WEEKENDER: Florida Gulf Beaches

Where to stay, eat, and play between Indian Rocks Beach and Treasure Island
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Madeira Beach

As businesses reopen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, residents just south of Tampa remain hopeful that tourists will visit the Florida Gulf this holiday season. Popular spots like Clearwater and St. Petersburg weren’t directly hit, and their beaches will continue to be tourist destinations. If you’d rather spend your dollars helping the Sunshine State recover but prefer calmer, sugary-white stretches of sand without the crowds, visit the shores between Indian Rocks Beach to Treasure Island. The shallow water is perfect for little swimmers and dolphin sightings, and the tranquil vibe doesn’t attract a rowdy clientele. Families can count on quiet beach walks, uninterrupted sunbathing, and plenty of shells waiting to be collected.


If you love a beachfront hotel with a pool and tiki bar, check out the DoubleTree Beach Resort in North Redington Beach. The onsite restaurant, Mangos Restaurant & Tiki Bar, has a waterfront patio and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chairs and umbrellas are available for rent, so all you need are beach toys and sunscreen. Alternatively, kids might enjoy staying in a hotel adjacent to a water park (see PLAY section). The Holiday Inn & Suites Harbourside in Indian Rocks Beach has views of the intercoastal waterway and sits one block away from the beach. Suites have full kitchens and separate living rooms with pull-out sofas. Book a sunset tour or rent a boat at the on-site marina.

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Indian Rocks Beach


When you want drinks in your hand, feet in the sand, and fresh seafood, visit Caddy’s on Maderia Beach. This waterfront restaurant has sunset dining on its upper deck; below you’ll find a barefoot bar with a full menu. House specialties include Caddy’s Seafood Platter (pro tip: pair it with the Kickin’ Watermelon Bites, dusted with feta, chipotle, balsamic glaze and mint). Kids can nosh on peel and eat shrimp, or anything from the taco stand. If you have a party of four or more, request the surfboard table upstairs and order a Bacardi bucket (which is equivalent of two drinks), and use it to collect beach shells later. For fresh grouper and lobster tail, head to Guppy’s on the Beach on Gulf Boulevard in Indian Rocks Beach. Book a table on the patio and enjoy the ocean breeze while kids dine on coconut shrimp, burgers, or chicken fingers. And save room for the dessert—the Kooky Coconut , a bamboo-covered café that serves more than 20 flavors of homemade ice cream, is right down the road.

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Spend a day at Splash Harbour Water Park in Indian Rocks Beach. The park has two 42-foot waterslides, a lazy river, kids’ splash zones, and floating lagoon. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting. Tickets are $29.95 for anyone over 48 inches and $2 less for others. If shopping is on the agenda, visit John’s Pass on Madeira Beach. “The Pass,” as locals call it, is reminiscent of an old fishing village with retailers, restaurants, and attractions. Visitors can stroll the boardwalk, grab a meal by the water, or take a boat out to watch the sunset. While at John’s Pass, kids can see Florida wildlife up close at Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center. With more than 250 rescued or orphaned native species, the center is home to lizards, turtles, marine life, and of course—alligators!

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Splash Harbour Water Park


Once a year, just beyond the John’s Pass Bridge in Treasure Island, the beach transforms into an artist’s canvas for a world-class sandcastle contest called the Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup. Ten artists from North America, Europe, and Asia sculpt astonishing designs using their hands, tools, water, sand, and imagination. The event takes place November 17-20 with an encore weekend November 26-27. Visitors can also enjoy live music, food, a craft market, and children’s activities. Sanding Ovations is free and open to to the public.

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Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup

KRISHA CHACHRA is a Charlotte-based travel writer who has visited over 50 countries and 6 continents. She loves to explore new places with her husband and 7-year-old daughter who is always up for an adventure—including visiting every beach along the Florida Gulf! Visit her at krishachachra.com or facebook and instagram @destinationsanddelish and @krishachachra.