I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday! I took a few days off for Christmas to recover from a cold but I’m back with a travel roundup today! Earlier this month my husband Andrew and I packed our suitcases for a mini getaway to Florida. We spent a week exploring Tampa, Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, Naples, the Everglades, and Key West and had a great time. For those who read my packing post, you know Miami was originally on the list but the week we arrived in Florida the weather was rainy, cloudy and unpredictable so made a few last minute changes and went to Key West to chase the sunshine.
For this trip I left all the planning to my husband since this was his pick for a vacation spot. This was my first time to Florida so for me everything was new. If you’ve read a few of my previous travel posts, you might remember that my husband literally plans things on the go. We stayed in a different city each night and booked hotels sometimes only an hour before we checked in. Since we were traveling before the busy season, everything worked out and we were able to find rooms easily at good rates. For those curious my husband used Hotels.com to book almost all of the hotels we stayed at and also checks TripAdvisor for reviews and ideas of things to do or see. It was definitely more of an adventurous kind of trip (versus relaxing) since we were on the move exploring and driving a lot each day, but we had a lot of fun. Even with last minute spontaneous changes we enjoyed our week playing tourist and were able to see quite a bit of Florida in a short period of time. I’ve added links for all the places we visited, stayed and ate in case you want to see more about each location.
Our trip was mainly focused on exploring the beach areas but we did drive around some pretty areas in Tampa.
What we saw: We made a stop at the Florida Aquarium in Downton Tampa which was on the small side but still a lot of fun. We spent quite a lot of time driving around the bay side of Tampa along Bayshore Boulevard. If you’re visiting the area I highly recommend you do so, you’ll see some of the prettiest views and neighborhoods in that area! My in-laws were with us for two days of the trip so we made a stop at one of the malls International Plaza and Bay Street to check out a few of the stores. I didn’t buy anything for myself but picked up the Kiehl’s Scented Hand Cream Trio (restocked online at Neimans) and Ultimate Strength Hand Salve for my mother and father-in-law as they asked for a recommendation on a good hand cream for cold dry climates. I’ll have to ask them to see if the creams worked for them!
Where we ate: When it comes to travel I love exploring new restaurants. We made a breakfast stop at The Oxford Exchange which is one of the most charming restaurants I’ve ever seen complete with a book store, gift shop and coffee shop. The interiors are to die for gorgeous and beautifully stocked with Cire Trudon candles, an Aesop store and lots of little gifts. Later in the day we picked a gastropub called Datz for our dinner spot. We’ve been trying to eat healthier for quite some time but the reviews we saw of this place made us change our minds for a splurge. I had the Carolina On My Mind sandwich and my husband had the Waffles N’Tweet. If you’re on a weight watchers plan or want something healthy this is not the place for you, but if you don’t mind indulging, I highly recommend it. There’s a Donut store next door called Dough, since we were already on a roll breaking our healthy habits we picked up a few and they were well worth the extra calories.
Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg:
We stayed in Clearwater Beach at the beginning of our trip and I fell head over heels with the gorgeous white sand beaches they have there. The beaches are pristine with the softest sand I’ve ever felt between my toes, making California sand almost seem like sharp rocks in comparison. We returned to this beach area on the last day or our trip to sun bathe and relax and would definitely go back.
Where we stayed: We booked a suite at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort. The rooms were clean and spacious and we picked a room with a partial gulf view. I found the rooms to be slightly dated, but everything was nice clean so I had no complaints and we had a lovely stay.
What we saw: In Saint Petersburg we drove around the beach areas, visited St. Pete Beach, and along one of the beach areas we saw kiteboarding and windsurfing near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on one of the windy days. In Saint Petersburg we ate at a cute European-style restaurant called the Cassis American Brassiere.
After exploring St. Petersburg we drove 2 hours south to Naples which was absolutely charming!
What we saw and where we shopped: We stopped by the beach areas near the pier and walked around main street on Fifth Avenue South. Before we left for our trip we saw temperatures in the mid 80s so we packed tees and shorts for the entire week. When we arrived weather was more in the 60s so we had to make a few stops to pick up a few pieces of warmer clothing. We stopped by the Waterside Shops and the Saks Fifth Avenue there was one of the prettiest Saks stores I’ve ever seen! The staff was really friendly and the rep in men’s department recommended we stop by either Bar Tulia or Osteria Tulia for dinner and it was a cute restaurant spot. There is a more casual bar side and then a more traditional dinner side. They both looked similar and we went with the one that had tables available immediately which was the Osteria. The ambiance and food was phenomenal. It’s a cute rustic Italian restaurant with fresh quality ingredients – we both highly recommend it.
