St. Petersburg & Clearwater Beach Vacation – 1st Family Trip

Some people might call us crazy for traveling with two kids under two, and well, we probably are, but we all really needed a vacation! We packed our bags and headed to some of the best beaches in Florida for a St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach Vacation!

The kids probably aren’t going to remember everything about this trip, but we will – and that’s important too. So, Let’s get to making some family memories! 

Here’s our itinerary to visit St. Pete & Clearwater with Two under Two on our first family vacation with two kids. 


St. Petersburg & Clearwater Beach Vacation Video 


Day 1 – St. Petersburg

A group of flamingos hunt for food in a pond at the Sunken Gardens of st Petersburg Florida - Tourist Activities

Sunken Gardens 

Our first stop of the day is going to be to the Sunken Gardens, home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the area inside the 100-year-old botanical garden. Here you’ll find winding paths guiding you through more than 50,000 plants and coy ponds, and you might even spot some flamingos.

Atlas loved all the different plants, but the real winner for him was feeding the fish in the picturesque ponds surrounded by lush gardens. A close second was running at full speed down the winding paths. and oh yeah, the “mingos,” as he called them, were pretty cool too!

Traditional sandwich made with cuban bread and pork from Bodega restaurant - top local restaurants in St Pete

Bodega Restaurant

Next up is the Bodega Restaurant, touted as the best Cuban spot in the Tampa area. We had to check this place out.

Before this modern white dining room existed, they used to serve up their top-notch Cuban fare out of a small walk-up window – where the lines would be down the street. 

The Cuban bread was on point, and slow-cooked seasoned pork made for a nice sandwich and fueled us for a busy afternoon.

Edge District

One of the places I was most excited to check out on this trip was an area of St. Pete called the Edge District. Known for its fun and artsy vibe. This colorful district is literally covered in vibrant murals. 

We had a fun time just walking around and taking in all of the larger-than-life art pieces where the canvases were the sides of buildings. 

Many of the city’s newest and trendiest restaurants can be found inside the bright and colorful buildings. This part of St. Pete quickly become one of our favorite, and could see ourselves spending a lot of time here. 

large indoor tree house as the centerpiece of the Great explorations Children's Museum of St. Pete Florida

Children’s Museum

Striking a balance between what the kids and grown-ups think is fun is crucial while traveling with little kids. One of our little one’s favorite stops of the whole trip was the Great Explorations Children’s Museum

Atlas loved it, and it was a great place to burn some energy while stimulating some brain cells. Here they had everything from a huge indoor playground to a large collection of STEM toys. We spent at least two hours exploring all of the art, music, and science toys – and afterward, it was back to the hotel for a much-needed nap after all that playing.  

Related Article: Best Museums in St. Petersburg

Family with young children taking a photo on the beach in Florida on vacation

Sunset Family Photos

If you don’t take a photo on the beach that you can look back and laugh at 20 years from now – did you even go on a family vacation? 

We finished up our day on beautiful St. Pete Beach during a fiery sunset that seemed to complement our equally vibrant matching family outfits rather well. 


Day 2 – St. Pete Beach Vacation Day

drone photo of St Pete Beach at sunrise with pink skies over the hotels and beach

Sunrise Drone

This morning dad actually caught a break, and the kids slept in a little bit, so I took full advantage and grabbed the drone and headed down to the beach for sunrise. I was rewarded with a soft pink and purple sky over the powder white sands of St. Pete Beach. 

On this trip, we are staying right in front of the sand in St. Pete Beach at the Beach House Suites, which is a sister property to the famously pink Don Cesar hotel. 

I am pretty sure that in the 1920s when they built this stunning piece of architecture, they knew that in the future, we’d have flying cameras, so they decided to make it epic. But in all seriousness, they just don’t make places like this anymore. The perfectly symmetrical and pink Don Cesar hotel was my favorite subject on my early morning photoshoot. 

It was hard to put the drone away that morning, and when I got back to the room, I found everyone else awake and maybe a little too ready to take on the day.

Aerial view of the Beach house Suites on St Pete Beach - Perfect family vacation hotel

Beach House Suites

The Beach House Suites were perfect for us staying with two small kids. Having separate rooms is the key to actually sleeping. Besides the two bedrooms, we also had a comfy living room to relax and play in after a busy day exploring St. Pete.

