From the moment seasoned nature tour guide Kurt Zuelsdorf first dipped his paddle into Clam Bayou, he knew the mangrove estuary would be the right place to set his kayak tours. But there was a catch—a garbage dump’s worth of rusting shopping carts and waterlogged plastic bags was strewn about the waterway. Undeterred, Kurt hit upon a clever cleanup strategy: people could launch his fleet of kayaks for free, so long as they toted a bag of garbage out of the bayou with them.
Numerous grants, media attention, and awards later, Kurt’s waterway cleanup program has reached its final stages. Now, kayakers and paddlers can freely navigate the mangrove channels, nabbing sights of manatees, herons, and tugboat captains hopelessly lost in the mangroves. An avid nature enthusiast who has kayaked waterways from Wisconsin to Florida, Kurt prizes Clam Bayou, citing the diversity of wildlife along the one-mile stretch. “It’s not like the zoo,” he says. “Every time you hit the water, it’s a completely different experience.”
Woody's Waterfront Cafe, built on an inlet off the Gulf of Mexico, regales guests with vintage 1960's beach-bar vibes and scenic views, shimmying up a menu of casual American fare and ice-cold drinks. Commence the evening with one of Woody's basket cases, which nestle a bushel's worth of plain or spicy fries next to bite-sized morsels of chicken, shrimp, clams, or wings ($8.75–$12.50). Otherwise, the burgers—half-pound patties of grilled chuck cooked to preference—make for hearty handheld eats and surprisingly accurate discuses ($7/50–$8.45), and the cheese-topped surfin' steak sandwich snares shaved slices of grilled sirloin and veggies within the soft embrace of a bun ($8.25). Woody's chefs also sizzle up mahi-mahi steak, which comes blackened, grilled, or fried, and plated with a choice of two sides ($12.95). At the full bar, bartenders sling draft and bottled beer, as well as a bevy of frozen mixed drinks that include mudslides authentically prepared with the mire from Mt. Oreo's historic avalanche.
Framing an intercoastal highway, Treasure Bay's nine holes sprawl across a manmade peninsula marked by verdure fairways, palm trees, and strategically placed sand traps. Golfing foursomes with today's deal can play through the par 3 course back to back for a total of 18 holes apiece. Conversely, solo golfers can drive, chip, and putt through four separate rounds to gain an intimate knowledge of the course's greens, bunkers, and hidden passages that are actually just the inside of a stranger's golf bag. The 905-yard course is replete with water hazards in the form of a shimmering bay, dual ponds, and a swamp monster who merrily doctors scorecards.
For owners Jo Massaro and Karen Ierna, Benjamin's Studios is all about creativity. They showcase this passion for creativity with the imaginative hairstyles and glowing skin they impart in the salon and spa, but also in the Treasure Island facility's onsite art gallery, which displays work from local artists. There's even a fashion boutique overflowing with men's and women's clothing and accessories.
Jo and Karen primarily put their 30+ years of hair experience to use in the hair studio. Here, they craft new 'dos using foil highlights, perms, and straightening techniques—techniques the designers of Pisa's famous tower boldly ignored. The spa’s aestheticians, meanwhile, release stress by rendering massages, mani-pedis, and ionic footbath services. They also perform eight skin-type-specific facials, such as teen, men's, and problematic, and they enhance them with aromatherapy and Chakra testing.
The turquoise waters lap gently at the white sand of St. Pete Beach, the serene setting disrupted only by guests dashing wildly into the waters, toting long standup paddleboards and giant smiles. They hurl themselves onto the boards before scooting around on the water’s surface, often to race one other or in attempts at overcoming their innate lack of flippers. Guests who rent boards from Saltwater Kite & Paddle—located mere steps from the water—can get right into the water, with no need for transportation to a beach. In addition to providing boards—which may also be purchased after rentals—the aquatic experts lead group lessons in standup paddleboarding, surfing, and kiteboarding to help enthusiasts get the most out of their beach-going experiences.