A January 2005 trip
to Florida by Mary Dickinson
Quote: Always looking for a time share on the west coast of Florida—we got two in a row. We found interesting things to do, and great places to eat.
We like quiet and privacy. At first, the natural exclusion from the group was offensive, then we got to know them in the pool and other outdoor activities and they knew where the best restaurants were. We found, through them, a great little restaurant called The Wharf, on Pass-a-grill Boulevard.
Our unit was small but the furniture was tropical in design and in good condition. Our bedroom had a sliding glass door that led to a private fenced in patio with a gate to the pool area. The door from the living room, dining room, and kitchen led to nicely landscaped outdoor patios, two shuffle board courts, a Jacuzzi, and gas grills. There were plenty of lounge chairs for those who just wanted to sit and enjoy the ocean.
The partial kitchen was badly constructed and the limited space was cluttered with many, mostly unnecessary, gadgets and small appliances owned by the resort. We had a closet for our things that was away from the kitchen area.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 19, 2005
Mariner Beach Club
4220 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, Florida 33706
Hotel | "Belleair Beach Club"
At 1pm we met in the lobby for the planned trip to the aquarium. We were the only ones signed up so he gave us half price coupons and a map that showed us how to get there. When we got back, the rummy game scheduled for 3pm was already in progress. We didn’t go to the 6pm miniature golf excursion. At 10pm, on Tuesday, a trip to Heritage Village was planned but we decided to go out on the casino boat. Kevin provided us with free boarding passes and buffet coupons. We missed out on the 1pm Name That Tune game (the prize was free Busch Garden tickets). We missed ice-cream time at 2pm, Wheel of Fortune at 3pm, and shuffleboard at 4pm. We had a great time at the shuffleboard court on our own, though.
Wednesday there was line dancing at 10am but I went shopping; however, Bob went down to the pool area for the 12:45pm hot dog roast. After Uno (a card game) at 1:30pm, and ice-cream floats at 2:30pm, he had a big group for Mexican Train at 3pm. We decided to watch from the heated pool. On Thursday at 10am, Bob joined the horseshoe fun on the beach and I did the aquacise at 11pm. Then, at 12:45pm, Kevin led our group to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for the Sea Safari Cruise. At 4:30pm he had his farewell spaghetti dinner, but we were too hungry after the cruise and stopped at Lever Rocks near the aquarium. Expensive restaurant, but great deals for lunch.
The unit was great, we were right on the Gulf, but the best thing at this resort was the activities—and Kevin made that a lot of fun.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 19, 2005
Belleair Beach Resort
3200 N. Gulf Blvd.
Restaurant | "The Wharf"
If your looking for a secret little hideaway restaurant in a fancy area in St. Pete’s, The Wharf is the place to go. It was highly recommended by people at the resort we were staying at, and they were right. The restaurant is in an area of yacht clubs, nice homes, and is right on the intracoastal waterway. It looks like a rusty shack, but inside are shellacked natural pine booths and a big square shellacked pine bar.
The hostess said there was a waiting list for the dining room and that we could get full service if we sat at the bar, or we could sit “out on the back porch.” Looking out through the back windows I could see the back porch and it looked like a great place to enjoy dinner. It had a roof, but was otherwise opened to a spectacular view of the intracoastal waterway and Tampa Bay. Fishing boats were moored at the Pass-A-Grill Marina, right next to the restaurant.
Our dinners were excellent. I ordered Blackened Grouper, $12, and it tasted fresh. It was smothered in hot spices that complimented the taste of the delicious fish. A choice of two sides came with the entree; coleslaw, salad or veggies, rice pilaf, french fries, or baked potato. I ordered a Caesar salad and veggies. The romaine lettuce was crisp and the dressing was excellent. The veggies consisted of fresh string beans, slices of carrots, yellow squash, broccoli, and red bell peppers steamed to perfection.
Bob ordered shrimp marinara, $10. Thick tomato sauce, with a little wine mixed in, covered the generous portion of large shrimp and linguine. It came with a salad that was fresh and crisp. As we ate our dinner we watch the small crafts coming up the waterway. It was a good thing we came early because there was a long waiting line and no parking by the time we left. We came back twice during the week.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 19, 2005
2001 Pass-A-Grille Way
St. Pete Beach, Florida 33706
Attraction | "Sea Safari"
As we left the marina at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and sailed out into Clearwater Harbor on the aquarium’s own boat, the Island Explorer marine biologist, Joe Malo, acquainted us with those facts. He pointed out how important mangroves are to both fish and fowl. Pelicans were nesting in huge masses in the mangrove trees along the waterfront, where the trees are still intact.
In a small plastic fish tank on the boat, Gladys, Joe’s assistant, scooped out two big live sea horses that had been found on a previous trip out. They were the largest ever found in Clearwater Harbor, measuring about 8 inches. The male sea horse was very pregnant, an unusual situation for live creatures. After showing them around the boat, they were dumped back into the water from where they had been found.
Later, a trough net was lowered into the water. After a few minutes, it was hauled in, yielding lots of mud and all the sea creatures living in that area. Joe said the aquarium has special permission to use the net because he was finding out how much sea life is in different parts of the harbor. Trough fishing is against the law because it catches everything in the water. The net collected slugs, crabs, small fish, and many other live specimens. Joe had the three children aboard show the catch around before it was returned to the water.
We stopped on a small deserted island where we went on land and collected sea shells. I got some beautiful and very heavy clam shells with barnacles and other shells attached to them. Joe said he camps on some of the deserted islands off the coast and enjoys being alone with nature. It sounded very adventurous, if you’re a marine biologist. We then started back to the aquarium while Joe talked about all the publicity the sea horses got in the news while they spent a few days on exhibit in the aquarium.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
249 Windward Passage
In tanks, close-up to the audience, volunteers and employees play with dolphins while they explain their habits. They let you pet a live sting ray (the sting has been removed) and have a show with a live loggerhead turtle while many local fish species swim in glass tanks with plaques that explain their habits and where to find them. There are also two river otters that are trained to dance on their hind feet, climb a ladder, and come down again. It's fun to watch as their sleek little bodies glide through the water as they swim.
The North American river otter was brought to the aquarium after they were stranded as pups. Without their mother they couldn’t survive, and once they had been raised in captivity, they won’t be able to survive in the wild. The dolphin show is with animals that have been rescued and are no longer able to survive outside the aquarium. All the creatures in the aquarium have been brought there after being rescued from trouble. The main function of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is to rehabilitate them and release them back into their natural habitat. Their rescues and rehabilitations usually make headlines to the delight of the proud marine biologists involved.
Written information on sea creatures and their habits are available in the gift shop, which also has toys and games for kids. The aquarium is right next to Clearwater Harbor, so it is possible to bring in very large sea creatures and care for them. The aquarium offers a Sea Life Safari and I will include another entry, in this journal, about that.