In the suite, there’s also a nicely appointed kitchen which, to be honest, we didn’t really use, but that’s because there are so many good restaurants in St. Petersburg. Then a balcony overlooking the pool area rounds out the room. The suite was perfect for us, and we thought the price of $225 per night was super reasonable. I think we will be renting one of these rooms again on our next visit and bringing some grandparents along too. 

With little kids, you actually spend some time in the hotel room, so we are finding it more and more important to find a place that fits our needs for napping and family time. 

Boy playing on the beach in front of the pink Don Cesar Hotel on a Clearwater Beach Vacation

St. Pete Beach Day

Every good trip to Florida involves at least one beach day where you don’t stray too far from the resort, and for us, that day is today. We hunkered down in an oceanfront cabana at the Don Cesar and settled in for a day of building sandcastles, toes in the ocean, and maybe even some beach naps. 

Sometimes it’s the little things on a trip that really make it. We spend a lot of time planning out the big sights on a trip and in life in general, but all it really takes are simple things like a plastic bucket and some sand to make family memories that will last a lifetime. 

Woman and children on the beach with baby rental gear from Babyquip in St. Petersburg Florida

Beach gear Rentals

One thing we did while visiting St. Pete that we’d never done before is rent some equipment and toys for the kids. So instead of stuffing our suitcases with just a few of their favorite toys, we rented from Babyquip, and in the room waiting for us to check in was a Snoo bassinet which is amazing but not super travel-friendly, the Zoe Twin double stroller as we wanted to try it out before buying our own (spoiler we loved it and now own it read our review), and a ton of beach toys and equipment.

This worked out really well, and Atlas loved his toys to play with on the beach, and Isla got to sleep in a Snoo just like she does at home – but the best part was that dad didn’t have to carry any of it through the airport. 

Rowe Bar Restaurant at the Don Cesar Hotel

For lunch, we took the short walk off the beach to the Rowe Bar restaurant located right across from the pool at the Don Cesar. On the menu was some great Florida fare with many tasty seafood options like calamari fries and blackened grouper. Paired with a local IPA in a nice outdoor setting – life is pretty good. 

couple on sunset beach walking during a vibrant sunset - Top things to do in St Petersburg FL

Sunset Don Cesar

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing and relaxing on the beach, soaking up every minute of sun. We lingered long enough to see the sun slowly melt into the horizon and cast a glow on St. Pete Beach. 

USDA Prime Ribeye on a plate with sides at 1200 chophouse - top restaurants in St Pete Beach FL

1200 Degrees

To wrap up a leisure day, we made our way to one of the area’s top-rated steakhouses for just a little bit more indulgence. 

With a name like 1200 degrees, you might wonder which came first, the restaurant or the grill. Here the cuts of beef a seared on a custom grill set to, as you might have guessed, 1200 degrees. This ensures that all of the flavor and moisture is locked in and also gives a nice crust to the steaks. 

On my plate was probably the best ribeye I have ever cut into. A USDA choice ribeye cooked to a perfect medium rare with just enough seasoning accompanied by all the essential sides. We both are steak snobs often, we both find something that could have been better with our steaks, but at 1200 Degrees, the steaks were spot on!

It was the perfect meal to cap off a great relaxing day in St. Pete Beach. Click here to check out their menu, they do not take reservations. 

Related: Best Restaurants in St. Petersburg, Florida


Day 3 – Middle Beaches

When talking about this part of Florida, most people think about either St. Petersburg or Clearwater, but there are a handful of beach communities in between – Today, we are going to check out some of the highlights of the locals call the middle beaches. 

Woman standing infront of the pink exterior of La Croisette - St Petersburg FL Restaurant

Breakfast at La Croisette

On the way out of St. Petersburg, we pulled into La Croisette for some breakfast to fuel our day. This pretty in pink building has been serving up one of the best breakfasts in St. Petersburg for the past few decades but took on its current name in 2020 while keeping many of the favorite menu items. 

Here you’ll find an upscale diner experience with classic breakfast dishes and some unique takes and regional twists. 

