1 . TradeWinds Island Grand

St. Pete Beach, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (866) 803 - 9653

WEBSITE

We know the sand around St. Pete Beach is sugar-white. We’ve heard it’s because of the quartz that washes down from the higher elevations nearby. Then we came to our senses. Who cares why? Just enjoy! A classic case in point: The serene elegance - and the beach - at TradeWinds Island Grand Resort.

The beach is 18 acres of the aforementioned white sand, and that’s just the start. This is AAA Four-Diamond island comfort combined with an uncommon mix of features and activities. You might say that the five pools, beach cabanas, volleyball and at least ten watersports make TradeWinds Island Grand a classic beach resort. Or you could claim that the life-sized chess board, tennis courts, mini golf and shows by Redbeard the Pirate make it a family resort. You might come here for golf, with privileges at several nearby courses. In all cases, you’d be right. But the best thing about TradeWinds Island Grand is that with all of this it includes renovated hotel rooms, parlor rooms and suites into a vacation that’s truly one-of-a-kind. And living proof that white-sand beaches are only part of a beach vacation.

Related Onsite Offerings

TradeWinds Island Grand is actually one of two resorts on the property - it shares a total of 23 beach acres with Sandpiper Hotel and Suites.

Highlights

St. Petersburg Island features shaded, winding waterways that you can travel by paddleboat.

Getting there

From I-75, take I-275 to Tampa and remain on it through Tampa and across Tampa Bay. Continue south on I-275 approximately 15 miles through St. Petersburg. Exit I-275 at the St. Pete Beach/Pinellas Bayway Exit (new exit 17, old exit 4). Proceed West across Pinellas Bayway ($.50 toll) which takes you directly to St. Pete Beach and ends at Gulf Blvd. Turn right, and the TradeWinds Resorts are on the left hand side of the street, about 1-1.5 miles north.

2 . Madeira Bay Resort

Madeira Beach, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (866) 398 - 2970

WEBSITE

If your idea of a Florida vacation looks like a beach, a giant theme park and a hotel room, you may need to consult the people at Madeira Bay Resort. Because along with Mediterranean-style condominiums and a world-class marina, this resort vacation includes fun you probably never even knew you could have.

There’s the spectacular scenery and wildlife of Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway just outside your door. And two blocks away, the world-famous John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk maintains a taste of authentic Florida. This is essentially a 100-year-old fishing village, only today you’ll find shopping, restaurants, boat cruises and plenty of fishing charters. Just a few minutes more puts you in Tampa, with the famous Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium and the spectacular St. Petersburg Sunken Gardens. At its heart, though, Madeira Bay Resort is about boats. Even if you’re like us and, uh, forgot to bring the yacht along this time, you'll love the royal view of the marina from your one- or two-bedroom fully-furnished condo with new appliances and all the extras. This is the life!

Highlights

The Spa at Madeira Bay includes a hair salon, skin care, nail and spa services and is the only provider of these beauty services along the beach.

Related Onsite Offerings

The Sunset Room on the sixth floor of Madeira Bay Resort is just part of 2,000 square feet of meeting space for events of all types.

Getting there

From Tampa International Airport, take I-275 south to St. Petersburg. Take Exit 28 West and continue due west on Park Blvd. until you reach Gulf Blvd. Turn left (south) onto Gulf Blvd. Continue into the Madeira Beach area. Madeira Bay is located before the John’s Pass Bridge at 132nd on Gulf Blvd on the Intercoastal Waterway side of the road.

3 . Sirata Beach Resort

St. Pete Beach, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (866) 452 - 8654

WEBSITE

It sounds upscale - Sirata kind of rolls off the tongue, like it’s going to cost you a fortune no matter what. But Sirata Beach Resort has accommodations for any budget. And while you get the amenities of an expensive and mannered tropical beach escape, the resort is devoted to one concept: casual.

