Quick trip to Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island State Park, and the Island Grille and Raw Bar in Tierra Verde, FL
Hotel: Holiday Inn & Suites, 521 South Gulfview Boulevard, Clearwater Beach, FL 33769. Phone: 727-447-6461. Website: https://www.clearwaterbeachhi.com/
3 restaurants visited:
- Crabby’s Dockside, 37 Causeway Boulevard, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767. Phone: 727-210-1313. Website: https://crabbysdockside.com/
- Another Broken Egg Café, 470 Poinsettia, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767. Phone: 727-240-4682. Website: http://www.anotherbrokenegg.com/location/north-beach-clearwater-fl
- The Island Grille and Raw Bar, 210 Madonna Boulevard, Tierra Verde, FL 33715. Phone: 727-767-0020. Website: http://www.islandrawbar.com/home.html
Florida State Park visited: Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Boulevard, Dunedin, FL 34698. Phone: 727-469-5942. Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Honeymoon-Island
Other places of interest: Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland Street, Clearwater, FL 33755. Phone: 727-791-7400. Website: https://www.rutheckerdhall.com/capitol-theatre
We took a quick trip northward up the Gulf Coast of Florida to check out Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island State Park (near Dunedin, Florida) and take in a performance (Keb’ Mo’) at the historical Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn & Suites on South Gulfview Boulevard in Clearwater Beach, which earns only 2 stars out of 5 from us. While their website insinuates they are Gulf front (and you would also think so from their address) in fact, they are not on the beach. Their pool and outdoor restaurant overlooks a little inlet, no sand, a few beach lounge chairs stuck out on a concrete deck (near the pool) and no shade available that I could see on a hot, sunny afternoon. The hotel, according to their own staff, is a “5 minute walk” from the nearest beach. In my opinion their description on their website is misleading.
Unlike many other Holiday Inns we have used, there is no complimentary breakfast with the room. And our room (second floor, in the tower) had such an uncomfortable bed that both of us had aching hips when we got up the next morning. Our room faced the front parking lot, the curtains did not meet in the middle and let parking lot lights in all night long. The room earns points for having a small bar with a sink, microwave, small refrigerator. The room also earns points for having a desk.
The old-fashioned air condition (a window unit run by a wall control) was very loud and caused the room to be freezing cold at the desk (near the window unit) but warm at the opposite end. The bathroom door automatically closed (we propped it open with a clothes hanger) and was warm and musty-smelling. We had booked 2 nights, stayed one due to the uncomfortable bed.
The historic Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida
We looked forward to blues musician Keb’ Mo’s performance at the Clearwater Capitol Theatre (it was sold out, and he was his usual crowd-pleasing self). The Capitol Theatre, though, is a place to watch closely if you buy tickets because some of the seating is uncomfortable and cramped. Mezzanine seating has extremely tight leg room, if you are tall or have trouble bending your knees don’t buy these seats. And the seats up there on the extreme left (and probably also extreme right) have the structure for the nearby VIP box seating jutting right out in front of them. The poor guy who had the far left seat on the front row actually had a column taking up half his leg room (see picture).
The ushers at the Capitol are helpful and friendly. I wish, though, that the Theatre wouldn’t warn ticket holders to show up way early, with dire pronouncements about security checks and making sure you get your tickets at the Will Call before you enter security. In fact, I’ve never been “wanded” before to attend a concert in a small, downtown venue. If you heed the Theatre’s warnings and show up early, you’ll stand around (very little lobby seating is available) because the house doesn’t open until a half hour before the show. There’s a rooftop bar (we didn’t go up there) but it closes at 6, our performance was at 7, so that seemed a little useless. Check out the beautiful chandeliers if you go, they’re gorgeous.
Restaurants on Clearwater Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach extends the dire pronouncements with a flashing sign as you get close to the beach area, which flashes messages in rapid succession like, “secure your valuables,” “no alcohol,” “lock your vehicle,” “no pets on the beach,” and one other I can’t recall. Seems to me that it would at least be friendly to include, “Welcome to Clearwater Beach” along with all the directives – but they don’t bother to say that. Almost makes one wonder if they want the tourist dollar or not.
