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It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Weathered vessels bob in the river as men with tanned, lined faces throw nets of sponges onto the nearby docks.

Several blue and white flags flutter in the breeze while dozens of people wander in and out of the shops that are just a few feet away from the water.

If you listen carefully, you might even hear a shop owner call "Yassas!" to those visiting.

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


Even though all signs might lead you to think otherwise, this tableau isn't found somewhere in Greece. Instead, Tarpon Springs, Florida, is a thriving village about 45 minutes north of downtown St. Petersburg, and holds the largest population of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S. Its residents specialize in sponge diving, another unusual profession in this area of deep sea fishing, spring break entertainment, and maritime recreation.

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


On our short 2014 trip to the St. Pete/ Clearwater area, I read about Tarpon Springs, but wasn't able to include a visit since our schedule was already packed with visits to the Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection, and Busch Gardens. On this year's FSSLA road trip, I had a little more wiggle room in our itinerary, so off to Tarpon Springs we went one day.

I hadn't done much research on the area before we set off on our day trip, so we ended up in the downtown area of Tarpon Springs instead of at the sponge docks (where all of the action is!). Once we got our bearings and discovered the way to the sponge docks, we started up North Pinellas Avenue--only to get very distracted by our grumbling stomachs.

When in Rome Greece sort-of Greece, you've got to have some Greek food, so Landon and I located the closest Greek restaurant: the Original Mama Maria's. As we walked in the restaurant, Greek folk music hummed over the loudspeakers, and an older woman greeted us in heavily accented English.

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


The entire set-up looked so much like something out of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" that I half-expected to see Tula (in her pre-self-awareness phase) slogging around the kitchen!

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


When Stella (who doubled as a hostess and the restaurant's only wait staff) brought out our food, Landon and I both nearly cried. My souvlaki platter and Landon's Greek Village Pasta were so good that I wondered where this restaurant had been my entire life. Even Britton's spaghetti and marinara kid's plate stunned us--no jarred sauce here!

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


Even though we were stuffed to the brim, we managed to make room for some authentic baklava for dessert. The three of us managed to nibble away at one piece before we then waddled back to the car.

With full stomachs, we renewed our journey to the sponge docks, which were just a short drive past Mama Maria's. We headed to the very end of Dodecanese Boulevard and found some parking, then piled out to see what the sponge docks had to offer.

The stretch of real estate along Dodecanese Boulevard is dominated by shops, most of which offer at least a few types of sponges: larger bathing sponges, smaller makeup sponges, and tougher cleaning sponges were very popular. You can bypass purchasing anything labeled "Loofah/Luffa sponges" as these aren't sponges from the ocean, but rather are the fibrous fruit of a vine in the cucumber family.

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


Although sponges have been harvested in this area since the late 1800s, John Corcoris, a Greek businessman, introduced the traditional Greek sponge diving techniques to the area in 1905, and the entire community began growing into what you see today. Corcoris brought sponge divers over from Greece (from the Dodecanese islands--hence, the street name) and established what would become a century-old tradition of Greek Americans here in this corner of Florida.

It's All Greek to Me: Tarpon Springs, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


There are a few points of interest in the area:

  • The sponge shops (of course). I particularly liked Lori's Soap and Sponge Market on the corner of Dodecanese Boulevard and Athens Street since they sold soaps that had local sponges already embedded in them. My family received a few of these as souvenirs. 
  • The food. While I'm partial to Mama Maria's (which isn't in walking distance of the docks), there were plenty of options for traditional Greek food here. Don't get too full, though, or you'll have to miss a stop at the two bakeries in town: Hellas and Parthenon. (And that would be a serious shame!)
  • The cruises. Spongeorama Cruises will take guests out on dolphin or local island tours, while the St. Nicholas Boat Line offers a glimpse into the life of a sponge diver and demonstrations on how the sponges are harvested. 
Experiencing a little bit of Greek culture on our road trip was quite a fun surprise, and I'd highly recommend it if you find yourself in greater St. Pete, Florida, with a little bit of time on your hands. Allot at least a half day to fully explore the area. 

Would you be interested in visiting Tarpon Springs? What's your favorite Greek dish?
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History, Picnics, and a Surrey with the Fringe on Top: Fort De Soto, Florida


In between checking out of Cay Pointe Villa in Indian Rocks and checking into the Plaza Beach Hotel in St. Pete Beach, we had a few hours to kill. Most people would've headed straight to the nearest public beach access, but I'm not most people.