It’s a blend of style and fun - if you’re in the mood for a little wild landscape with your casual fun, check out the dunes along the 15 acres of beach directly in front of the resort. Downtown St. Petersburg is only 10 minutes away, with The Pier for family fun and plenty of art galleries and boutique-style restaurants. Meanwhile, here’s you back at Sirata - a cool drink in hand, relaxing by any of the three swimming pools, surrounded by the palms and tropical landscapes; perhaps later you’ll sample some of the fresh local seafood at the onsite Compass Grille. Okay, so maybe Sirata Beach Resort is kind of upscale. But that’s okay, because its selection of traditional and beachfront guest rooms is easier on the pocketbook than a “real” upscale Florida beach resort. You’re the only one who needs to know!

Related Onsite Offerings

Sirata Beach Resort features a stunning 15,000-sq.-ft. conference center, plus 10,000 sq. ft. of exterior gardens and beach front patios.

Getting there

From Tampa International Airport, take the SR-60 ramp toward I-275/Downtown. Merge onto North Memorial Highway/ FL-60 E. Merge onto I-275 S and travel about 21 miles to St. Petersburg. Merge onto FL-682 W via Exit 17 (.50¢ toll). Turn right onto Gulf Blvd./ FL-699 N. Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center is located on the left hand side.

Related activities

Sirata Beach Resort also maintains a children’s program right on the beach!

4 . Longboat Key Club and Resort

Longboat Key, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (888) 237 - 5545

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We are nothing if not fun-loving, but it never hurts if the fun comes with a good dose of pure luxury. Hence our fondness for Longboat Key Club and Resort, which is off of Florida’s west coast on the outside of Sarasota Bay and about a million miles away from the average beach getaway.

Longboat Key Club has everything you could ever want in one space. By that we mean private beach, championship golf, a nationally-recognized tennis center, and a poolside swimming pool and Jacuzzi and a marina to name a few. And if it takes you that extra jaunt from Sarasota across the bay to Gulf of Mexico Drive to get here, everything once you arrive seems built to go an extra mile at least. Along with the tennis center comes the new Kriek/Eagleton Tennis Academy, with clinics from two-time Australian Open winner Johan Kriek. Golf means two championship courses, 45 holes in all. The newly-renovated fitness center combines with the 2,500-square-foot Mind and Motion workout studio. You get the idea. And none of this is to be confused with the Island House Spa, which is 9,000 square feet and 12 treatment rooms of Central West Florida spa heaven.

Highlights

Longboat Key Club is home to six restaurants and a lounge, featuring fine dining and sweeping Gulf views at Sand’s Pointe. The new marina offers 291 protected deep-water slips and its own restaurant, Portofino’s.

Related Onsite Offerings

There are numerous meeting and reception facilities at Longboat Key Club, accommodating up to 250 people per space.

Related activities

Just across the bay, you can take in fabulous Sarasota, Florida attractions including family fun at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, live entertainment at Five O’Clock Club and wildlife watching along the coast.

5 . Crystal Palms Beach Resort

Treasure Island, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (888) 360 - 0037

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It turns out there really is a Treasure Island, minus the pirates and parrots and peg-legs that Robert Louis Stevenson envisioned. But you can go ahead and put a black X on the map, because instead you’ll find a small treasure of a Florida boutique hotel. Welcome to Crystal Palms Beach Resort!

With just 36 rooms, it’s not big in stature. But Crystal Palms makes the most out of every inch of space, with spacious one- and two-bedroom suites featuring 42-inch flat screen TVs, granite countertops and washers and dryers. There’s an outdoor heated pool, too, and Treasure Island Beach is right across the street. Speaking of beaches, there are a lot of them around here in various settings. Sand Key, for example, has 14 miles of beach. Sand Key Park is part Florida beach vacation and part wildlife refuge; sea turtles lay their eggs here each year. And in the place of pirate ships and bottles of rum, Treasure Island itself is full of island-style nightlife and live entertainment.

Related Onsite Offerings

In keeping with its small, elegant boutique style, Crystal Palms Beach Resort has a fully-equipped meeting space for groups up to 20.

Highlights

The beachfront penthouse suite is just one of seven beachfront units that you can book directly through Crystal Palms Beach Resort.

