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St. Pete Beach, Florida: The Grand Tour

Updated on August 26, 2009

Places to See and Things to Do in St. Pete Beach

For years St. Pete Beach has been the ideal getaway for snowbirds and Europeans on holiday, as well as the home to so many of the city's grateful residents, Happy Hour regulars and local celebrities. Here is a shoreline rife with character and substance; a hotbed for relaxing daytime leisure, a notably festive nightlife, wonderful restaurants and bars, and as many waterfront resorts and hotels as there are grains of sand. But as so much has changed here, commercially and domestic, St. Pete Beach remains a salty piece of land where you can stay busy without going broke, all while maintaining a golden brown hue from the eternal sunshine that keeps all the local smiles in business every day of the week.

First, the beach. Whether you throw down your towel at Upham beach or stab your umbrella into the white sand shoreline of Pass-a-Grille just a couple miles south, you will have no problem setting your worries down and burying them amongst the shells. Oil up and watch the tide call and answer as you take in the serene sounds of sea gulls, waves and blenders from the nearby tiki bars. If you're here during "season" (February thru May), then expect not to be alone on the beach as tourists and spring breakers crowd the shoreline for a front row seat of the Gulf of Mexico's cooling embrace. Off season, however, St. Pete stays fairly steady -- but without all the hustle and bustle of college kids and families trying to cram in a month's worth of activity into 5 sunny days. Either way, the calming aura that breathes in off the waves makes this beach a tropical reverie come to life.

... and with every great beach there are countless great beach bars peppering the coastline. The smarter tourists know to ask their bartenders and servers where all the rest of the hospitality crews hang out after hours -- they are the funnest people on the beach, no doubt -- rather than to follow a lame brochure or the "kind" recommendations of the hotel concierge. As a former bartender (and now merely a domesticated suburban father) on the St. Pete circuit I can attest that the following are far and away the best places to check out for the ideal beach atmosphere, great service and original fare:

The Swigwam (behind the Travelodge Hotel on Gulf Blvd.) is one of the oldest bars in St. Pete; an open-air stable where everyone from bikers, jocks, families and locals hang out to enjoy the sunshine while holding a refreshing cocktail just a few feet from the Gulf... Jimmy B's (behind the Beach Comber Resort, maybe 500 feet down from the Swigwam) for some awesome live music 7 days/nights a week, as well as 3 outdoor bars, all with intoxicating views of the horizon... The Undertow (the last beach bar before reaching the world famous Don CeSar Hotel on Gulf Blvd) is renown for its sights -- that is to say the gorgeous men and women who frequent this popular beach bar where volleyball, sunsets and live music set the stage for St. Pete Beach's most desirable hardbodies to play... The Wharf (Pass-a-Grille Beach, just past the Don CeSar) is a locals hangout through and through, serving up killer seafood and sandwiches all while hosting what seems to be the longest lasting party on the beach... The Sloppy Pelican (Sunset Way) is a fairly new addition to the mix, serving up a huge menu, live music, games, drink specials and an awesome overlook of the Intracoastal Waterway... The Reef (Gulf Blvd) is a favorite after hours hangout for the hospitality crews thanks in part to their awesome shot specials and for the show-stopping service of their prized bartender, Rick Williams.

If it's a nice meal with great service that you're seeking on your getaway (all at very affordable rates), then check out these local eateries:

Beverly's La Croisette (Gulf Boulevard/Corey Ave) is the beach's favorite breakfast diner, open daily from 6:30am until 2:30pm, for more variations on classic dishes than you could shake a fork at... Patrick's (Gulf Blvd) is a quaint little dinner place for romantic ambiance and delicious food... The Blue Parrot (Corey Ave) is far and away the locals' favorite restaurant, and their Sunday brunch is a thing of sheer beauty... Sea Hag's Bar & Grill (Blind Pass Marina) has the best daily food specials in town, as well as a crack staff of awesome bartenders and servers, and easily some of the area's best live music (and the owner, Philthy Phil Albert, is St. Pete Beach's most beloved celebrity)... Max & Sam's (75th Avenue) is a cozy steakhouse that serves up entrees that will drop your jaw, and Carl's Piano Bar out back is a great place to hangout and enjoy a show... Agave (Gulf Blvd) is the best authentic Mexican restaurant you may ever have the pleasure of dining; small and dark, yet largely rewarding and brightly hosted by their charming staff...  Burgers N Paradise (Gulf Blvd, across the street from the Howard Johnson's Hotel) is St. Pete's newest joint, grilling up 20 awesomely original burgers, breakfast, salads and apps just across the street from the shore.

Looking for a great place to stay? The following St. Pete Beach hotels/resorts promise the best service and ambiance you're craving for the true feel of Gulf coast Florida:

The Don CeSar (Gulf Blvd) is a world famous hotel that has been renovated from its original foundations as a war time hospital to be a grandiose experience with, hands down, the very finest guest services in town; and certainly not for the tight budget -- this is a treat yourself stay... The Sirata (Gulf Blvd) is a classic Florida hotel posted dead center in the middle of St. Pete Beach, making it a key location for everything you'll need and everywhere you can get it -- all while dishing up awesome rooms and a prime position on the shore... The Sandpiper (just 300 feet away) is another monumental beach palace to hang your swim trunks as you lay smack dab in the core of all St. Pete Beach's infectious momentum.


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      StPeteBeachRealtor 7 years ago

      Thanks for the post! It is great to see locals feedback on some of their favorite spots. Many of them are my favorite too! Although we had a chilly winter here in St. Pete Beach, the season was still strong. The number of visitors in our area currently are amazing. Home and Condo prices are at their lowest in years and many visitors are now purchasing real estate in the area! Great for our local economy. Thanks again and enjoy the beach!