My Happy Place.

In July I went on one of my favourite family holidays we've ever been on. We spent a few days in New York (which was obvs amazing), however, it was the 12 days in Florida which made it the best holiday ever. Although we had a great time when we were there, it wasn't until I got home, and had the worst case of post holiday blues I've ever experienced, that I realised what an incredible holiday it really was.

Prepare for my most picture heavy post yet...

We all have a happy place. That place we go to when we're lying in the dentist chair, sitting in traffic, daydreaming at work, or just having a bad day. It might be somewhere you've been to before, or a made up dream world where you're surrounded by your favourite things. The point is we all have one. My happy place is somewhere I've only been to twice, yet I think about at all the time.

Welcome to St Pete Beach, Florida.

St. Pete Beach is a beautiful beachy town; a breath of fresh air and tranquility from the bustly nearby cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater.

With a very peaceful, local, and often scruffy feel, it might not be The Maldives, but is absolutely my idea of paradise. 

One of my favourite parts of St. Pete Beach, no surprise here, is the beach. It's obviously no shock that the beaches are incredible. However, for me it's Pass-a-Grille beach in particular which beats them all by a long shot.

There is something about it which just makes me forget about all the crap going on in the world, and everything that brings me down. 

There's nothing quite like looking up at the birds gliding through a clear blue sky, or the vast, still ocean, not knowing where the sea ends and the sky begins, to make your worries feel like the most insignificant thing in the world. 

There are lots of things to do if beach activities are more your thing; however I'm perfectly happy alternating between listening to music and reading, whilst topping up my tan. Oh, and wandering back and forth the beach cafe/bar 'Paradise Grille'. It's an all-American, easy going place to eat. The food is very simple, but very delicious - a great spot for breakfast, lunch, ice cream, or evening drinks. All with a view to die for. What more could you want?

We were told by several people that you absolutely have to get up early and watch the sun rise from the beach. We're not early risers so this proved to be a struggle, however on our last day we had to leave early and decided to squeeze in one last beach visit. Although we missed the sunrise, it was about 7:30am and not a soul was in sight, and definitely worth the earlier start. The stillness was quite something.

If like me, you're more of a night owl, then you're in for a treat too. It's the perfect place for an impromptu photoshoot on your way to dinner, admiring from one of the ample viewing spots, or taking an evening dip (my personal fave - there's nothing quite like watching the sun set whilst in the sea). 

One thing I absolutely love, is every single evening, outside Paradise Grille, they ring the bell (see in the picture below) just as the sun begins to set. It's a tradition which adds a magical touch to the moment, as everyone is looking in the same direction out to sea (and trying to get that perfect Instagram)!

Below the bell there is a little sign, explaining why they ring it, and I couldn't not share it with you. I absolutely love it, and think we should take something from it every night before we go to sleep.

Why We Ring the Bell

The Friends of the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, located right behind you on the 10th Avenue, donated the bell to ring at sunset for the following reasons:

To thank God for another day
To bring friends together
To celebrate special occasions
To say goodnight to the birds
To say thanks for all we have
To remind us to spread goodwill

Please join us at sunset as we honor another day and enjoy the setting of the sun in celebration of the rhythm of life.

Visit the museum and learn about life on the Gulf Beaches over the past 100 years.

As someone who is a complete homebody, when I go away, feeling at home in the place I'm staying is incredibly important. Twice now, we've stayed at Bahia Del Mar, however it was the first time we stayed at this apartment, and it couldn't have been more perfect. It was very basic, but we couldn't have asked for more. And what it might have lacked in a few essentials, it made up for in a view to die for. Looking out at still water and playing dolphins is something I will never get tired of. 

If you weren't obsessed with dolphins before, you certainly will be after visiting St. Pete Beach. We would sit for hours on our balcony just watching the water in the hope the dolphins would make an appearance. We even saw a small shark, and a manatee, which was one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen, as we'd been told by everyone it's not manatee season, and they rarely make an appearance. 

It is Florida in July after all, so tropical weather is to be expected. It's never been a problem for us though. It'll pour down one minute, then you'll be dry and hot 10 mins later. It also makes for some incredible post-stormy skys. 