We tried Crabby’s Dockside for dinner. Beware the parking is ridiculous – marina parking is slim even well before dinner hour and before the busy summer season has truly begun. The parking meters we could find allowed a half hour – not feasible for eating a meal or for taking one of the many water tours that leave from the marina. Crabby’s claim to fame is their fresh Florida grouper – they say they go through 50,000 pounds of fresh grouper a year. (Florida harvests over 85 percent of all the grouper landed in the United States, and over 75 percent of Florida grouper is landed in Pinellas County, which is where Clearwater Beach is located.) Since we like to try fresh locally harvested fish, we both opted for grouper. We weren’t disappointed. It was fresh, cooked well, and delicious. Crabby’s is a multi-level restaurant, and depending on your seating you can get a great view of Clearwater Beach and Marina (or alternately, a view of the traffic going by the very busy street). We’d visit Crabby’s again. Let’s rate it 3 out of 5 stars overall, 5 out of 5 for fresh fish.
We had a late breakfast the next day at Another Broken Egg Café on Clearwater Beach. We usually like to eat local, not from a chain (there are many of these Café’s). Still, we had great food and excellent service and we’d go back to the Clearwater Beach location. These café’s are open for breakfast and lunch, have a varied and interesting menu, and good food. Kudos for serving fresh fruit (not frozen) upon request, although the blackberries and strawberries were sour and took away from the fresh, delicious watermelon and blueberries also in the fruit cup.
I’ll go off on a slight tangent to complain that like many restaurants, Another Broken Egg doesn’t know what a truly scrambled egg is – they make a flat omelet of congealed egg in the skillet, throw it on the plate and wad it up with the spatula. Scrambled eggs should be stirred, light, and fluffy. These are not. Still, our food was good (Bill’s quinoa with coconut was delicious!). Let’s give the café 4 stars out of 5.
Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida
Our travels took us up through Dunedin, Florida to reach our destination, Honeymoon Island State Park. It’s a great place to get away from the crowds on Clearwater Beach, and enjoy unending views of the Gulf. It’s $8.00 per vehicle to enter the park (cheaper than beach parking on Clearwater Beach), which offers several beaches (one allows pets, the others do not). The beaches here are not wide, but there’s plenty of space to set up your chairs and umbrella. Besides the beach, there’s fishing, nature trails, shelling, overnight camping, wildlife viewing, and more. Be sure to note the sign at the entry to the park that warns about rattlesnakes being common in the park.
By the way, from Honeymoon Island State Park you can park your car and ferry over to nearby Caladesi Island State Park (walking trails and beaches, no cars on the island). The ferry leaves on the hour. Honeymoon Island State Park is definitely worth a visit. Let’s give it 5 stars.
Island Grille and Raw Bar Review
On the way back home we stopped in St. Pete to try a restaurant we’ve heard a lot about, the Island Grille and Raw Bar, which is located in Tierra Verde, Florida (but your GPS will probably say St. Pete). One entire side of the area next to the restaurant is under construction so the views toward that side are blocked off by fencing (summer 2018). We visited in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, so there wasn’t a crowd. There’s both indoor and outdoor seating. The restaurant looks new and modern both inside and out, and there’s a long ramp available for wheelchairs.
The front portion of Island Grille is set up as a raw bar, with high topped tables and chairs. The restaurant is behind that area, sectioned off into areas divided by cool metal sea-themed art. We’d heard that this place had some of the best Florida seafood around, but the menu offered about as much land-lubber selections as fresh fish. Their catch of the day was swordfish on the day we visited. I’m thinking that our friends who recommended it are raw bar fans, and perhaps the fresh oysters are great, we didn’t try them. Our meals were fine but nothing special, and the desserts we tried were definitely not calorie worthy. We both had shrimp (two different kinds). My green beans were the usual al dente and absolutely no flavor (restaurants should just give up on green beans). The edamame salad was unusual and good. We’ve both had better shrimp many places in Florida. The service was friendly and good.
I asked specifically for desserts made in house, and we tried two. One was a chocolate cake and one was key lime pie. Now if you’re going to offer house-made key lime in Florida it better be good. Mine was not. It barely tasted of lime at all, was not tart in the least. The crust of the pie was great, though. Bill’s Chocolate Truffle Mousse Cake didn’t taste at all like truffle and was dry. We were both disappointed in the desserts.
Overall, we’d give Island Grille and Raw Bar a 3 out of 5. We wouldn’t go out of our way to go back.
There’s so much to explore along the Gulf Coast of Florida! Give Clearwater and Honeymoon Island State Park a visit, they both offer endless blue skies and lots of non-beach activities.