HOLIDAYS can be thirsty work – so where better to quench that desire than on Florida’s GULP Coast.
While kids may love the House of Mouse, adults will be in their own heaven in Dunedin, a small town on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
With its craft-beer trail and micro-breweries, the area is so cool even ice cubes get jealous.
One of the trail’s must-visit places is Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest, where beers are handcrafted in small batches, 15 barrels at a time.
Founded in 1995 by Michael Norman Bryant, it has grown to include a kitchen serving tasty treats and offers live entertainment nearly every night of the week.
A challenge for every craft- beer aficionado is to have a drink in all eight micro-breweries in the square mile of downtown Dunedin, near the cities of St Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County.
The delights continue as we check into the Fenway Hotel.
Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, it is a beautiful 83-room hotel dating to 1927.
The walls echo with jazz, from live music in the foyer to drum symbols on the bedroom walls. It also has a roof-top bar with sunset views to die for.
Head, too, to Olde Bay Cafe in the marina. Once a wooden shack and loading dock, it is now a rustic fish-house serving some of the best crab-cakes I’ve ever eaten.
To explore St Pete and Clearwater, we’ve flown in on Norwegian Airline’s latest direct route into Tampa, making getting to the shores of the Gulf a breeze.
St Pete and Clearwater’s beaches have won awards — with the latter’s named No1 in America in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travellers’ Choice Awards.
There’s plenty more to explore nearby, including Honeymoon Island State Park, which got its name from a romantic Life magazine competition in 1939 where newlyweds vied for a two-week stay.
Explore the four miles of white, sandy beach, hike in the pine forest and keep an eye out for eagles, osprey, herons and great-horned owls.
You can also take the Caladesi Island Ferry to kayak the mangrove groves or find more unspoilt beaches to unwind and relax at. Leaving Dunedin is a wrench but the scenic drive along Gulf Boulevard to St Pete takes the edge off.
In one corner of St Pete you will find The Don CeSar, a fabulous hotel 90 years in the making.
With a history of ghosts, presidents, sporting icons, movie stars and a tragic love story, The Don Cesar deserves its place in US legend. This pink palace certainly has the wow factor.
Its most famous “ghost” is the original owner, Irishman Thomas Rowe.
As a young scholar in London, he fell in love with an opera star named Lucinda.
But when her parents learned of their relationship, they whisked her away to Spain and they never saw each other again.
A heartbroken Rowe built The Don in her honour.
Opening in 1928, it quickly became a favourite romping ground for the rich and famous.
Its guest list includes presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Franklin D. Roosevelt, actors Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford and Elizabeth Taylor, while Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio spent part of their honeymoon there in 1954.
GETTING THERE: Low-cost long- haul airline Norwegian has twice-weekly flights direct from Gatwick to Tampa, on new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Fares from £175 one way, £300 return.
See norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854 to book.
STAYING THERE: Double rooms at the Fenway Hotel, Dunedin, are from £130 a night.
Details at fenwayhotel.com. Rooms at the Don CeSar are from £199 a night. See doncesar.com for info.
OUT & ABOUT: Head over to dunedinbrewery.com.
MORE INFO: Check out visitstpeteclearwater.com.
If you can’t afford to stay with the stars, enjoying the delights of a meal at the hotel’s Maritana Grille will give you the chance to see how the other half live.
Downtown St Pete’s has a laidback vibe. There are no McDonald’s or Starbucks. No big chains, full-stop.
The result is a vibrant town packed with independent shops, coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
A great way to sample the culinary wares is to book on to an Eat St Pete Food Tour — but you will need to get your fat pants ready first.
The soft shrimp roll in Buya Ramen lifts your spirits.
Owner Michael Sponaugle said: “We’re a Japanese gastro pub, that’s probably the reason why the first four pages of our menu is booze.”
Pacific Counter is a superb sushi restaurant that also serves frozen beer.
Swah-rey is a devilishly good dessert bar where you can order a large shot-glass of coffee, juice or champagne and top it with a cake of your choice.
St Pete is also known for its urban scene and the 500-odd murals make the town more bright and zippy than the cast of Rainbow.
Artist Derek Donnelly runs private mural tours and will tell you the stories behind the eye-catching works.
But you can’t write about this area without mentioning the wildlife.
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There are so many photo opportunities — Florida basically IS Instagram — and pelicans and dolphins are the main stars.
The kids may love Orlando’s childish pleasures — but the Gulf Coast is a true adult’s playground
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