Usually, my phone is an extension of my hand – wiring me to a never-ending stream of emails, text messages and social media accounts. St. Pete Beach’s milky sands and cool, transparent waters had me detached. My device stayed tucked away with my belongings while I got a dose of UV rays and seafood.
The destination rests on the peninsula that divides Tampa Bay from the Gulf of Mexico and continuously receives accolades from travel media, like TripAdvisor, which gave St. Pete Beach second place on its “Top 25 Beaches in the U.S.” list this year. With that, I packed and headed to Florida’s West Coast to discover what was just a few hours away.
My introduction to St. Pete began as I crossed the four-mile Sunshine Skyway Bridge that connects Terra Ceia to the city. I witnessed as the sun dipped into the surrounding, glistening blue waters, retiring from its pink, cotton candy sky. The pastel sunset had vanished by the time I pulled up to The Hotel Zamora, but the boutique hotel’s white architecture and Spanish flare were still visible. The property is St. Pete Beach’s newest hotel and first to be built in years. Abandoning my car with the valet, an elevator took me to the second floor to check in.
The lobby invites you to skip the administrative work at the front desk and follow the live jazz music into the hotel restaurant, Castile. Inside, a bar spans the left wall, while on the right, lounge stations are puzzled together with swanky couches and arm chairs. An aisle down the middle leads to indoor and outdoor tables where diners enjoy plates of lobster fries, plancha yellow fin tuna and coconut curry braised short rib, as they take in the view of the bay.
Guests also enjoy a spectacular view of the water when exploring the 360-degree rooftop lounge or stepping out onto one of the balconies attached to each of the 72 spacious, modern rooms in the hotel.
Less than 50 feet from the front of the hotel are calm waters and a leisurely beach. To the right, there are restaurants, ice cream shops, miniature golf spots and all that’s needed from a beach town.
I won’t say it was easy to watch my weekend getaway disappear in the rearview mirror as I drove back across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but I will say the relaxed state-of-mind I attained there lasted well past the retreat.
IF YOU GO
DINE: While casual dress is accepted, mediocre meals are not. Snapper’s offers its Mediterranean cuisine with presentation that looks as good as it tastes. Try the wasabi-crusted tuna that’s marinated in wasabi and soy before it’s pressed with panko breadcrumbs, pan seared and accompanied on a plate with a potato in puff pastry.
ART: Through July, visit the exhibit “Dali & da Vinci: Minds, Machines & Masterpieces” at The Dali Museum. The presentation draws a connection between the two artists to include more than 75 works of art mimicking the original diagrams, manuscripts and paintings from both icons.