Getting there

No, you don’t need a pirate ship. Treasure Island, Florida is connected to Madeira Beach to the north by the John's Pass Bridge. The Treasure Island Causeway Bridge connects Treasure Island to St. Petersburg to the east. On the south end of the island is the Blind Pass Bridge which connects Treasure Island with St. Pete Beach.

6 . Sand Glo Villas

Indian Shores, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (800) 816 - 1970

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It’s like having your own private villa or cottage on the beach. Except…well, actually, it’s just like that. Situated directly on the beautiful beaches of Indian Shores, Sand Glo Villas provides a peaceful spot in the sand and your choice of 11 homes away from home.

These Central West Florida vacation rentals seem brand new, in fact, having been completely renovated. And each one- or two-bedroom Gulf front or Gulf view villa is designed to highlight the spectacular surroundings at the most moving times of day. We’re talking about the sand, surf and sky that seems to come right into the living rooms during the day, the sunset views from the decks and the bright interior color palettes that help define a great getaway even when it’s dark outside. Of course, if you care to turn around and make a short trip into town, you’ll be equally rewarded with Tampa attractions including Cypress Gardens and at least a dozen fantastic golf courses in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg. Which, given your surroundings at Sand Glo Villas, you may not.

Getting there

Travel south on I-275 to Exit #28 (US 694/Park Blvd, Gandy Exit). Continue west on Park Blvd. 10 miles to Gulf Blvd. Turn right on Gulf Blvd. Sand Glo Villas is located on the Gulf side just 1/4 mile north of the Park Blvd. bridge.

Dates and Prices

Sand Glo Villas are available for rent year round by the night, week or month from May 1 to December 17 and for weekly or monthly rental during the winter. Rates range from $119 per night to $4234 per month.

Related Onsite Offerings

Along with the villas, Sand Glo offers the Courtyard Cottage, a slightly different yet equally stunning accommodation on the Indian Shores beach.

7 . The Don Cesar

St. Pete Beach, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (800) 282 - 1116

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Who is Don Cesar? We didn’t know either, but once we saw this magnificent St. Pete Beach hotel, we forgot the question. It rises out of the dunes like royalty, complete with domed bell towers and a bold castle-like style. A luxury Florida vacation, you say? You’re in for a treat!

In fact, the Don Cesar is the result of Thomas Rowe’s dream in 1924 of building a “pink castle” in the sand. It was frequented by luminaries including Lou Gehrig, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone and Franklin Roosevelt (although we suspect not at the same time); today it has Garden Level shopping, an 11,000-square-foot spa and even Camp Cesar for kids ages four to 12. You can even register your child or teen for onsite etiquette classes. Now this is style! They say that the rooms and suites invite you to linger, but you’re more likely to want to just move in. The variety spans from the Standard Room to the Gulfside Penthouse, but no matter which you choose you’ll get a blend of luxury, practicality and comfort. Oh, and we did learn who Don Cesar is. Hint: the main dining room here is the Maritana Grill…

Getting there

From St. Petersburg, take Highway 682 west until Pinellas Byway turns to East Maritana Drive. Take a right onto Gulf Boulevard. The Don Cesar is at the intersection of Gulf Boulevard and East Debazan Avenue.

Related Onsite Offerings

The grand and spectacular venues for groups, meetings and weddings at the Don Cesar are second to none, including the Grand Ballroom, the Pavilion West and the King Charles Ballroom.

Fun facts

Okay, we’ll tell. The Don Cesar is named for Don Caesar DeBazan, a character in the opera Maritana by William Vincent Wallace.

8 . Sandpearl

Clearwater, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (727) 441 - 2425

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Maybe at one time the terms “vacation” and “goal” were mutually exclusive. Now, it’s perfectly natural to have a goal for your vacation. And if it’s enrichment, then welcome to Sandpearl, and to a new standard of experiencing Clearwater Beach and its surrounding area.

Sandpearl features a variety of enrichment programs for adults and children, each designed to further your understanding of the environment, the world, and most often, yourself. These thoughtful programs can involve physical activity including kayaking, hiking and a variety of fitness regimens; they also encourage the mind with activities that include reading, art, environmental study and even leadership training. If you thought we were going to talk about luxurious spa services, master baths with roman tubs and private beachside cabanas, we were getting to that. Sandpearl happens to have all of this and more, plus its signature four-diamond dining experience at Caretta on the Gulf. It’s a true Clearwater Beach luxury getaway!