Instead, we headed to Fort De Soto, a park that sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It is the largest of the Pinellas County Parks and straddles five small islands.

When I'd written an intro about where we were going on our Superior Small Lodging road trip, I had several readers write in and tell me that Fort De Soto was not to be missed. When we had that free morning, I knew exactly where I would take Landon and Britton.

At first glance, the park was quiet with only a few bicyclists making use of the path. But as we drove further in, we began to notice all of the different things we could do. There were kayak rentals, a self-guided fort tour, six miles of beaches, a fishing pier, picnic areas and a little cafe just off the fort.



Normally, I would've headed straight to the historical stuff since that's my Achilles heel, but Landon and I had promised our toddler that she could ride a bike.



Of course, with her tiny legs and toddler coordination (or lack thereof), we didn't actually expect her to ride her own bike, but we were hoping that there would be a carry-on option for her. We lucked up and found that there were two and four person surreys, which absolutely delighted Britton to no end.

Landon and I loaded up the surrey with some snacks, drinks, and a picnic lunch, and headed out on the biking trails. Britton loved zooming along (at 5 MPH) with the wind in her face while Landon and I huffed and puffed. We needed a little exercise after all of the delicious food we'd tried on the trip.



First, we biked along the historical trails, where we saw some of the ruins from the military encampment that was once there. While the area was first scouted in the mid-1800s as a possible military defense spot, it wasn't until 1898 that the buildings and fort were constructed. Although the post house, cafeteria and barracks aren't standing any longer, there are markers outlining where each building used to be.

After we'd been doodling around in the surrey (with the fringe on top) for about an hour, Britton started hollering about lunch. We pulled into the nearest picnic area, plunked our cooler down, and enjoyed our food with only the waves and the birds as company.



Our bike rental was up after lunch, so we had to head back and return it.

Next, we headed to the fort, which (unlike the out buildings) is still is great shape. When it was being built, there was an issue with the stones that were being sent from the North down to Florida. Rather than wait for the delayed building stones, the workers decided to make use of the plentiful shells around the island to construct the walls and ceiling of the fort.

With walls that range from 8 to 20 feet deep and ceilings that are 5 feet thick, this place was built to last. Yet, the fort has never been in any battles and the weapons have never been fired! The men assigned to Fort De Soto didn't see any conflict--unless you count the hordes of mosquitos that harassed them day and night. The bugs were so bad that they even made it into the post quartermaster's report in the early 1900s. Yikes.

We perused the fort, ducking in a few of the rooms and reading the plaques that we came across. Along the way, we found this little girl had been thrown in the clinker for excessive noise, but we were feeling nice and posted bail.



It wasn't the longest trip, but we managed to pack a good bit in. I wish we'd had more time to play on the beaches or bike around more. Fort De Soto is definitely worth a stop if you're in the St. Pete area!



Do you like visiting county or national parks on your trips? Which activity would you have liked doing at Fort De Soto the most?

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Road Trip Stop #3: Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

For our third and final stop on our Florida road trip, we packed up the car and headed south to St. Pete Beach. Throughout our adventures, which took us from Pass-a-Grille all the way to Clearwater Beach, we'd passed through St. Pete Beach multiple times, but hadn't slowed down to take it in.

After stays in two of the area's quieter locales, we were excited to see what it would be like in the middle of the action at the Plaza Beach Hotel.

Location
Situated along Gulf Boulevard in the heart of St. Pete Beach, the Plaza Beach Hotel is in an enviable position--it's steps from the beach, yet it is within walking distance of multiple restaurants, ice cream shops, putt-putt golf places, and the nearest Publix.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


If you plan on just enjoying the resort and beach, there's little need for you to get in the car during your stay since everything around it is so close.

Room
We had one of their bottom floor rooms (109) that was on the non-parking lot side of the building.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

It came with two queen beds, a large wardrobe area, and a kitchenette.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The room was plenty for the three of us, but if I'd come with older kids, I think I would've wanted to get adjoining rooms. There were only three chairs at the kitchen table, so having more options for eating would be great with larger families.

