Every now and then it’s healthy to leave all of your responsibilities behind and just go get away. I am in no way encouraging you to stop showing up for work, paying your bills, making your fantasy football picks or feeding your cat. But, for one weekend, a few times a year drop everything, pick a destination a few hours away and jump in the car. In this case, we headed to beautiful Indian Rocks Beach, FL.

Thursday afternoon we decided we were due to visit the white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast. It didn’t hurt our decision that the Saints were playing the Bucs that Sunday either. I worked my hotel booking magic and grabbed a terrific rate at the Holiday Inn Clearwater Beach South in Indian Rocks Beach for Saturday night. Friday afternoon we packed up the car with our beach gear along with our tailgating essentials. Saturday morning we made a big leisurely breakfast and hit the road.

A beautiful day on Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.

Getting There

I’m not going to lie, the drive from Orlando to the St. Pete/Clearwater area is not the most exciting one and you should consider yourself lucky if you don’t hit traffic in downtown Orlando, Universal, Disney or downtown Tampa. However, it’s a nice straight shot that only takes about 2 hours. My favorite part is when you hit the bridge over Tampa Bay and there’s an “aha” moment when you realize, “I am on vacation.”

We headed directly to the Holiday Inn to get settled and they were nice enough to let us check in early. Allen was a little disappointed the hotel wasn’t directly on the beach, but the property made up for it with a slew of unexpected amenities. A miniature golf course ran through the hallways of this Key West style resort towards the extremely kid friendly pool. The zero entry pool was complimented with mushroom fountains, a pirate ship with slides and my personal favorite, a tiki bar called Rum Runners. For adults looking for a quieter experience a separate pool resides on the other side of the property complete with a hot tub. The resort also boasts a fitness center, volleyball courts, tennis courts, game room and gift shop that we didn’t have time to take advantage of.

Experience Indian Rocks Beach

After we checked in and took a quick tour of our digs we headed straight to the beach just two blocks away. We could not have asked for better weather. I thought I was a purely June-August beach goer, but October might make the cut. Temps topped out at 85 and the water was just warm enough to take a dip. I wasn’t tough enough to put my head under, but as always Allen found it exhilarating. I have been north to Clearwater Beach and this was a completely different experience. The beach was populated without feeling crowded and I was shocked at the number of shells scattered along the beach. Bonus, I didn’t see any homeless people either.

Two hours is our beach limit. My sunscreen starts to wear off, our cooler starts to empty and Allen gets bored. It was time to try out Rum Runners. It’s not a vacation without a Pina Colada and this one with some pineapple and a cherry on top didn’t disappoint. Rum Rummers was slammed with people catching college football games and stopping in from a day on the water. The hotel has a marina making this a quick stop to gas up and grab some grub. Jimmy Guana’s Waterfront Restaurant that overlooks the bay and pool delivers munchies directly to Rum Runners. We sampled the chicken quesadilla that was quite tasty and more than large enough to tide the two of us over.

A couple of drinks later it was time to head back out to the beach for sunset. We normally head to the Atlantic Coast so this was something we were looking forward to. It was a perfectly clear day so the sun just slowly melted into the ocean like magic. When it was over everyone on the beach applauded. A hundred people were out there giving a sunset a round of applause as if Mother Nature put on a show for us.

More Things to Do in Indian Rocks Beach

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at this awesome little shop called Island Surf Shop. We only stopped in for an IRB sticker, but the guy was so cool and the shop had such a great selection we ended up getting me an early birthday present. A pair of Rainbow flip flops with this really unique braid will make a great souvenir from this trip especially with their lifetime warranty.

A photo posted by Emily Eaton (@emilylucaseaton) on

After passing Crabby Bill’s four times back and forth from the beach it was calling our names for some dinner. The vibe at the restaurant is nice and laid back with live music, pleasant servers and great food. We ordered some gator bites and a steamed seafood platter. The platter was yummy and fresh although I wish I would have thrown out our health kick and gone with the broiled or fried version.

As if the day wasn’t full enough there was a meteor shower scheduled for the evening. We gathered our towels and headed back to the beach for the third time that day to catch a glimpse of a falling star. The night was perfectly clear with the only light pollution coming from the moon. We were out there a good hour and while we did some great stargazing and snuggling I have yet to see a shooting star. 🙁 This just gives us more of an incentive to come back though.

I wasn’t quite ready to end our amazing day so we squeezed one more stop in and grabbed a slice of pepperoni and jalapeno pizza at Slyce. The few bites I had melted in my mouth with a nice kick from the jalapenos that knocked out the hiccups I had been battling for a half hour. This was the perfect finale to an absolutely unforgettable day.