It's 2½ hours South to this 'south sea paradise'
EDITORS NOTE: GLOB Communications Coordinator Tonya Marie Upton is a feature writer, and the GLOB's newly appointed Day Tripper Gainesville escape artist. Tonya recently relocated to North Florida and is enjoying discovering Florida while constantly living in a day trip adventure mode. on this weekend vacation Tonya toured many of the Gulf Coast vacation spots near Dunedin Florida.
If you want a weekend getaway that is right on the Gulf of Mexico, has five star accommodations, and is affordable, then Coconut Villas in Dunedin FL, just North of Clearwater Beach, is the place to go.
Staying at the Villas, you will transcend the hustle and bustle of everyday life and find yourself in another world without those stresses. At least that's what happened to me when I was there for this weekend getaway.
The two bedroom Villa we stayed in had everything we needed – and it was spacious and immaculately clean. The owners of this intimate, non-corporate vacation haven thought of everything. The kitchen was up to date with the latest kitchen technology and gadgets, and the view of the Gulf from our balcony was picturesque.
As if I wasn't excited enough just by the view, the smell of the salty gulf air convinced me that my stay at Coconut Villas near Dunedin over Labor Day weekend would also be a perfect day trip vacation when that was all the time I had.
Although Coconut Villas was packed -- the parking lot was wall-to-wall automobiles, once inside this tropical oasis, I felt like I was swept away to a South seas island practically reserved just for us (photo at top).
The grounds were as impressive as our villa. Coconut Villas owners Annetta and Sam Ireson clearly put much thought, effort and detail went into creating a paradise where you can swim, fish off the dock, relax by the water, or submerge yourself in the island scenery.
Weekend guests here and there were kayaking, boating, and swimming. Cooking on the grill is the order of the day at Coconut Villas.
Owners Annetta and Sam were very friendly and had all the info on the best places to eat and visit while in their paradise world.
The check in was the easiest I ever experienced. There is no front desk and no checking in while your family waits in car. Instead, you book the room, they send you an email with a code to a lock box located at the door of your villa. The lock box has your keys in it. Now that's a nice touch that makes you feel very special!
After settling into our room we headed out for a day trip. Our destination was the Pinellas Trail. The PT is a 47-mile trail along the Gulf of Mexico beginning in St. Pete and ending in Tarpon Springs. The trail is excellent for bicycling, walking, jogging.
Coconut Villas is just a block from Pinellas trail. If you love to ride bikes as much as I do then you will enjoy riding this trail. If you can't bring your own bike, no worries -- Sam and Annetta have beach cruisers for guests to use. Walking or biking on the Pinellas Trail, you are able to stop at any point to enjoy the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the nearby Gulf.
This gulf coast vacation paradise has all the adventure venues covered:
> Honeymoon Island - A two-minute car ride from the Villas, as soon as you get on the island, you can park your car right on the beach and walk out to a sand bar without getting your shorts wet.
> Caladesi Island Ferry - A couple of minutes from CV, a 20-minute fun and educational ferry ride will take you to Caladesi Island. The Island was rated America's best beach in 2008. The shelling is great and the only way to get on and off the island is by boat.
> Clearwater Beach - If you're not an island person, Clearwater Beach is a scenic 15-minute car ride from CV. For those of you who love water sports, there are plenty of rentals for any type of water recreation you can think of in the Clearwater Beach area.
> Clearwater Marine Aquarium- We visited the aquarium, and the kids loved seeing Winter, the star of the Dolphin Tale movie. The Marine Aquarium was fun and informative, and it was inspiring seeing all of the people who work there and put so much heart into caring for their finned residents and other animals of the aquarium. For all the armed forces GLOBers, if you are active duty military and bring your ID, your entire family gets in free.
If it's dolphins you want to see and you can't make the trip to the aquarium, just take a walk outside your Coconut Villa. The chances are very good a dolphin will greet you at some point during your stay, and I say that from experience. We had no shortage of dolphin viewing during our stay. One of my favorite wild dolphin views happened right by the CV pool, which is right next to the beach. We were graced with the presence of a momma dolphin and her calf for an hour of entertainment. The baby dolphin was the smallest dolphin I have ever seen and it was so sweet how they swam in sync next to each other. There must have been some good eating in that particular area for them to spend so much time in the same place.
For meals, word on the street is Dunedin offers some of the best restaurants in the Tampa/Clearwater area. Our experience at a local restaurant called Ozona Blue testified to the word on the street.
There was not one parking place left for us when we arrived. Thankfully the restaurant has free valet services. A comfortable lobby, a very short wait, and we were seated, which surprised me because the restaurant was full. There is an array of seating options: inside, outside on the deck, or under a large tent next to a swimming pool. There are a lot of outside seating options offering other views of the access canal and boats at the marina. The ambience works and the seafood was very good, including some delicious Ozona Blue Grill Crab Legs.
I have never in my entire life experienced guacamole that tasted this good. It is on the menu as an appetizer and they make it table side when you order it. We could not get enough of it. It was a good size portion, and it was so good we ended up asking for more.
This short, two-day respite from reality had me completely in touch with the gulf and its birds and other animals, especially the dolphins. Thanks to my Coconut Villa getaway, this day tripper was ready to face reality back in Gainesville seriously thinking about my next excursion.
Take the advice of a Gainesville Lunch Out Blog's weekend adventurer -- if you need to get away from the stress of Hogtown, a trip to the Coconut Villas in Dunedin, Florida, will do you good.
Special thanks to David McRee and the beachhunter.net website for the use of several of their beach images.