Where we stayed: My husband booked our hotel during dinner at the Inn on Fifth right in the heart of downtown Naples. By the time we booked it, there were only two rooms left so we booked one of the Club Level Suites which comes with concierge level amenities in a separate building. The service was excellent and concierge welcoming and friendly. This was one of the cutest boutique hotels I’ve ever stayed at and I did not want to leave.
The last couple of days on our trip we had a few options of what to see: Orlando, Miami or Key West. Based on the weather forecast we went for Florida Keys to avoid the rain and were glad we did. It took us around 7 hours to drive from the mainland through the Everglades and the Florida Keys to get to Key West and we can’t wait to go back. This was my first time to Florida so I had never seen the Everglades before. On the freeway there are areas and swamp banks where alligators hang out and of course crowds of people pull over to see them. My husband being one of them. I refused to get out for obvious reasons but there is a fenced off area called the Oasis Visitors Center where there are solid chain fences in between the parking lot and the water where the alligators are so I felt ok looking at them there. We saw a lot of people fishing alongside the roads which to me did not seem safe but as a non-local I can’t really say for sure.
The drive along all the keys takes quite a bit of time but the views are unlike anything else and the color of the water is almost unreal! By the time we arrived the sun had just started to set, we checked into the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa. The hotel is in a great location and has a nice laid back kind of vibe. There are turtles in a few of the areas which I thought was cute. Our stay was pleasant but I don’t know that I’d go back – our room had a very humid, slightly damp and dusty kind of feel to it. The humidity level was pretty and as one who always gets bitten by mosquitoes or (as they call them there no-see-ums) I was really worried I would be covered in bites. Luckily I did not get any bites although we did buy some bug spray at the CVS there to be safe.
What we saw: We spent a full day exploring Key West. Most of the areas we wanted to go to were within walking distance from our hotel. We took one of the hop on and hop off Old Town Trolley Tours to see all of Key West in a short period of time. Two places of note included the Ernest Hemingway Home and because my husband likes to watch documentaries we stopped by the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.
Where we ate: The evening we arrived we decided to stop by Blue Heaven based on Yelp reviews. The food was excellent and the restaurant had a really fun and carefree vibe. One of the most interesting things to me was to see wild chickens and cats that roam the streets and outdoor areas. Even in restaurants we saw wild chickens and roosters walk by our table. We were tempted to go back again the next morning for brunch but decided to try something different and stopped by a cute cozy breakfast spot called Le Bistro on Duvall Street. Our last stop in the afternoon before we headed back to the mainland was Garbo’s Grill which made THE best tacos I’ve ever had. I would go back to Key West just for those tacos.
Blue Heaven during the day and at night:
Hemingway House and Museum:
What we missed: We would have loved to stay a couple more days to enjoy the water. We had hoped to rent some jet skis but missed the last cut off – note if you’re visiting they recommend you book and check in at least 30 minutes before their listed take off time.
Roundup of our eats:
The last night we were in Florida we drove back to St. Pete Beach to stay at the Kimpton Hotel Zamora so we would be relatively close to the airport. We considered staying in Key West another night but since the drive back to Tampa would be 7+ hours we decided it would be cutting the time too close. The hotel was very modern and seemed freshly remodeled as they had to repair a lot from hurricane damage. We had a really lovely stay here and our room had a view of the beach although it’s not one of the beach front hotels. We would definitely stay again although next time we want to try one of the ones right along the water.
There were a lot of other things we wanted to see but we were really happy with how much ground we covered in a week’s time. My husband and I were a bit worried with all the driving we might get bored or possibly drive each other nuts being in such close proximity for 7 days straight but I’m happy to report that we had plenty to keep us entertained (even in the long car drives) and had a really great trip. The highlights of the trip for me included visiting Clearwater Beach and Key West.
I had a packing post planned for this trip and I’ve photographed everything we traveled with. I’m not sure that I will post it because we packed all the wrong things hoping for heat and sunshine but arrived to clouds, partial clouds and rain. Let me know if you still want to see it! To those who followed me on Instagram, thanks for following along on my trip and on Insta-stories! I’m recovering from my cold but beauty posts will resume in the new year starting with Chanel spring and later this week I’ll have the best of 2016 posts go live.
Have you been to Florida, in particular any of the spots we visited? What did you see or do? Any recommendations for what we should see next time? We have so much on our list that we didn’t get to but were beyond thrilled to have covered the ground we did this trip 🙂