Everything (both in the room and out) was fun, funky, and colorful with a unique beachy kitsch that definitely set this place apart! Furthermore, the room was extremely clean, which cannot be an easy task for the housekeeping staff since the hotel is situated right on the beach.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


The one thing that we didn't love about the room was that we didn't have an oven included. We worked around it using the microwave and oven, but it would've been nice to throw our chicken in an oven to cook. Still, I doubt that many people are coming to the beach to bake and cook that much, so the lack of oven shouldn't stop you from visiting.

Service
Since this was a much larger hotel than the other two on our road trip, I didn't have as many opportunities to interact with the staff. That being said, everyone that I encountered was friendly, prompt in their responses, and eager to assist.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

When I first stopped by the hotel, our room wasn't ready, but the front desk clerk took my number and called me when it was prepared about an hour later. He helped me with directions to the nearest ice cream stand and Publix so we could stock up on necessary supplies while waiting for our room.

After I came back to the front office to get my room keys, the general manager, Robert, and the guest relations manager, Luanne, were there to welcome me. They both emphasized the fact that they, and the rest of the staff, was there to help if we needed anything.

Our housekeeper, Kat, was very sweet and gladly gave us extra towels after we used all of ours at the pool and beach.

Amenities
For a mid-sized hotel, Plaza Beach packs plenty into its grounds. The office has a computer cafe for all of those visitors who want to unplug as much as possible but still need access to a desktop for printing boarding passes and the like. There's also a coin-operated washer and dryer just outside the front office if you need to freshen up those vacation clothes.

We were given a wifi code at check-in, and I was able to work on my laptop and phone throughout the resort, even posting photos of the sunset from the beach! I know that wifi shouldn't be that important on a beach trip, but I'm always appreciative when I can access my email.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


In terms of entertainment, you're spoiled for choice here: there's a nicely sized pool that goes to 6 feet (nearly unheard of these days), shuffleboard, cornhole boards, a life-sized chess board, ladder golf equipment, hammocks, a few holes of putt-putt golf, children's beach toys, and (of course) the beach.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

If that's still not enough to keep you busy, there's a water sports hut out on the beach, where you can rent paddleboards and giant water tricycles, or arrange a parasailing tour.

Final Thoughts
This hotel, like the two we'd visited before, had such a unique vibe to it--one reason why I love supporting locally owned accommodations! The Plaza Beach Hotel had an old-school feel to it (in all the best ways) and reminded me of what it must have been like to stop at cute mom and pop places during the Golden Age of travel (back before chains and interstates!).

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


The Plaza Beach Hotel was quite a lively spot with patrons ranging from young families like ours to older couples from abroad to families with teenaged kids. It really was a great mix of people, and everyone was polite and friendly throughout our stay. While I was at the pool one day with Britton, I talked to a man and his teen son, who told me that they'd been to St. Pete Beach many times--and while they'd occasionally tried new places, they always came back to the Plaza Beach Hotel.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


The hotel isn't your cookie cutter chain hotel--and thank goodness for that!--and that quirky charm and stellar location will certainly keep people coming back for years!

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Have you been to the St. Pete Beach area? Which part is your favorite? For a beach vacation, would you rather stay at a smaller, more relaxed place with fewer amenities, or a more upbeat, larger place with more amenities?

Road Trip Stop #2: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

The morning we were scheduled to move from the Coconut Inn in Pass-a-Grille to our second stop of the Florida Superior Small Lodging road trip, we battled through pouring rain to pack the car. Thoroughly soaked, Landon and I were glad of the 30 minute drive up to Indian Rocks Beach, where Cay Pointe Villas awaited us. 

Just as the rain was starting to let up, we arrived in Indian Rocks Beach to find our next place to try out. Would Cay Pointe Villas be the ray of sunshine we needed on such a dreary day?

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com


To make a long story short, it was everything we could have wanted and more! Read on to find out more about this great beachfront property and the people who made our stay so special.

History
Back in the late '60s and early '70s, developers began to purchase some of the area's old beach homes, knock them down, and use the space for large condo buildings. When a developer approached Lynn Timberlake's parents, they refused to sell their family's beach house.

The developer told the Timberlakes that he'd already bought the property to the left of the home, and that he was also going to buy the property to the right of the house, essential sandwiching their home in between two large condo buildings.

