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Beach practicalities

The motels that line mile after mile of Gulf Boulevard tend to be cheaper than the hotels – typically $80–110 in winter, $15–20 less in summer. You’ll pay $5–10 extra for a room on the beach side of Gulf Boulevard compared with an identical room on the inland side. At the southern beaches, good, cheap accommodation can be found at the peaceful Lamara Motel, 520 73rd Ave, St Petersburg Beach (t 1-800/211-5108, w http://www.lamara.com; $61–80), while the pick of the hotels at the northern beaches is the Sheraton Sand Key, 1160 Gulf Blvd, Sand Key (t 727/595-1611, w http://www.sheratonsandkey.com; $201–300). Visitors should also think about making a trip a few miles down the road on I-75 to stay at the Tortuga Inn and Beach Resort, 1325 Gulf Drive N, Bradenton Beach (t 941/778-6611, w http://www.tortugainn.com). The rooms here are nice, there’s a well-kept pool and there’s good access to Anna Maria Island. It’s easy to find a decent place to eat around the beaches: overlooking the sea, Hurricane, 807 Gulf Way, Pass-a-Grille (t 727/360-9558), has a well-priced menu of the freshest seafood; Fetishes, 6690 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach (t 727/363-3700), is ideal for a more upmarket and intimate dining experience, serving expensive American cuisine. In Clearwater Beach, Frenchy’s Café, 41 Baymont St (t 727/446-3607), cooks up good grouper sandwiches and seafood gumbo.

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