Winter is everyone’s least favorite season for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be all bad. In fact, traveling in the wintertime is one of the best ways to check out new locations and to find secret spots to sunbathe at when the weather turns nasty. However, I’ve been treated to beautiful weather here in Florida, and FloridaRx has taken care to show me the best of my home state by including a deluxe package. As a result, I was lucky enough to see my state at its most brilliant—and to get some much-needed sun.
On this trip I was given the opportunity to try out the new 2017 Mazda Miata—a blast of a little car that was the perfect way to get from location to location. It was a sweet-looking car, and I give full kudos to Mazda for making a model that is just the right choice for the Florida weather. Sticking my Raden suitcase in the seat beside me, I couldn’t help but shoot that video before I left on the roadtrip.
The first day started with a trip to St. Petersburg, where I stayed at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort, where I had a gorgeous room and a view of the water. One of the most memorable parts of the day was the absolutely beautiful lunch at Sea Salt. As a seafood lover, it was heaven for me to try some of their fare—along with their collection of 4,000 bottles of wine.
Test driving a 2017 Mazda Miata
Also testing out smart luggage by Raden
While the trip was just getting started, I fell in love with the Stillwaters Tavern in St. Petersburg. Not only was it a unique way to explore some of Florida’s dishes, but it also offered plenty of variety including grilled hogfish with a side of snipped beans and pickled watermelon rind. Food wasn’t everything this place was good for—it also served up a number of cocktails. One of my favorites was the #11 which included Nolet’s gin, lemon, crème de violette, and simple syrup.
After a busy day in St. Petersburg, it was off to Clearwater Beach, where I checked into the Opal Sands Resort. “Oasis” would be the perfect word to describe this beachfront hotel with plenty of options of things to do. Along with a beautiful place to stay, it also gave me a chance to enjoy the ocean and warm weather. The day ended with the sunset at the Pier 60 Nightly Festival and a dinner at the Seagiuni at the resort.
January 19th started with a lunch created by Chef Keith Farlow—a legend in the Florida region and in the town of Englewood for creating dishes with both a southern and French Creole flavor. It was the perfect beginning to a day that would include sun and surf—after lunch, I was escorted to Skip’s Placida Marina to experience Riding the Waves. This was a wonderful opportunity to experience the local wildlife and the Stump Pass Beach State Park, somewhere few people know of but that houses some of the most interesting species of plants and animals in Florida.
“It was the perfect beginning to a day that would include sun and surf”
After this, I checked into the Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda. Combining a sense of luxury and a love for the surrounding harbors, the Wyvern is well-known for its new art collection, where it showcases a series of local artists’ works for purchase and for glancing at while you walk around this impressive hotel. One of my favorite parts? The rooftop terrace where I could enjoy a drink and watch the sunset.
This was only the beginning of the delightful end of the day. After settling in, I headed out to meet the owner and head chef of The Perfect Caper, Jeanie Roland. If you enjoy Asian food with a twist, you’ll love the combination of dishes Jeanie has come up with—each one has a hint of American or French influence. She’s also big among the celebrity crowd—Taylor Swift and Lorde are some of her students.
The next day started out with a breakfast at the hotel and then a quick ride to Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City Museum. As someone who has enjoyed seeing a variety of muscle cars and cars from different periods of American history, this was a fun way to spend the morning. From there, I had a delicious, fresh meal from Peace River Seafood—one of the best places to find blue crabs cooked perfectly.
The final leg of the trip took me to Marco Island. I checked in to the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, and considering how they just switched over from Marriott to JW Marriott on Jan 1st, the timing could not have been better. Unfortunately, sunny Florida had decided to rain on my parade, so the few activities I did do were inside. However, that didn’t ruin my time. In fact, it also gave me the chance to try meals and the spa at the hotel.
Food and cocktails abounded. I was able to put together my own Bloody Mary at the hotel—something I was more than happy to do. I also had some cocktails at Ocean Prime, which turned out to be the place where I had some of the most memorable concoctions. One of the best dinners I had was at 1500 South in Naples, where Italian food and Florida meshed into a perfect meal and was expertly put together by Chef Art Smith.
Overall, this was the vacation I didn’t know I wanted, but was glad I had. I was ready to return home to Miami, refreshed, relaxed and having experienced some sunshine.