Florida's leading gay and lesbian vacation destination on the Gulf of Mexico, the St. Petersburg region comprises a downtown fringing Tampa Bay that's undergone a significant renaissance as well as a string of eclectic - and often historic - waterfront communities from quaint Pass-A-Grille (an easy drive from gay-popular Sunset Beach) to artsy Gulfport to the tony resort of Clearwater Beach. Host each June to St. Petersburg Gay Pride, the largest in the state, the area is home to a diverse mix of gay-Friendly lodging choices, from grand hotels to elegant B&Bs, plus Florida's largest gay resort. Here's a look at some of the best places to stay.
Also, take a look at the St. Petersburg Gay Nightlife Guide for tips on where to dine and go out.
Across from the famed Vinoy Hotel, this captivating circa-1910 house was the residence for many years of none other than Aymer Vinoy Laughner, the man beyond the hotel that bears his name. Now the Beach Drive Inn and operated by capable innkeepers Heather and Roland Martino, the upscale clapboard B&B has six rooms and suites, some with views of the downtown waterfront and Tampa Bay. The two suites as well as some rooms have large Jacuzzi tubs with showers, and all have coffeemakers, mini-refrigerators, robes, and free Wi-Fi and off-street parking (by no means a given in downtown St. Petersburg). There's also a rooftop sundeck, and lush gardens surrounding this inn. One more plus: It's the only B&B in the city licensed to sell beer and wine.
Set in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg's Historic Old Northeast district, which is noted for it s rich mix of late-19th-century and early-20th-century homes, the gay-owned Dickens House is about a century old and is a classic example of the Arts and Crafts design movement. Proprietor Ed Caldwell has done a marvelous job restoring the house, with its broad veranda and distinctive architectural features. Accommodations include three full suites and two rooms, ranging from a cozy attic room with pitched ceilings and a small bathroom with a whirlpool tub to the roomy Dickens Suite with a high four-poster canopy bed, a large sitting area, and a two-person shower-spa. Breakfasts are seriously delicious and ornate. The clientele is mixed.
Like the slightly less elaborate Vinoy in downtown St. Petersburg, this wedding cake of a building is painted in creamy pink, was built in the 1920s, has hosted numerous dignitaries and celebs, and fronts the water - in this case, the Gulf of Mexico. Like the Vinoy, the venerable Don Cesar also felt into a state of abandonment (after serving as a VA building) and was nearly torn down but has been beautifully renovated and now ranks among the region's most luxurious resorts. This turreted beauty is set along a stunning swath of sugary sand in St. Pete Beach and has oodles of amenities: a substantial spa, excellent indoor and outdoor restaurants. It's also very close to St. Petersburg's gay beach, on Treasure Island as well as the charming village of Gulfport, with its inviting bars and restaurants.
This no-frills, formerly mainstream hotel was transformed in 2009 into Florida's largest gay resort and entertainment complex. The Flamingo has 130 rooms - they're quite basic and dated, and unfortunately not as well maintained as they could be, but they're dirt-cheap and have free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and safes. The Flamingo's primary draw is for social butterflies - there's a huge, nicely landscaped pool and three different bars, plus a restaurant. From happy hours to pool parties to Sunday T-dances, there's always a lot going on. The Flamingo is a 10-minute drive south of downtown and from the beaches, just off I-275. You need a car to get around the area.
Similar in style to the small men's resorts in Key West and Fort Lauderdale, this 1920s house in historic Kenwood - a short drive from several popular gay bars and restaurants in the Grand Central District - has both long-term and overnight accommodations. Rates are reasonable, and all the more so if you stay for a week or longer, and rooms are home-y and cheerfully decorated, with some opening directly to the clothing-optional pool. Other amenities include a six-person hot tub, dry sauna, and exercise room, and rates include Continental breakfast as well as an evening happy hour. Host Brian Longstreth is very active in promoting St. Petersburg as a gay destination and can provide plenty of advice on what to see and do nearby.
Part of the hip, gay-popular Indigo Hotel brand, developed in 2006 by InterContinental Hotels, this stylish, lime-green property is within walking distance of downtown's fast-emerging retail and dining scene and just off of I-375 and I-275 - it's just three blocks from the Straub Park and the waterfront overlooking Tampa Bay. Apart from the central location, the Indigo for its contemporary, airy rooms with hardwood floors, pale-green color schemes, whimsical artwork, and compact but well-equipped baths. There's also a good-size outdoor pool, an exercise room, free Wi-Fi, a small business center, and a casual, attractive restaurant serving cocktails at night and breakfast in the morning (plus room service).
Steps from the several cool restaurants and shops (as well as the gay bar Kelly's/Blur) in charming downtown Dunedin, this eight-room property is a perfect base if you're staying in the northern reaches of greater St. Petersburg - it's close to Clearwater Beach, and also a pretty easy drive from downtown Tampa. A big advantage here is that each room or suite has a private entrance, ensuring plenty of privacy - and the tree-shaded grounds include a pool, gazebo, and orchid garden. Rooms at this GLBT favorite have porches or balconies, well-chosen art and antiques (themes range from Art Deco to Southwest to contemporary), and - in two suites - full kitchens. Breakfast is an impressive feast
This beautiful hip-roofed 1923 house overlooking Boca Ciega Bay and - across the water - St. Pete Beach, is one of the most inviting of the area's B&Bs, and it's definitely the ideal accommodation if you want to be in the heart of artsy, eclectic Gulfport. The trendy dining and gallery scene along Beach Boulevard as well as Gulfport's beach and fishing pier all lie within a few minutes' walk from the GLBT-friendly Sea Breeze, which contains six warmly decorated suites (some are in the main building, some in adjacent cottages). There's plenty of room to spread out, as each unit has a separate sitting area as well as a patio or balcony - rates include full breakfast as well as snacks and refreshments. It's a terrific property, inside and out.
It's hard to believe this sleek, study in Mid-Century Modern, situated along the Gulf in St. Pete Beach, was a homely Travelodge just a few years ago. The Postcard Inn, which is home to the trendy restaurant Wildwood BBQ & Burger, is a low-slung building with access to some of the most beautiful white-sand beach in the region, plus there's a large pool with a beach bar. Rooms are stylishly modern and hip, with clean lines, whimsical furnishings, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and a funky old-school aesthetic. The clientele tends toward the hip and fun-loving, with a significant contingent of GLBT guests. Poolside cabana rooms are a real treat - perfect if you're a social butterfly or celebrating a special occasion.
One of the most celebrated Mediterranean Revival buildings in Florida, the Vinoy enjoys an enviable setting on Tampa Bay, steps from the many new and up-and-coming restaurants and shops in downtown St. Petersburg, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts and St. Pete Pier. The glitzy pink-turreted hotel opened in 1927 and hosted countless luminaries - from Babe Ruth to Calvin Coolidge - during its heyday. It's again a favorite of visiting celebs and a popular choice among GLBT travelers, but the hotel was shuttered in the 1970s and nearly razed before undergoing a massive restoration and expansion, which led to a second more modern wing, in the 1990s. With smartly appointed rooms, a spa and health club, and superb restaurants, it's a gem today.