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Beach Trip

By Kevin Wing
Co-Host, Catch a Wave: A Journey to Californiaís 10 Best Beaches

Kevin Wing(Editorís Note: This new monthly column about Americaís best beaches is written exclusively for AARisings by Kevin Wing, an Emmy Award-winning San Francisco Bay Area-based television journalist who co-hosts Catch a Wave: A Journey to Californiaís 10 Best Beaches, a television pilot for The Travel Channel. Kevin is also a feature reporter for the nationally syndicated LatinEyes, produced at KRON-TV in San Francisco. This monthís sandy locale: gorgeous St. Pete Beach, along Floridaís Gulf Coast.)

As a native Californian who grew up on the beaches of the Bay Area and northern California, Iíve been exposed to a lot of gorgeous sand in my day. Iíve always thought that we Californians are so very lucky to have great beaches that stretch for nearly a thousand miles, from San Diego and Los Angeles in the south, to the Central Coast and the Bay Area and beyond, to the north. And, these great beaches are surrounded by cool beach towns and communities Ė places like Coronado (which we featured last month), Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Carmel, Santa Cruz (which will be featured in the May edition of Beach Trip) and, of course, San Francisco. Along the Pacific coast, it doesnít get much better than this.

But, Iíd be totally loco if I said I didnít think the beaches of Florida were just as nice, too. Iíve visited several beaches in Florida through the years. Places like Miami Beach and Vero Beach on the Atlantic coast. Vero Beach is a quaint vacation getaway with a charm all its own. And, Miami Beach, of course, is a world in and of itself. Miami Beach conjures up images of Spring Break, wild parties and an exciting nightlife unlike no place else.

But, on the Gulf Coast, where the sand is powdery white, St. Pete Beach is quite something to behold. A classic Florida fun-filled resort.

St. Pete Beach is at the foot of a narrow peninsula, or barrier island, and is separated from St. Petersburg and Tampa by Boca Ciego Bay, an offshoot of Tampa Bay. The peninsula is technically known as Key Treasure Island Long Key, and includes places like Redington Beach, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach. St. Pete Beach is part of this chain of beach towns. Itís the southernmost beach colony on this peninsula and is connected to St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg Beach Causeway and Pinellas Bayway Road, both of which span Boca Ciego Bay.

A year ago, we visited St. Pete Beach for the very first time, and I can tell you with all honesty that we fell in love with this place immediately. The sand is so white, so soft and so powdery. Its texture and color are in stark contrast to the more coarser sand, which is almost orange in color, that you spy on Floridaís Atlantic coast.

As you might guess, St. Pete Beach is a popular place to visit. In fact, itís the busiest beach town on the Sunshine Stateís Gulf Coast. With an average of 361 days of sunshine a year and a short two hoursí drive from touristy Orlando and Walt Disney World, this portion of the Gulf Coast between St. Petersburg and Clearwater is the busiest, attracting hordes of beachgoers, locals and vacationers alike.

Due to the high quality of the sand and the warm, clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the beaches along the Suncoast appear regularly in lists of Americaís best beaches.

St. Pete Beach has seven miles of white sand, and a buzzing scene along the waterfront that features restaurants, clubs and excellent water sports facilities.

The beachís southernmost end is anchored none other by the extravagant Don CeSar Resort, a beautiful pink palace that towers majestically over the Florida beach scene.

Built in the 1920s, the hotelís massive scale and its roll call of celebrity guests are typical of the grand hotels built in the early 20th century. Getting a room at the Don CeSar can be pricey, especially if you want to start the day with a view of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico, and end the day with a romantic evening on your balcony listening to the gentle waves of the Gulf. That said, itís definitely worth splurging for if you can afford it. Itís a historic hotel thatís worth every penny.

But, the hotel wouldnít be as special as it is without the gorgeous sandy beach separating it from the waterís edge. Itís a perfect place to play or get a suntan. Coming from a Californian, this beach makes you really feel like youíre on a true, relaxing vacation.

The city of St. Pete Beach has many attractions and amenities to lure even the most die-hard of beach town skeptics. Itís a great tropical place Ė best, of course, during the spring and summer months, in my opinion. And, with the attractions of St. Petersburg and Tampa only minutes away, you canít go wrong in St. Pete Beach. Itís a perfect vacation getaway for couples and families. On a scale of 10, St. Pete Beach gets a 20.

How to get to the beach: St. Pete Beach is a 45-minute drive from Tampa International Airport and a 25-minute drive from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. To get there from either airport, or from Orlando, head south on Interstate 275, then west on Highway 682 (Pinellas Bayway Road/54th Avenue South). Turn right (north) on Gulf Boulevard. Navigate your way to the beach via The Don CeSar Resort, which dominates the area. In fact, youíll see the Don CeSar as you come into town via Pinellas Bayway Road. The hotel is located at 3400 Gulf Blvd. From Orlando and Walt Disney World, St. Pete Beach is a 90-minute to two-hour drive via Interstate 4.

Next month from Beach Trip: northern Californiaís quintessential patch of sand, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, located minutes from Monterey and the San Francisco Bay Area.

To learn more about the Catch a Wave television show and Kevin Wing, go to www.catchawavetv.com. You can email Kevin and the Catch a Wave crew at catchawavetvshow@aol.com.

Copyright 2005
All Rights Reserved
Kevin Wing
American Travelers Television
Issue 2 / April 2005

February 2005

Photo used by permission courtesy of Kevin Wing. Photo copyright by Kevin Wing.