One of the sources of inspiration to create thisfloridalife was a quick trip to Clearwater Beach, Florida. Cinco de Mayo is always a cause for celebration for my husband and I. So when we realized that we would have the weekend of Cinco de Mayo off together it became our mission to get some sand in our toes, sun on our skin, and beer in our bellies. My husband had never been to Clearwater Beach and I had not been since my childhood years.
Where we stayed
Since I work in the hotel industry, it would be wrong of me to post about the hotel in which we stayed. I will, however, share the area at which we stayed. Clearwater Beach has essentially two choices, stay on the strip of the beach or head over the bridge to Sand Key. We stayed in Sand Key. What’s the difference? The main strip of the beach is the area that sees the most traffic, both human and vehicular. If you want to be in the middle of the action then this is where you want to stay. If you would prefer to have a more laid back experience while still being close to the main attractions then I suggest Sand Key, Florida. It is a five minute drive over a bridge. And the major plus is practically every hotel in Sand Key offers a view of the ocean since Sand Key is itself a little island.
Where we ate
Our main focus was location, atmosphere, and seafood. Yes, even though we are locals, some 90 minutes away, we too craved the typical Gulf coast fare.
Shephard’s Tiki Bar
This definitely makes my A list! While conducting pre-trip research we found Shepard’s (http://shephards.com/index.cfm). We discovered a very vibrant atmosphere at the outdoor tiki bar. Tiki torches and live music flooded our eyes and ears. We weaved our way around multiple bars and found two available stools. The food was fresh and certainly satisfied. What made Shephard’s a hit for us was the staff and the atmosphere. Locals mingled with visitors and the bartenders were exceptional. Shephard’s delivered the perfect way to kick off our weekend. As an added bonus, Shephard’s offers The Wave nightclub. Although the venue is not state of the art, we had a blast. It was a treat to not have to venture into the city to find a decent nightclub. We enjoyed room for dancing and found ourselves yet again among visitors and locals alike.
Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe
Many consider Frenchy’s to be a Clearwater cliche`. There are four different Frenchy’s locations in the Clearwater area. The first Frenchy’s cafe opened in 1981 and grew from there (http://frenchysonline.com/). Since we stayed on Sand Key, the South Beach cafe was the closest location to us. We knew it would be busy and thankfully we got there just in time. Note: parking can be a pain so be prepared to drive around for a short bit and be sure to look out for tow away zones. Our table was on the front porch area. We were packed in pretty tight, but had a nice view of the city beach across the street. Having seen a few Travel Channel shows that featured the grouper sandwich Frenchy’s is famous for, I just had to order it. I was not disappointed at all! The prices were great, be sure to look for happy hour and other drink specials.
Thanks to Zane Lamprey’s show “Drinking Made Easy”, the Palm Pavilion was a must-do for us. We watch his show almost religiously and when he featured this beachfront bar on the Florida episode we knew we had to visit. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it is located next to Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill. In fact, these two restaurants share a public parking lot with access to the beach. Palm Pavilion offers open air seating. We placed ourselves at the bar and overlooked the beach (there is a small charge for parking). There are lots of great drink specials and of course their specialty drink menu offers numerous rum concoctions. Sorry to say the food left a lot to be desired. I ordered a shrimp flatbread that was obviously cooked in the microwave. My husband’s cheeseburger was not much better than an upgraded McDonald’s offering. If we were to return it would be for the drinks and live music.
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
Having serendipitously found our way to a second Frenchy’s location and having been disappointed in Palm Pavilion’s food, we walked across the parking lot to Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill. It… was.. .packed! The menu was the same as the other location, but there seemed to be less outdoor seating at this location. Additionally, the decor was much more of a local southern bar rather than a tropical, beachside establishment. Once again we were not disappointed in their drink specials and delighted in the variety of ways that grouper was presented on the menu. I tried their special of the month: grouper tamales. Not as good as the sandwich I had the day before, but certainly a cool new way of enjoying grouper.
Over the years Clearwater Beach has been voted as the number one beach in America. With its soft, powder sand and gorgeous crystal clear water it comes as no surprise. Plus, it is located near Tampa and Orlando’s attractions making it a great addition to a family vacation. We came across two public beaches during our trip. Since we stayed on Sand Key we chose to visit Sand Key park. What makes this beach unique is the curvature and the jetty at end. We watched yachts, sailboats, and speed boats sail pass through the jetty as well strolled up and down the beach.
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