Technicolor sunsets and a vibrant beach culture color Clearwater Beach, Florida, where the recently opened Opal Sands Resort rests on a celebrated 2.5-mile stretch of powdery white-sand shores overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. An increasing number of tourists (and tourist dollars) are helping drive the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area’s hotel boom (the Pinellas County CVB reported 48,200 more overnight visitors this summer compared to last year), with the new kid on the coast already making quite an impression with its 230 one- and two-bedroom suites boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, a spacious balcony and unobstructed views of the Gulf. There’s also a zero-entry pool, poolside cabanas, the full-service Opal Spa, a fitness center and four dining establishments—a venue for every mood, be it blissful, listless or relaxed.
While the resort’s imposing curved exterior and modern beach-inspired decor could outstrip the relaxed restaurants, bars and surf shops sharing Gulfview Boulevard, Opal Sands, an Opal Collection property and member of Preferred Hotel & Resorts, makes every effort to reflect and complement the surrounding community. Fresh Florida grouper is served at the onsite farm- and sea-to-table Sea-Guini restaurant headed by native Floridian and Key West transplant chef Todd Holender; guestrooms and common areas are splashed with a distinctly Clearwater palette of blues and turquoises; and local artists were commissioned to create individual and collaborative pieces for a “mini gallery” in and around the lobby.
Featured artist and native Floridian Christopher Still, whose work is on display at the Governor’s Mansion of Florida, the Smithsonian Institution, St. Petersburg City Hall and Tampa International Airport, played an integral role in the creation of artwork for the property and is partially responsible for the “Ascent,” a 3D wave-like glass and metal sculpture suspended over the escalator leading up to the lobby; “Gulf Spirit,” an oversized metal sculpture in the shape of a grouper hanging at the entrance of Sea-Guini; and “Gulf Treasure,” a glass vase celebrating the Gulf Coast’s marine life. Guests can figuratively step into Still’s “Sunset on Clearwater Beach” oil painting depicting a Gulf of Mexico sunset and Clearwater Beach’s iconic Pier 60, during the nightly Sunsets at Pier 60 festival when artisans, vendors, and street performers gather on the boardwalk for this nightly tradition.
Beyond the Resort
Outside the resort, there’s an array of offerings. After spending the day dolphin spotting during a water adventure on board the Little Toot tugboat and munching on decadent crab fries at Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, located near the resort, I was more than happy to burn off the extra calories on a bike ride—the $25 daily resort fee includes two bike rentals per day. I rode to the nearby downtown area to see the shops, Clearwater Harbor Marina and Capitol Theatre, which will see Donny & Marie, Martina McBride and The Beach Boys perform this month. The 15-minute ride over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway to the downtown area is well worth the trek, especially for the picture-perfect views of the boat-flecked harbor seen from the top of the bridge.
Downtown St. Petersburg, too, is also worth a detour as it has undergone its own revitalization. A rise in the area’s population of residents and daytime office employees has given way to a resurgence of condo living, trendy restaurants, retail shops, craft breweries and cultural facilities. Your clients can play artist for the day at the Morean Arts Center’s Hot Shop, where Jeremiah Jacobs carefully walks budding craftsmen and women through the delicate process of glass blowing.
Afterwards, suggest your clients head over to The Dali Museum to peruse the eccentric works of the great surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Through April 17, 2017, the museum will feature a collection of more than 60 Frida Kahlo pieces including 15 paintings, seven drawings and numerous personal photographs in an exhibition entitled “Frida Kahlo at The Dali.” Museum patrons can participate in some of Kahlo’s favorite pastimes—journaling, Mexican cooking, and gardening—through a series of programs hosted by the museum.