The developer ended up messing with the wrong family, as the Timberlakes outbid the developer on the property to the right of their home. With this extra space, the family decided to try and preserve a bit of this beautiful stretch of beach; in 1972, they opened Cay Pointe Villas.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com
Cay Pointe Villas is to the left, and the Timberlakes' original home is the grey one to the right.


The original owners' daughter, Lynn, now runs the place, along with her two resident managers, Carol and Bill. The three of them make a stay here feel more like you're visiting a favorite family member instead of staying at a vacation property.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com


Location
Indian Rocks Beach is a much quieter part of the St. Pete Beach/ Clearwater area--Gulf Boulevard narrows to two lanes, and the buildings don't reach the skyscraper proportions that they do further north.

Tucked among the personal homes, smaller condo properties, and locally-owned restaurants is this gem of a getaway: Cay Pointe Villas.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

Even though Indian Rocks Beach is quieter than Clearwater or St. Pete Beach, you're still minutes away from Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, Fort De Soto, and grocery stores.

Room
It's not fair to call what we stayed in a room--it was a complete apartment! In fact, the three bedroom, one bath apartment was close in size to our first townhouse. We loved the full kitchen and used it to cook throughout our stay.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com


The three bedrooms were all nicely sized: there was a queen in the master bedroom, and a twin (with trundle) in each of the other two rooms.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

The bathroom was quite large, and I could've easily shared it with Landon, Britton, and another family member or two during a longer stay.

There were plenty of comfy chairs in the living room and a flat screen TV, which we didn't watch much since the beach was right there!

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com


And the best part of all? The wide porch that overlooks the ocean. There's a table in the kitchen, but we couldn't resist eating inside when there was outside dining space available. We ate every meal out there, relaxed after coming in from the beach, and looked at the stars--all from the comfort of our private porch.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com


Service
When I went into the resident managers' office to check in, Carol and Bill not only greeted me to Cay Pointe, but also ushered me in for a quick tour of their apartment. Carol brought cold bottled water for my daughter while we were out on the beach, and let us borrow her sunscreen and snorkeling goggles. When Bill was in the apartment next to us, he come out onto the porch and chatted with us while we were sitting on our own porch.

When we left, Carol sent us off with hugs and well wishes. I'd come back to the property just for the hospitality that she, Bill, and the owner, Lynn, showed us.

From the moment we arrived to the minute we drove off, the team at Cay Pointe made us feel as if we were family or long lost friends who'd stopped by for a visit. They run it as a home, not as a hotel, and that makes a huge difference to the feel of the place. I don't know when I've stayed in a property where I felt so welcomed!

Amenities
When the ocean is just outside your door, you don't need many other amenities! While the beach access and view is definitely the major draw here at Cay Pointe Villas, Lynn and her team have done everything they can to make your stay as nice as possible.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

There are beach toys available for the little ones, several of which Britton gladly tested out while we were there. Carol, one of the resident managers, sweeps the beach in front of the property every morning, so you don't have to worry about seaweed or trash when you're laying out your blanket. The office also has sun hats, children's books, and paperbacks that guests are welcome to borrow.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

On the back porch, there are plenty of chairs on which to relax, read, or work (if you have to do such a blasphemous thing here!). Because the property is on a quiet, protected part of the beach, you might see some of the resident curly-tailed lizards or a beautiful heron, both of which frequent the patio area.
Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

Final Thoughts
Without a doubt, I would return here. While we were enjoying our time at Cay Pointe, Landon and I kept saying things like, "Wouldn't it be nice to bring our parents here?" or "Can you imagine having a family vacation here?" This was Landon's favorite property of the three we stayed in, and he's still talking about going back again, nearly two weeks later.

It really is the perfect spot for several families to all rent--and that's a popular way to rent the properties, Lynn told me.

If you don't have a beachfront home, Cay Pointe Villas is as close as you can get without buying a property yourself. Join the family on your next vacation, and tell Carol, Bill, and Lynn that I sent you!

What would you like about this property? Do you prefer to vacation with immediate family, extended family or friends?
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Beowulf, Books, and Ghosts: Haslam's Bookstore, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beowulf, Books, and Ghosts: Haslam's Bookstore, St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

It doesn’t look like anything special as you drive past, just a painted brick storefront on an otherwise nondescript street. 

But if you turn into the parking lot and venture into the building, you’ll realize that you’ve found something that’s anything but ordinary. 