Fun facts

Sandpearl is the first new resort to be built in Clearwater Beach in the last quarter century.

Related Onsite Offerings

With a ballroom, reception room, fine dining and a variety of lawn and beach venues, Sandpearl is ideal for weddings.

Highlights

Bring the family and let the kids explore the beach and the local environment at Camp Ridley, a daily supervised program.

9 . Shephard's Beach Resort

Clearwater Beach, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (800) 237 - 8477

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It’s a classic Florida beach resort, with its own restaurant serving prime rib plus outdoor dining at the Margarita Grill. Sounds fun, right? There’s also live music until 11 p.m. at the Backyard Tiki Bar. And dancing at the Sunset Lounge. Oh, wait, there’s a nightclub, too. Where are we again?

We’re at Shephard’s Beach Resort, and the fun never seems to stop! The Wave is a two-level nightclub experience, with regular DJs and the area’s most exciting state-of-the-art light and sound show. Live bands play regularly at Sunset Lounge, and Shephard’s Backyard Tiki Bar features live reggae amid a variety of festive beach-style events. There’s a heated pool, Jacuzzi, watercraft rentals and parasailing, and accommodations from Deluxe and Specialty Rooms to King Suites to the Two-Bedroom Deluxe with private balcony, full kitchen and in-room whirlpool tub. Right nearby you’ll find excellent Clearwater Beach golf, tennis and a marina with plenty of cruises and fishing charters. We could also mention that the town of Clearwater Beach is full of fun things to do…but we’re already at Shephard’s. So why?

Getting there

From Tampa International Airport, travel east on W. Spruce Street. Take the SR-60/SR-589-Toll/N. Veterans Expressway ramp towards Clearwater. Merge onto North Memorial Highway. Take the SR-60 W exit on the left. Merge onto West Courtney Campbell Causeway. That becomes Gulf to Bay Boulevard. Make a slight right turn onto Court Street, which becomes Pierce Boulevard. Turn left onto Memorial Causeway/FL-60. Take the third exit onto Coronado Drive. Turn right onto Hamden Drive. Turn left onto South Gulfview Boulevard. Shephard’s is on the right.

Dates and Times

The Wave nightclub is open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday. Sunset Lounge is open daily from noon to 1:45 a.m. Tiki Bar opens daily at 11 a.m.

Related Onsite Offerings

With four indoor venues and a variety of outdoor venues and entertainment, Shephard’s can host groups of up to 2,000.

10 . Gulf Strand Resort

St. Pete Beach, Florida

CALL DIRECT: +1 (800) 628 - 0053

WEBSITE

This is a classic West Central Florida beach vacation in every way. If you love the beach, it’s here; if you love to relax by the pool, feel free. If you enjoy the space and features of a condominium, that’s here, too. It’s what a Florida Gulf getaway should be - no less, and certainly a little more.

It’s situated in a populated yet calm area of St. Pete Beach, with multiple levels, a pool and Jacuzzi, shuffleboard and plenty of space to unwind. Restaurants and shopping are within easy walking distance; or walk directly to adventure including parasailing, Jet Skis, and of course miles of the famous white sand beach. Most people come here for the beach, but it’s best enjoyed from the comfort of these apartment-style accommodations with modern conveniences right down to the dishwashers, washers and dryers and central air conditioning. The private balconies are always a joy!

Dates and Prices

There is a seven-night minimum stay during peak season, from December 20 through April 30. A three-night minimum stay applies during off-peak, excluding holidays. Rates range from $95 per night to $240 per night.

Related Onsite Offerings

All rooms feature modern amenities including two cable TVs, VCR, DVD and complimentary high speed Internet.

Related activities

Augment your Gulf Strand Resort experience with exciting Tampa area attractions including Busch Gardens and the Lowry Zoo; or, take a day trip to Orlando for Disney World and Sea World.

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