"What a treasure!!!" Treasure Island by ericdharma
Treasure Island Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 43 photos
The Tampa area of Florida kind of reminds me of Orange County in California. You have this large metropolitan area in which three or four cities bleed together with suburbs of diverse people and cultures in between and lots of nearly perfect weather. I found it to be a great place to relax but it is a mish mosh of a lot of different flavors and not at all predictable from block to block. Both times that I visited the area I stayed in Treasure Island. This is technically considered a different suburb but it was in fact only about 30 minutes from downtown Tampa and a great access point for some of the better beaches near the city. I stayed at the Bilmar Beach Resort which is surrounded by a series of upper and upper middle class suburbs primarily populated by older retirees who must have worked very hard during their youth because many of them are comfortably bunkered down in Gulfront mansions with a Mercedes or a Bently in the front driveway and a canal housing their yachts and fishing boats in the back. These upper crust communities are tied together by long elevated streches of highway which bridge the canals and offer majestic photo ops of the gulf waters. Mixed in are pockets of immigrants from Latin America and Eastern Europe and native born residents as well as recent transplants who came fleeing the rat race and the cold of other cities in Middle and Northern America. The landscape of St Petersburg and Clearwater is ugly and set up in a gridlock of paralell and perpendicular streets with the typical ground floor adobe-style mall complexes which spread out like a cancer across the nation in warm places like Texas, California, and Florida. You can find anything in these complexes from Walgreens and ethnic eateries to topless gentlemens bars, adult shops, and tatoo parlors. The problem is that there is little zoning or rhyme or reason to any of it and you have to remain very alert when touring around to make note of the businesses and services which you can make use of during your travels. Hopefully if you come across something of interest you will be able to tag it and find it again later through the endless maze of willy-nilly commercial expanses and suburban sameness. Luckily just about every corner has a palm tree reminding you that you are in a tropical envoronment and that you are here to slow down and relax.
What is notable about this area is that the beaches here are pristine and contain white sand. Actually the beach in front of the Bilmar Hotel where I stayed is really made up of tiny white shells. Trucks come around every so often to evenly distribute the shell material and pack it down tightly. For a more powdery, less manicured beach feel, head north to Clearwater beach where you can find more shops and a more traditional white sand beach feel but much less privacy and exclusivity. Parking is generally not a problem as most of the beaches have their own dedicated lots but the Gulf Blvd which shuttles you from the north to the south end of the island is a small two lane road with lots of construction and a maximum speed of 30-35 MPH which can be extremely nerve racking during rush hour.
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