This summer, we hooked up with a group of journalists in a zany South Florida Insider Tour that included a vintage Airstream trailer, a Jeep and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Our gig was to look at the light side of serious meetings in the Sunshine State, well known for its mood swings “from la-la to loco,” as they say around these parts. Here is the first in our series: The Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach outside Tampa.
Leaving Marco Island last week, our merry band set out for Clearwater Beach to see if the 253-room Sandpearl Resort is as fun as it is elegant. The Airstream, our live streaming broadcast station everywhere we stopped, was sent ahead to establish our bivouac at an iconic Twistee Treat ice cream stand.
We couldn’t continue our Florida coast-to-coast mission without real ice cream, served soft and swirly from a menu listing galaxies of flavors, toppings, cones, cups, shakes, sprinkles and sizes. Founded in1983, the Twistee Treat chain is known for its giant cone-shaped, swirl-top buildings. Our Airstream was waiting for us at one in North Fort Myers.
Approaches to Clearwater Beach are from the north, east or south. None is more exciting than our southern route over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We seemed suspended in space, and then we were back to terra firma and the wow factor of the Sandpearl. A high-rise overlooking a sparkling white sand beach, the 203-room, 50-suite resort faces the Gulf of Mexico on one side and a typically Florida, flip-flop streetscape on the other.
Most of us headed for nearby shops to stock up on sun screen and souvenirs before meeting with Sandpearl’s director of sales and marketing, Nancy Cimney, to ask about the fun factor.
“Groups love our stargazing s’mores evenings on the beach with private firepits,” she told us, led by scientists from the Museum of Science & Industry. “Groups also love our Iron Chef Cook-off, and you can walk to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of our celebrity movie star Winter the Dolphin, and the Flowrider artificial surf experience. ”
Dinners at the resort’s informal Tate Island Grill and the sublime Caretta’s on the Gulf gave us a taste of the gustatory treats at Sandpearl. Offsite, the most popular group event is the nightly, Key West-style sunset get-together at nearby Pier 60 with music, food and buskers.
Sandpearl has 25,000 feet of meeting space indoors and out.