As to be expected we spent the majority of the holiday dripping between the beach and the pool. We were incredibly lucky to have the pool to ourselves most days (except for a few friendly retirees), which was the case for most of the pools. 

We also realised that swimming in the pouring rain, is quite possibly one of the most fun things ever!

^^ What's the sister equivalent of an Instagram husband???

If you like activity holidays, this probably isn't the place for you as there isn't a whole lot to do. However, there are a few places worth exploring. It is worth saying that the area is famous for the Don CeSar Hotel (or, as we call it, The Pink Hotel). By all means go in an have a snoop, but it really isn't all that. It's a bit run down, and has a really creepy vibe to it. I felt like I was on the Titanic! And they will rip you off with the parking, so if you do go, don't use their car park. 

Somewhere we did enjoy going to is the Fort Desoto Gulf Pier. It's a great place for fishing if that's your thing, and also has a cute little beach. We never spend much time there, but always like to wander the fort a little, and stroll up the pier. And if you're really lucky you might see dolphins up close, swimming under the pier. 

Another place we really love to visit is John's Pass. It's a really buzzy place with lots of shops, places to eat, and activities to do. It's a bit of a tourist attraction, but that doesn't take away from it.

Our favourite place to eat, as well as stopping for a drink is The Hut Bar & Grill - a very American bar, with fun live music and a great atmosphere. 

There is also a great ice cream parlour which you can't not go into. Trust me on this one. 

Our favourite thing to do at John's Pass is the Dolphin boat tour 'Dolphin Quest'. There are so many different boat trips in St. Pete Beach, and so many get them so wrong. I couldn't recommend Dolphin Quest more. Captain John has so much knowledge on the area, and about dolphins. They also have a real love for dolphins, and protecting them. We've done it twice now, and although you'll hear the same dad jokes every time, do it as many times as you can because each time is different, and every time we've seen dolphins. 

We were lucky enough to see a pod of about ten dolphins at one point, and I've never heard to many 'ohh, ahhh's' in my life. There were also some people on jet ski's just floating around the dolphins.

The crew have been doing it for so many years that they even know the stories behind some of the dolphins. The one below is 'split fin', who they thought had a run in with a shark, but actually he was just born with a split in his fin. They have been seeing him since he was born - it's so amazing to hear them about them like they're their pets.

We ate in a lot, however, when we did go out finding somewhere to eat was always a challenge because there were so many options.

I won't talk much about where to eat because they're all very similar, however these were a few places we went to and really enjoyed.

- Waffle House - our no.1 breakfast and lunch spot. Nothing fancy, but completely scrummy!
- The Warf - a cosy, local atmosphere, perfect for evening drinks
- Shark Tales - fun live music, amazing view, very buzzy
- Crab Daddy's - next to Shark Tales, friendly staff, chilled vibe, great seafood, you must sit upstairs
- Brass Money - killer view, authentic, on the beach, huge menu
- Boulevard Burgers - amazing live music, sports vibe, laid back, friendly, all american food
- Island Grille - a little more fancy, quiet, more touristy, harbour view

The final place I want to tell you about is a place that Instagram dreams are made of, and definitely one of the reasons I call St. Pete Beach my happy place.

Remember at the beginning of this post, when I talked about that place we all go to when we're sitting in the dentist chair, in a traffic jam, fed up at work, or just having one of those days?

This is the place I go to in those situations.

Can you see why?

The Hurricane is a seafood restaurant and rooftop bar on Pass-a-Grille beach, with one hell of a view. 

We've never eaten at the restaurant as it's a little toppy, however we've been up to the rooftop bar many times to watch the sun set. It gets busy at sunset, as everybody rushes up to the roof to watch the sun go down, so get there a bit early, order a cocktail, and grab a seat right by the edge. 

No picture can do this magnificent view justice, so don't spend the precious few minutes of sunset trying to get a good pic (rich coming from me, I know!). Take a mental picture and lap it up.

There is simply no place I recommend more if, like me, you're a sucker for sunset.

There's a reason they call St. Pete Beach The Sunset Capital of Florida.

And, although St. Pete Beach wasn't affected too drastically by Hurricane Irma, it was still a scary time, and I have no doubt that the tight knit community will have fought any devastating effects. I will continue to hope and pray for them, and can't wait to go back next summer.


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