If you happen to be staying in Clearwater, here are the best breakfasts in Clearwater

Waterslides with a pool with water umbrellas at splash harbor water park

Waterpark

After breakfast, we drove along the coast to the town of Indian Rocks Beach to have some fun at Splash Harbour Water Park. As most two-year-olds do, our little guy Atlas loves water parks. We spent the morning splashing around and riding all of the slides – and even had to get the giant bucket dumped on us. 

orange and white exterior of Yellow Banks Grove - Best Ice cream restaurant in Clearwater FL

Ice Cream at Yellow Banks Grove 

After all that time in the waterpark, we needed a sugary pick me up so we headed to Yellow Banks Grove to check out their famous orange ice cream. Made from fresh-squeezed orange juice locally grown in their citrus grove. 

Also, in the shop, you can find juices, fruit, and even some souvenirs. It’s a fun little stop while exploring the middle beaches. 

plate of grouper and fries at Crabby Bills - Local Favorite restaurant in Clearwater Florida

Lunch at the Original Crabby Bill’s

Before heading out of Indian Rocks, we sat down to lunch at the Orginal Crabby Bill’s. This is the kind of place you envision when you are thinking about a trip to Florida. A fun and colorful outdoor spot with live music, fresh seafood on your plate, and a drink in your hand. 

Aerial view of Caladesi Island with sand banks and small islands - Top sights

Honeymoon Island

We planned our day so that we had a long drive in the early afternoon so that the kids could nap on the way to our next stop. With the busy morning and full tummies, they actually cooperated, and we were on our way to a local’s favorite State Park in the area, Honeymoon Island. 

The drive brought us through a few smaller beach communities and just a little north of Clearwater. 

The thin strip of sand, stitched together with a bridge or two, known as the Dunedin Causeway, allows you to drive right onto the island. To the left, as you approach Honeymoon Island, is Caladesi Island State Park, the two islands before a hurricane in 1921 cut them into two. Today the only way to reach Caladesi Island is by boat, and you can catch a ferry right from Honeymoon Island. 

On both islands, what you’ll find are nice deep beaches that are raw and natural. The same goes for the interior of the island except for a few buildings and parking areas. These islands are representative of how most of the area would look without the resorts and development.  

view looking down the St Petersburg Pier during a pink and purple sunset

St. Pete Pier

We finished our busy day a little closer to home at St. Pete Pier. This area has way more to offer than just a long pier out into the water. There is a huge and super fun playground full of sea creatures and pirate ships which were really creative and well done. And if we weren’t heading right to dinner, I am pretty sure Atlas would have liked to run through the splash pad. 

We really liked this part of town. It has everything from beaches to restaurants and even things to do for the kids. 

Bowl of pink Shrimp served with a roll and delicius sauce at doc ford's - one of the best restaurants in St. Petersburg

Doc Fords

Dinner tonight is going to be right on the pier at Doc Fords. The skyline of St. Pete is behind us, with a view of Tampa Bay from the table. We were really impressed with the menu selection. We had a great waiter that gave us great food suggestions. They even had live music on our visit. Everyone liked the music and even got up a danced after dinner


Day 4 – Clearwater Beach Vacation Day

young boy looks at a rescued dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - Best things to do wiith kids in Clearwater Florida

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Of all the places we stopped on our family vacation to Florida, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was a highlight among highlights. Here we had one of those parenting moments when you stop and realize, oh yeah, this is why we travel with little kids.
 
This is why you push four suitcases, two strollers, diaper bags on your back, and a kid in your arms through the airport. You do it to teach them about the world we live in and show them all the amazing animals we share it with.
 
When Atlas saw his first-ever dolphin in real life, there wasn’t a single person in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium who didn’t hear the excitement in his little voice. He was yelling as loud as he could, telling everyone to look and see what he was seeing.
 
We spent all morning looking at just about every sea creature that calls this part of Florida home, from stingrays to sharks and everything in between. 
 

Related: Things to do in Clearwater, Florida 

 
Grouper Sandwich Basket at Frency's Rockaway - Top lunch spot on Clearwater Beach

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill

For lunch, we headed down to the beach and grabbed a table looking over the sand at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill. Being so close to the sea, it was only fitting to try out some of their local seafood offerings. The famous super grouper sandwich lived up to its name, and the views weren’t bad either.

If you are looking for one of the best Clearwater Beach bars, head to Frenchy’s. It is a great place to grab some drink and soak in the sun!

Drone photo of Clearwater beach near Disney World Florida

Clearwater Beach

After lunch, we grabbed some loungers in the sand just a few steps away from the famous pier 60 in the heart of Clearwater Beach. Besides the nice deep white sand beach, there are a handful of restaurants and attractions near the pier area.

