Many Southerners can still recall the days of Old Florida. The time when the Sunshine State was more synonymous with sleepy beaches than theme parks. These were the days of fish camps, quaint inns, oyster roasts and porch-side champagne toasts. While various popular destinations still have a pinch of this laissez-faire lifestyle, few capture the juxtaposition of old and new Florida as seamlessly as the newly refurbished Belleview Inn.
The hotel first opened in Belleair Beach near Clearwater in 1887 as a destination for wealthy guests to enjoy luxurious amenities and Florida charm. In fact, previous patrons have included the likes of Bob Dylan, Mr. (Fred) Rogers, Margaret Thatcher, Dick Clark, Babe Ruth, and every living president up until the Trump era. After lying vacant for nearly 10 years, the hotel has recently undergone a full renovation — which included a hydraulic, 320-foot shift. However, within its white hardy-board exterior, guests will find loads of refurbished features including original hardware, Tiffany glass, wood paneling and various unique details that make the hotel as opulent in 2019 as it was in 1919. With just 32 rooms and three suites, add the regal “Queen of the Gulf” to your destination bucket list.
Belleview pampering begins as soon as you arrive. Rest your gaze upon the stately structure as your car carries you through a palm-lined drive. The inn’s oversized porch — complete with a haint blue ceiling and conversation nooks — beckons you forward. Despite its once 400+ room grandeur, the inn’s scaled-back majesty is still immediately apparent.
Once inside, you’re greeted by around-the-clock piano music, offering melodic tunes for guests in the common area. Climb the original grand staircase to your room, noting golf-course views and commissioned art by local artist Christopher Still as you go. Rooms are gilded with luxurious trimmings such as velvet pillows, leather occasional furniture, wood flooring and aged brass lighting. It’s the fitting connection between what hotel guests of yesteryear may have experienced while giving inn guests of today what they might be craving.
With just four floors, the inn fills every cranny with details. Turn-down service comes complete with complimentary dark chocolate squares, and every room receives a white rose on the first night of the stay. Throughout your time at The Belleview, you’ll start to notice white roses throughout the property — in small vases in the Reading Room, in spilling floral arrangements in the lobby and in Still paintings in the common areas. The inn practically sprouts white roses, a nod to it once being described as “blossoming like a white rose.”
One of several Opal Collection properties in the Clearwater vicinity, guests at The Belleview Inn have access to incredible amenities throughout their stay. Shuttle services to the SandPearl Resort allow beachgoers the opportunity to bask in the sun on a private beach, dine at various restaurants and even enjoy services at the spa. After noshing your breakfast basket, which is hand-delivered each morning with a pastry, juice and fruit selection along with a local newspaper, hop the shuttle and head to the SandPearl for the day. The first stop, of course, is the beach. Reserve a spot under one of the hotel’s banana yellow umbrellas and enjoy all that the Gulf has to offer. If you’re really looking to relax, snag a beach hammock. The unique perk is pure beach heaven.
After you’ve sufficiently tanned, head to the SandPearl spa, where treatments like facials, pedicures and massages await you. The ladies’ and men’s locker and quiet rooms are separate, but meet your spouse post-treatment at the co-ed, therapeutic whirlpool.
Should you prefer to bask at The Belleview, there are plenty of amenities for you to enjoy. Complimentary bike rentals allow easy exploration of the surrounding neighborhoods while the pool, once the largest in the county, offers plenty of loungers, a few covered cabana areas and a tranquil hot tub. The expansive porch is also furnished with cozy spots for reading or gabbing. Select a coffee, a glass of wine or a snack from Maisie’s Marketplace while you take in the grounds. Toast the day at the inn’s sunset celebration where complimentary champagne flows and conversations linger.
Belleair Beach is near several charming surrounding towns. A quick trip takes you to Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg. Big city enthusiasts will love the proximity to Tampa (which is also likely your arriving and departing airport). Beachgoers will enjoy Clearwater beaches, and culture seekers will bask in St. Petersburg. During your stay at The Belleview, visit St. Pete’s Dali Museum, known by locals as just “The Dali.” It’s one of the few museums in the world dedicated to a singular artist, and has more than 2,400 works by the surrealist. One of the best parts of the museum is the virtual reality opportunities. Take a selfie with Dali or explore one of his masterpieces, “Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus,’” while wearing VR headsets. It’s a remarkable experience that will leave you appreciating the depths of Dali’s work even more.
This trip is also a foodie’s delight. Sleepy Dunedin is home to Florida’s first microbrewery, and there are more than 35 craft breweries along this area of the Gulf. St. Pete has FarmTable Cucina, where the Florida grouper BLT is a must-order. Belleair itself is also filled with charming eateries. Don’t miss Wildflower Cafe where the fresh-baked desserts are just as delightful as the main courses. Take the Key lime pound cake, for example. After one bite, you’ll be trying to figure out how to smuggle it home. Of course, it goes without saying that the area is rich with seafood, too, but we’re partial to the versatile menu at Seaweed. Diners might come for the martinis mysteriously chilled with dry ice, but they definitely stay for the seafood prepared to perfection. For a truly local bite, order the snapper wings, which quite literally are the “wings” of the fish prepared in a sticky, flavorful wing sauce.
Your trip to The Belleview is bound to capture the essence of the Florida of yesteryear, with the modern luxuries of what it is today. It’s truly the best of both worlds. Enjoy your trip!
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