Beowulf, Books, and Ghosts: Haslam's Bookstore, St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


Haslam’s Bookstore, located on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the Southeast’s largest independent bookstore. I’d found a brochure for it while we were out and about elsewhere in the area and immediately put Landon on high alert that we would be making a visit during our time on the Gulf Coast. 

He’s not quite the bookworm that I am, so it helps my cause if I give him some time to adjust to the possibility of wandering around a bookstore for more than five minutes. 

After a good breakfast the next morning (so we’d all be in tip-top shape for our book looking), we piled in the car and headed into St. Petersburg. Landon, who really is a great husband, commandeered our toddler so I could have free reign of the bookstore exploration. 

At exactly 10:02 AM (yes, we were totally those people who came in right as they opened), we barged through the doors, ready to riffle through some pages and find a new treasure. 

Beowulf, Books, and Ghosts: Haslam's Bookstore, St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com
So many books, so little time.


Well, one of the three of us was. I’ll let you guess which. (Hint: It was the former college lit professor amongst us.)

The lovely smells of old books, paper, excitement, and the promise of new things met me at the door—as did two of the sales associates. When one of them saw Britton, he said, “Come meet Beowulf!” 

Despite what you might think, he wasn’t trying to make a new fan of Old English literature, but rather introducing my daughter to the store’s resident cat. Britton, who loves all animals to a ridiculous degree, glommed onto the front desk in an attempt to make best friends with Beowulf. 

The store assistant made Britton’s day (and perhaps her entire year) when he let her feed Beowulf not one, but three cat treats. I’m not sure who was happier—my kid or the cat. 

Because of that warm welcome, we spent most of the rest of our trip like this:
Landon: Hey, Britton, do you want to read this book?
Britton: No. Pet Kitty!
Me: Hey, Britton, let’s read this book. 
Britton: No! PET KITTY! PET KITTY! (dissolves into overwrought, obviously fake crying)
Me: Britton, do you want to go to the car?
(Fake crying continues in earnest.)
Me: Okay, no more kitty if we go to the car.
(She immediately quits crying.)
Britton: Pet kitty. PLEASE.

In between our visits to Beowulf, we managed to do nearly a complete circuit of the rambling store. If you’re looking for something in print, there’s a high likelihood that it is among Haslam’s 300,000 volumes that are kept in-store. I heard customers ask the sales associates for everything from a romance novel to a local history book to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, all of which were promptly delivered to the customer. 

Since I knew I was on borrowed time with both Britton and Landon accompanying me, I focused my time in the Florida section (since I’m a sucker for local history and ghost stories). If you’re looking for information on anything related to the culture, history, or architecture of the Gulf (or the rest of the state), that aisle is where you need to be. 

Beowulf, Books, and Ghosts: Haslam's Bookstore, St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com



And, if Haslam's couldn't get any more awesome in my book, I found out that it's rumored to be haunted. 

By none other than that wild and crazy '60s literary icon, Jack Kerouac. 

Kerouac, who headed to St. Petersburg after he wrote The Dharma Bums and On the Road, used to come into the bookstore and rearrange the displays so that his were front and center. Naturally, the Haslams didn't enjoy their bookshelves being handled in such a manner and would kick Kerouac out of the bookstore. He'd come back in a day or two and the whole thing would start over again. 

It was your classic love-hate relationship, only with more books than these things usually have. 

When Kerouac's liver finally failed him at 47, rumors began to crop up around the bookstore than Kerouac was having the last laugh. Customers and sales associates would feel a hand on their shoulders--but no one would be there. Books fall off of shelves when there aren't people nearby. 

Whether you believe in ghosts (or not) or whether you love books (or not), Haslam's is a St. Petersburg institution and is well worth a visit. If the huge book selection doesn't win you over, Beowulf will!

What's your favorite independent bookstore?
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Road Trip Stop #1: The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

After our side trip to a water park in Orlando, our Superior Small Lodging road trip began in earnest. With a toddler happy in the backseat with a pack of stickers and some paper, Landon and I headed west on I-4 Sunday morning.
The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com
Britton was ROCKIN' those glasses (even if she couldn't figure out how to put them on correctly)! 


