If you’re looking for the compromise between a deserted beach and retail tourist attractions on the Florida Gulf Coast, try Madeira Beach.
We stayed at Madeira Bay Resort, which just across the road, with a sunrise view of Madeira Bay.
The condo was clean and seemed recently remodeled. The less than five minute walk to Madeira Beach led to beautiful views at any time of day.
Our visit coincided with the start of school and was during the rainiest month of the year, but I thoroughly enjoyed the lack of crowd. I greeted the morning with runs on the beach, yoga and beach combing.
Sunsets were gorgeous.
Even a rainy day is better on the beach.
And, we saw beautiful dolphins swimming in the Gulf almost daily. A dolphin sighting never ceased to produce an excited adrenaline rush for me.
There were pelicans and many other sea birds scooping their meals from the sea and poking their beaks along the shore.
There were warnings about stingrays and the recommendation to do the “stingray shuffle” when walking in the ocean to warn them. I did see a small one curl his fins out of the sand in very shallow water and disappear into the sea. It was turtle nesting season, as well.
If you are into the “tourist thing” there are plenty of shops and restaurants on the boardwalk at John’s Pass.
We had good seafood everywhere we went, but the best restaurant was Dockside Dave’s, which was about a mile from where we stayed.
Also, not to be missed was the Candy Kitchen, full of retro sugary memories like Pop Rocks and candy cigarettes and homemade ice cream.
We visited or saw a few other beaches during our stay. Indian Rocks and Redington Beaches we’re both gorgeous and not too “peopley,” but there didn’t seem to be as many stores and restaurants as conveniently located.
St. Pete’s Beach was more commercialized and more crowded than Madeira, but not overly so. It looked like a fun area and would be a place I would choose on a future visit if I wanted to try something different.
When we rode by Clearwater Beach on the city bus, we were unimpressed. It was shoulder-to-shoulder beach chair and cabana rentals and much too “peopley” for my liking. There were many, many commercial amenities nearby, so to each her own, I suppose.
For me, relaxing in the midst of waves, sand, nature, sunrises and sunsets are what a beach vacation is all about.