Florida’s made for top-down touring.
Don’t have a convertible?
Then hum “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” by the Beatles — “beep beep and beep beep, yeah!” — and follow along with writer Jan Tuckwood as we drive along the Gulf of Mexico in her 2002 Mercedes Benz SLK320 yellow roadster, aka “Miss Beep Beep.”
We’re headed to three of Florida’s best beach towns:
Siesta Key, voted No. 1 beach by Dr. Beach and TripAdvisor in 2017.
Anna Maria Island, the idyllic enclave where Tampa Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico.
St. Pete Beach, a family-friendly stretch of beach that often makes Top 10 lists.
(One of these towns features this writer’s favorite restaurant in Florida, a place so heavenly, it’s worth the four-hour drive from Palm Beach County. Read on to find out where it is.)
Hop in…Florida’s on sale in the summer…and we’ve got your wheels!
ST. PETE BEACH
Hot spot for family fun
You know a beach town is made for families when resorts brag about their “lazy rivers” — those meandering waterways where you float on a tube and try to recover from hours playing in sand.
The Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach has one. This is why I visited there several times when my children were young, and we loved it.
Now that my kids are grown, my entire leisure life feels like a lazy river — and St. Pete Beach is a little too touristy for my old-lady tastes.
However…if you like a great beach and want lots of action, this is a fabulous place to vacation.
St. Pete Beach is the same age as me — 60 — but it’s far from retiring.
It was incorporated in 1957 with the merger of the towns of Pass-a-Grille, Don CeSar, Belle Vista and St. Petersburg Beach, and it shortened its name to “St. Pete Beach” in 1994.
Large resorts like the Tradewinds — which includes Guy Harvey’s Outpost under its umbrella — are here, plus charming places like the Postcard Inn and the historic pink palace, the Don CeSar.
The Don is a legendary Florida Boom-era hotel. Built in 1928, it has hosted presidents and celebrities, and — like The Breakers in Palm Beach — served as a hospital during World War II.
Like most of St. Pete Beach’s resorts, the pink palace has a summer Florida resident rate — 10 percent off the best rate and a daily $25 resort credit.
The Tradewinds Resort special is even better: 15 percent off the best rates and a coupon pack with $500 in savings on cabanas, cocktails, food, paddleboard rentals and more.