I started to get really excited as we headed down the final bridge and the pink Don CeSar hotel guided us into the Pass-a-Grille area. Just a few more minutes, and we were turning onto 11th Avenue in search of the Coconut Inn.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


Awaiting us at the other end of the street was this adorable little inn with palm trees and tropical flowers flanking it. But would our stay at the Coconut Inn live up to its first impression?

History

During the 1920s, this area of St. Petersburg began to attract the rich and famous through gigantic hotels like the Viceroy, the Don CeSar, and the Belleair Biltmore. The blue-green waters and white sand beaches of the Gulf didn't just attract the wealthy, and cute inns like the Coconut Inn popped up as an alternative to the uber expensive see-and-be-seen resorts along the Gulf.

The Coconut Inn's original building remains central to the property, though the inn has made some excellent improvements in recent years. Landon and I both found that the overwhelming charm of the place came from the intersection of the inn's classic style and modern upgrades. For the last several years, the current owners have run the Coconut Inn, as well as the two other Pass-a-Grille properties, Sabal Palms Inn and the Havana Inn.

Location

Situated on the Gulf end of 11th Avenue, the Coconut Inn is planted in a pretty amazing spot within in Pass-a-Grille. I loved that it was surrounded by residences, not other hotels.

To get to the beach, all we had to do was walk right across Gulf Way. That's it!

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

I love going to the beach, but I hate lugging all of our towels, chairs, and snacks while simultaneously trying to keep Britton from charging into the ocean. We didn't have to worry about that at Coconut Inn since it took us all of 15 seconds to get to the beach.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com
Less time walking, more time for  family beach selfies


If we headed out of the Coconut Inn and turned left onto Gulf Boulevard, the restaurants and shops of the historic district were only a block away.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


We couldn't have asked for a better location with our toddler in tow. Those little legs can only walk so far!

Room
For our two night stay, we were placed in one of the upper rooms in the main building. It was an efficiency apartment with a full kitchen, a king bed, and two chairs that converted into twin beds.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


The bathroom had the usual amenities: hair dryer, plenty of towels, shower, etc. If you like a bath instead of a shower, I'd recommend getting a different room. Technically, there was a tiny, tiny bathtub/ shower combo in the bathroom, but only people the size of my 23-month-old would be able to get in the tub comfortably. When used as a shower, it was perfectly roomy.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Having the full kitchen with a stove, oven, microwave, and refrigerator was a great way to cook a few meals instead of eating out all of the time. The room also had plenty of pots, pans, silverware, and dishes so all you have to bring is your food. (If you want to get some great chicken, seafood, or skewers to cook, try Shaver's Land and Sea Market just down the road from the Coconut Inn. I think we went there three times in five days to get stuff to cook!)

Service

Eddie, the manager, greeted me with a big smile when I walked into office. He had to run off to help another couple checking in, but quickly returned to walk me through the registration process. Then, he walked us to our room.

Let me repeat. He walked us to our room! I cannot tell you the last time that happened--and I've stayed at many hotels of all different sizes. Eddie showed us around our little apartment, gave us his cell phone number for after-hours emergencies, and made sure we knew where to go for dinner.

Amenities

For a smaller place (about 12 rooms), the Coconut Inn has a surprising number of fun amenities. There's a pool in the courtyard--it's not the biggest, but it has jets and color changing fountains, both of which went over extremely well with my toddler. There are also floats and noodles to use.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

In the back of the property, there's a gorgeous outdoor kitchen, an additional gas grill, swings, and sitting areas. We wanted to grill out one night, but didn't get the chance.

Hotel guests can also use any of the beach chairs or bicycles on the property--there's no need to sign them in or out, as everything's done on the honor system.

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Finally, if you're looking to add a bit of adventure into your beach vacay, there are kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals available just down the street at the Sabal Palms Inn, the Coconut Inn's sister property.

Final Thoughts

The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

We loved our time at The Coconut Inn and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Pass-a-Grille area. The Coconut Inn is clean, safe, and comfortable, all elements that the Superior Small Lodging Association promises of its properties. The location couldn't be beat, and the size of the inn made our stay feel cozy and welcoming. The Coconut Inn is the type of property you always hope to find when you plan to stay locally!

The Full Itinerary

Road Trip Stop #1: The Coconut Inn, Pass-a-Grille
Road Trip Stop #3: Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach

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Have you visited Pass-a-Grille? What's your favorite part of the St. Pete Beach area? What do you look for when you're staying in locally owned inns?