On our afternoon in Clearwater, some clouds rolled in and made it a little harder to see the crystal clear aqua-colored water that helped name the city. However, that didn’t stop us from building our sandcastles and looking for wheels on the beach as a family. 

view from the upper deck of Captain Memo's Pirate cruise ship - Top tourist activities in Clearwater beach

Pirate Cruise

All aboard Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise! After dusting the sand off from the beach, we jumped on the big red pirate ship for a sunset cruise out into the gulf. 

The best way I can describe the pirate aspect of the cruise was, Cheezy but in a good way. The staff was actually really good with the kids – ours were a little young to join in the squirt gun fight on deck, but Atlas has some fun, and we got to watch a nice sunset out on the water. On the way back in, we got to see the lights of the city come on as day turned to night. 

seafood wrapped in bacon served at Guppy's on the beach - Top restaurant near clearwater

Guppies on the Beach

After a swashbuckling time, we made one more stop on the way back to the hotel for dinner. The kids were on the brink of total meltdown from a little too much fun, and we almost skipped our meal at Guppies on the Beach, but we’re glad we push through some toddler-over-tired tears because it was one of the best meals of the trip.

Atlas, our very fancy two-year-old, got his first taste of truffle lobster mac and cheese, which he shoveled in his mouth without the help of a fork – but it bought us just enough time to have a nice dinner without a total meltdown. 

Related: Our Favorite Restaurants in Clearwater, Florida


Day 5 – Last Day of our Clearwater Beach Vacation  

Somehow our little St. Pete & Clearwater Beach Vacation is already wrapping up, and that means it’s time for dad to start packing everything into the car – but don’t worry, I got plenty of “help” from Atlas. 

Unique grilled cheese sandwhich created by Hell's Kitchen star Robert Hesse at his restaurant Fo Cheezy in St Petersburg Florida

Fo Cheezy’s 

With the car all loaded up, we had one more stop on our list to a place we thought was just going to be a quick sandwich on the way to the airport – but it turned out to be a whole lot more interesting. The first sign that something was up was when we swung the door open and heard 90s rap music filling the restaurant. A few steps in, we could now be sure that this is not your average sandwich shop with vibrant graffiti on the walls, posters of iconic rappers, and rap music-themed art on the walls. 

The theme carried into the menu with grilled cheese sandwiches with names like “Buffalo Mother Clucker” which is a grilled cheese with pulled buffalo chicken and blue cheese. Just about all of the sandwiches have irreverent names, but this isn’t all just a gimmick – the man in the kitchen is a serious chef. Owner and Hell’s Kitchen Favorite, Robert Hesse, likes to have a unique and fun space – but when it comes to the food, it’s nothing but the best ingredients and awesome flavor combos. 

Next time we visit St Petersburg, we know we’ll be eating at Fo Cheezy again! Make sure to check them out at one of their two locations.  

Airport

With our last unexpectedly fun last stop out of the way, all there is to do is drop off our sweet minivan at the airport and head home. 

We had a great trip to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and even with all of the places we visited – we know there’s a lot more to explore, and we left excited to return again.


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family of four at sunset on st petersburg beach on vacation wearing pink striped outfits Drone phot of the Don Cesar hotel at sunrise for a pin with text over St Pete Beach Vacation

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4 thoughts on “St. Petersburg & Clearwater Beach Vacation – 1st Family Trip”

  1. We moved to Clearwater FL from Mooresville IN in 1965. We left a cornfield & drove over the Courtney Campbell Causeway straight to Clearwater Beach. There were tons of colorful tye dye wearing Hippies camping down the length of the Causeway shooting peace signs to me and my Brothers hanging out of our station wagon. “Yeah, peace man!” we yelled back with our peace signs too. The Beach Sunset was soooo incredibly beautiful that evening, i remember so clearly being mesmerized by the intensity of the colors that I thought to myself “My Granmommy was right, this place is so beautiful I’m never gonna leave!” I still live in this area and I am still in awe of its natural beauty that I adore everyday.

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  2. We are going to St. Pete’s in May, in which we usually stay in Clearwater, so I truly enjoyed your post showing some great points of interest that we will definitely check out while we are there! Thank you for sharing!

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