Rest before the rides
We decided to break up our Orlando trip with a stay in Naples and Clearwater. We have done this before as it’s nice to see other parts of Florida as well as the theme parks.
Travel and Hotels
So, when booking our flights we always look at other airports near to our chosen destination to see if the availability is better, especially if we are using our British Airways companion vouchers. We looked at arriving into Fort Lauderdale for this trip and luckily we found dates close to when we wanted to arrive. We will cover companion vouchers, avios points and how we book our flights in another blog.
We used our vouchers to fly club world, which gave us priority check in and boarding, use of the BA lounges, extra luggage (2 hold suitcases, 1 cabin bag and 1 laptop or handbag) priority departure on landing.
Upon landing in Fort Lauderdale we travelled approximately one and a half hours west towards the gulf coast to Naples. We stayed on 5th Avenue south at the Inn on Fifth. Arriving at the hotel we used the valet parking as we were unsure of the self parking options at that time.
The hotel has two buildings, which are across the road from each other, the second building is for the club level suits (which include larger rooms, private balcony, breakfast, snacks, cocktails and transportation to/from the airport and downtown Naples). The aroma as you walk into the foyer is amazing (similar to the Fiji smell on soarin for Disney lovers, or the Eucalyptus rain candle in Bath and Bodyworks). The staff were polite and welcoming, especially the drivers who provided us with complimentary transportation to a local restaurant, we could have had this to either the beach or to downtown Naples. They have great knowledge of the area and where to eat. The foyer has nice seating areas and fresh water infused with fruit which is available all day. The rooftop pool was nice; not big but enough for what we needed.
We stayed in the plaza room which had two beds and a balcony with seating for two people. The room was clean with a nice bathroom, however the beds in these style rooms are not very big. We stayed two nights but paid for them separately via different travel companies to get the best prices. Due to the location of the hotel, on 5th Avenue, close to art galleries, restaurants and a ten minute walk (or complimentary drop off) to a stunning white beach, the prices of the room were on the higher end at £228.58 per night. Our second night was slightly cheaper.
The area around fifth avenue was very beautiful and peaceful, especially in the early morning. We walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise, something we try to do when possible and spotted two dolphins close to the beach. We are very lucky as we had the same experience in Miami too.
Food in Naples
The first night we decided to try a restaurant that had been recommended by many people, the place was Tommy Bahama restaurant on third street. We took a complimentary lift there from the hotel but walked back (we could have been collected if we had requested this). The walk didn’t take too long and it was interesting to see the different houses, some of which were worth a lot.
We hadn’t reserved a table but didn’t wait too long to be seated. Whilst waiting we looked in the Tommy Bahama shops, one was linked to the restaurant and the other was situated across the road. We were seated outside, not to far from the road but this was not a problem as the road was quiet and it was good place for people watching. The restaurant does have live music, so be aware if you have anyone who is sensitive to noise, when we were there the diners did join in on some of the songs, so it can get a little loud. This didn’t bother us but it may be a problem for others.
We ordered tacos, three fries, ribs and two desserts. The food was good, especially the desserts, which all four of us had to eat to finish them (a lot bigger than on the picture below). The price for the starter was about 13 dollars and the main meal was about 29 dollars. The main also came with a big portion of coleslaw and mash.
Normally our go to food at Cheesecake Factory would be the Roadside sliders and the club sandwich or the orange chicken (pictures of these meals can be seen on our Places to eat in Orlando blog), but today we just needed the cheesecake. So the celebration and red velvet were chosen.
Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant that has a lot to choose from on the menu but make sure you get the famous bread sticks (we just can’t stop eating them) and the house salad (it is big compared to salads in the UK). We always share two meals between the four of us as they are filling and as I said you will be eating more breadsticks.
For breakfast we chose a small cafe on 5th Avenue called The cafe. We had pancakes, an açai bowl and eggs benedict. The food and service was very good. Our table was inside but they do have outdoor seating for more people watching.
Our time here was spent by the pool, on the beach and eating. If you are more adventurous you can do more here but we found Naples to be more for relaxing, have drinks, eating gelato, looking around the high end shops and admiring the art sculptures on the streets.
Clearwater is situated above Naples in north west Florida. The drive from Naples to clearwater is approximately 3 hours, but we decided to go to Clearwater in our second week in-between park visits, so we drove from Orlando to Clearwater, the drive took approximately 1 hour 45.
We stayed at the Opals Sands hotel which is situated on the beach. All the hotel’s rooms face out over the beach and include balconies. It was easy to find the hotel and again our car was taken care of by the valet service.
You enter the hotel and precede up the escalators to the foyer, which overlooks the ocean.
The main reason we chose this hotel was for its location on the beach, the fact every room has an ocean view and the reviews we had read. From the foyer you walk out to a fountain area which leads to the pool, jacuzzi, games area and the beach.
We had a nice, clean and well decorated room on the eighth floor, that comprised of two large beds, a sofa (converts to a bed), table and chairs and extra seating on the balcony. The floor to ceiling windows mean you can make the most of the glistening ocean views. On each floor you have access to a guest pantry – which was stocked with cookies, fruit, drinks and ice chiller. We did find that the food went quite quickly and sometimes you had to wait a while for it to be restocked.
Food in Clearwater
As we only stayed a night in clearwater we didn’t eat in many places here. After arriving we had a walk down the superb white beach and stopped at Starbucks for a snack. Our goto snacks and drinks in America are the strawberry açai, the pink drink, latte and cappuccino. You can’t go wrong with a lemon loaf (pound) cake, blueberry muffin or blueberry scone (with icing if available, this is my favourite) or the banana bread.
We decided to try one of the restaurants at the Opal Sands hotel for our main meal. We had the choice of the Sea Guini, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Sea Guini lounge serving food such as calamari, bruschetta, pizza and cocktails. The pool bar with tacos, pizza, bruschetta, burgers, fries and frozen cocktails. The one we choose was the Sandbar, situated outside overlooking the beach, we choose the hummus dips with celery and fried potatoes (approx $8), chicken wrap (aprox $12) and the grouper and waffle fries (fish and chips, approx $16).
The views and live music (an excellent young singer called Zachary Biss) made for a great atmosphere. We had a good table to watch the sunset. The food was nice but we felt the service was lacking a little. Afterwards my hubby and I went to the lounge for a drink whilst the girls chilled on the balcony. The lounge was busy so we only had one drink and headed to our room, after a trip to the pantry for goodies.
The next morning we lazed by the pool, then headed off to Disney’s Art of Animation hotel. Our aim was to take time out, chill by the beach and pool. Clearwater and Opal Sands was the perfect spot, of course there is more to do there but that will have to wait for next time.
Until our next adventure x TRT