Sandpearl and Vinoy: Shore to City Luxury

Story highlights:
  • Elegant Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach
  • Historic, high-end Vinoy Renaissance in downtown St. Pete
  • Plus arts, culture and hip night spots
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Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater Beach
The beachfront Sandpearl Resort has 253 luxury guest rooms and suites.

Sandpearl Resort: Chic at the Shore

From your first steps through the grand entrance of Clearwater Beach's Sandpearl Resort, the lobby reveals the resort's persona in panorama: ample windows frame its rollicking Gulf of Mexico beachfront, while Christopher Still's oil on 14' x 7' canvas, Beneath the Waves, magnifies the scene in a precise underwater tableau. Beneath the Waves hangs behind the concierge desk, where a brochure details the nearly 40 objects that Still, a Clearwater native, painted into the piece.

Ambience: Sandpearl stands for barefoot elegance, not "look – don't touch" luxury. It's the kind of place you weave into family tradition – a touchstone of friendly refinement. The aesthetic is elegantly natural, with softly sunny walls, gauzy white drapes and informal arrangements of "Oceana" balancing with the lobby's rich woods. On the guest floors, white wainscoting conjures the feel of a classic beach retreat. The accommodations, ranging from standard rooms to junior and condominium suites (with one and two bedrooms, respectively), will feel like home to couples and families alike.

Programs and Amenities: Enrichment programs echo the beach theme. Marine Discovery boat tours engage guests in discussion with specialists from Clearwater Marine Aquarium over findings from the day's net pull. The Artists in Residence program allows guests to observe a featured artist at work and, in some cases, create something of their own. Younger guests can join Camp Ridley, the resort’s program for kids 5 to 11 that offers unique and fun activities themed around Florida’s animals and ecosystems. In the evenings, take advantage of a moonlight nature walk or Astronomy Night, also hosted by the resort. For days less structured, the Gulf of Mexico beaches and water sports await, but if you prefer the pool, this one doesn’t disappoint. Lagoon-style, it's edged with beach sunflowers and sand to one side and private cabanas (each with a flat-screen television and mini fridge) to the other.

Dining: For edible enrichment, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings are presented by the staff of Caretta on the Gulf. (Executive Chef Stephen Jordan prepared celebrity chef Tyler Florence's wedding banquet.) At lunch, the restaurant's sushi chef might even walk you through his ceviche tasting's crunch, spice and sweetness. Save room for the Fried Cheesecake with mango-raisin chutney and cinnamon wonton. The Tate Island Grill, situated just steps from the beach and the pool, offers a more casual dining experience, and a perfect atmosphere for watching the sun sink into the Gulf.

Spa: Fittingly, the Sandpearl Spa offers an organic experience – the Healing Waters treatment, for example, transforms from mineral bath to marine salt scrub to Vichy shower. As for ambience, imagine a generously sized couple's treatment room, linens with the feel of ultra-suede and a cool color palette.

Nearby Attractions: The Sandpearl is conveniently located to take advantage of all the attractions, restaurants and nightlife of Clearwater Beach, which was named USA Today's "Best Beach Town in Florida" in 2013. At Pier 60, less than a quarter-mile away, the whole family will enjoy the nightly sunset celebrations, where the enchanting colors of dusk are just part of the entertainment. This is an experience like no other, complete with arts and crafts vendors, street musicians and entertainers, and the fun is a little different every evening.

Vinoy Renaissance Resort: Chic in the City

Treat yourself to a little urban renewal at the AAA Four Diamond Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. This legendary waterfront retreat is a true gem of Tampa Bay, perfectly located to enjoy the metropolitan delights of downtown St. Petersburg and the laid-back, seaside fun of St. Pete Beach.

Ambience: From the lounge-like lobby to the spacious rooms that merge antique charm and modern comforts, this resort exudes absolute luxury. But it’s the 1920s Mediterranean Revival architecture that has earned the Vinoy a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The resort’s renovation maintains the majestic details of its past, from dramatic archways to lush grounds, while adding all the offerings of a contemporary resort. You’ll feel worlds away without actually having to go that far.

Programs & Amenities: The Vinoy lays claim to being the only luxury hotel on Florida’s west coast that features a private marina, 18-hole golf course and 12-court tennis complex. There’s also an expansive outdoor pool complete with tranquil waterfalls, plenty of seating and views of the marina. For a break from the Florida sun, relax in the refreshing atmosphere of the lobby, library or open veranda.

Dining: The resort’s flagship restaurant is the elegantly appointed Marchand's featuring award-winning American cuisine with signature Floribbean flair. Its Sunday brunch is a favorite of both locals and visitors. At Fred’s, enjoy fresh seafood and prime beef in a classic steakhouse setting, and for tropical fare and open-air dining, try the charming Alfresco’s.

Spa: Not unlike its luxurious surroundings, the Vinoy Salon & Day Spa offers an indulgent retreat from the hustle and bustle of the outside world in a nurturing, restful environment. In addition to a full menu of rejuvenating treatments, the bayfront spa also offers salon services and fitness facilities.

Nearby Attractions: While it might seem easy to spend your whole vacation in such luxurious accommodations, the Vinoy Renaissance is located within easy reach of all downtown’s amusements and a short drive from beautiful St. Pete Beach. Within easy walking distance, the waterfront Museum of Fine Arts inspires with diverse permanent and rotating art exhibits, while the iconic Dali Museum must be explored on any art lover’s tour of St. Pete. Loll away the rest of your afternoon amid local art galleries and boutiques. Try Florida Craftsmen for artisan finds.

Be sure to save room for dinner at one of downtown’s enticing eateries, from tapas and paella at Ceviche to contemporary American at the Parkshore Grill. For nightlife, swing a private table on the rooftop patio at Push Ultra Lounge for dancing and music that goes well into the night. Or head to outdoor concert venue Jannus Live for a diverse offering of live music and people-watching.

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