Friday, December 2, 2011

Treasure Island Florida Fun

Here are some pictures of the great time we had on our 4 night stay in Treasure Island Florida over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Getaways are always good to give you a fresh perspective and many times, that break from the everyday routine provides a spark and some inspiration.  That quick trip did provide a spark for me and a new idea.  I'll do a post next week once I brainstorm my idea a bit more.  Until then, enjoy the virtual trip to Treasure Island!
Our condo had a fantastic view of the beach/gulf at the South Beach Condo Hotel.  The beach area was really different than anything we've seen before. It has a normal, sandy beach, but there was a much bigger span of sand and natural areas with palm trees and native vegetation mixed in.  It was really cool.  Even in the middle of summer with all the normal crowds, it seems like you'd have no problem finding a place to relax. 

Straight ahead view from the balcony

View to the right

View to the left

View from one of the bedroom side windows

View from the front bedroom window on the street side

Sea oats

We took a trip to the Taco Bus in downtown Tampa on a previous trip a month ago and this time we had to hit up the other location in St Pete.  It was the same and super yummy.

Guy Fieri did a show from there not too long ago
Took this picture from their website also
Pollo Verde tacos, so good

We went to the Clearwater Aquarium, which is pretty similar to Marineland in St Augustine.  It is a very small place with a few dolphins and it is more centered on research.  They do not have any major shows or anything like Sea World.  We did get to see them doing some dolphin enrichment where they do some activities to keep them entertained.  We basically went just to check out Winter the dolphin from Dolphin Tale.  We haven't seen the movie yet, but it's a big deal there.  And there were a TON of people there and they're undergoing some major expansion as a result of all the people/$ the publicity is bringing in.  They filmed the movie there and it was all about the dolphin with no tail and they actually built the outdoor dolphin pool for the movie and they left it there for their use.  It will be cool to see the movie and see the dolphin and the areas we were at in the film.

Winter is the one resting on the platform, they were actually 1/2 sleeping

Another dolphin outside playing


We had planned to also do a dolphin boat excursion to see dolphins in their natural habitat aboard the SEA SCREAMER!  It's the worlds largest speed boat.  It was a VERY fun experience.  Normally it's a 1 hour cruise on out of the inlet to the gulf to find the dolphins, but since this is not staged in any way, you do have to find them first.  We actually spend about 45 minutes in the Gulf just off shore trying to spot them and right when it seemed like we might not find any, the capt. spotted a pod of 4-6 of them.  He then maneuvered to get behind them a bit, told us all to head to the back by the big fin and then drove up beside them and pushed the throttle forward.  We were all watching the wake in the back and then just when you thought nothing was going to happen, they started leaping right out of the water on both sides of the boat!  The wifey hasn't uploaded our actual video yet, but I found a YouTube video from past visitors and it's exactly like this.  SO cool and I'd DEFINITELY recommend doing that if you go there!  And it's really pretty inexpensive.  I think it was $25 each and it was almost a 2 hour boat ride in our case.  And on the way back in the point out a few waterfront homes of the rich and famous, including the home of Hulk Hogan that they filmed much of the reality show Hogan Knows Best in and it's currently for sale for 8.8 million if you are interested. 

We then headed to a place that was highly recommended from a co-worker that used to live in the area, Frenchy's Rockaway Grill.  It's a well known place in the area, but surprisingly enough, in the 5 or so times I've been to the beaches area there, I had never heard of it and didn't know it existed.  Which is a bummer, cause it's a must visit place!  We went to the location in Clearwater Beach, a few blocks north of the pier on the beach side.  They are famous for their Grouper Sandwich and being a huge fan of good Grouper Sandwiches myself, had to try it out.  It did not disappoint!  I had the Jamaican Jerk Grouper, which has some blackened seasoning but is also sweet at the same time and WOW...they are famous for that for a reason.  It is no joke!  I had the Super Grouper, which is slighly larger than normal.  So yummy, we will be sure to go anytime we're in the area.  It is also a very festive, slighly loud party atmosphere and they even have great prices on drinks for happy hour prior to 7pm.  Win/Win!  Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of the food, you'll have to check out their website, I see they also have some webcams too, didn't know that. 

The next day our plan was to head to Honeymoon Island State Park Beach, which was one of Travel Channel's top beaches in 2008 and they have a boat ferry there that takes you over to Caledesi Island, a park/beach only reachable by boat.  We thought that sounded fun and different and it was another excuse to get on another boat and enjoy the beautiful weather.  It was so perfect when we were there.  80 for a high, sunny, no humidity and cooler at night all 3 main days.  Much better than the cold front we have down here this week, we got super lucky!  Caladesi Island had mangroves all around, which are one of the only trees that actually survives/thrives in salt water.  As we were waiting for the ferry to head back, we noticed you could rent kayaks and head right into the mangroves.  We would try that out if we head back over there.  All in all, it was a bit pricey just to head to that park and island.  I think it was 8 to enter the park in the car and then $14 each for the ferry, but if you're going to spend the whole day at the beach and explore the nature trail and want to kayak, I'd say it would definitely be worth it. 

View from the little ferry shuttle boat
View heading out of Caladesi Island

Then later that night we headed to the Conch Republic Grill and Raw Bar, since every time we drove by it there were a bunch o peeps there, so we figured it must be good.  It definitely was!  It was another festive place with a Florida Keys style theme.  We had some fruity drinks, they were two for 1 and they sure were full of rum!  We had a teriyaki chicken appetizer and it was so fresh and hot and good.  I had the blackened grouper, since again, that is my favorite when it's actually grouper and done right and it was excellent once again.  Good time and great place to go!

After the sunset there was a sliver of moon and a bright star

The next day, Sunday morning, we checked out at 10am and then headed on out for our final mission...To get several large pizzas from a hometown favorite place, Mark's pizza, who also has a location in Riverview, just outside of Tampa.  We just ran out of the 5 large that we purchased back on a prior trip on Memorial Day weekend, just after they had opened up.  We talked to the owner a bit and he remembered us and he was telling us how that area could not support their regular 16" large size pizza.  By that he meant that the people there were used to a cheaper pizza, which is a 14" large made my a nasty place called Hungry Howie's.  He said people did not want to pay an extra dollar or two for a larger, much better pizza and their franchise almost went out of business!  :-o  NOOOOO...We could NOT lose our pizza lifeline.  But they made the pizza smaller and dropped the price a bit and he said people responded.  I REALLY hope people continue to support them as we do, I would be crushed if they were no longer there.  We had a coupon, but decided not to use it to give them our full support!  Support Mark's Pizza in Riverview, it's the best pizza outside of Rochester NY!

Here is a post I did over on InfoBarrel highlighting some of the main attractions mentioned above entitled Clearwater Florida - Top Attractions


Mock family said...

wow, can't believe people couldn't get into it. IT IS UP TO YOU TO KEEP IT IN BUSINESS :)

ps great pics, I'm sold!

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