue crabs. Peck’s Old Port Cove is a bit out of the way, in Ozello Keys, but is worth the trip, especially after spending the day at Homosassa Springs. The restaurant used to be owned by Aunt Myrtle Clifton who installed bar stools in her house in the 1940s to serve beer to servicemen who came in via the nearby airstrip. She sold it to Calvin Peck in the 1980s, and it has been expanded since then. The restaurant has a blue crab farm, thus Peck’s famous crabs.
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