I'm on the balcony of our Gulf-front suite when I hear it. Below me, a languid canal takes a swan past my vantage point, rounding a corner of the TradeWinds Island Resort and disappearing. Beyond that, the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico and St. Pete Beach softens in the light. I take another sip of the TradeWinds' signature cocktail – a frothy, delicious, pink-and-white confection – and motion to my husband. We stand in the breeze, listening. It's the opening bars of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," a song we played at our wedding.
The music reaches us from Salty's Tiki Bar at Island Grand, one of two resorts here and where we're lodged. We smile at this nod to our beachfront nuptials and watch the sun go down.
We're not here on a romantic rendezvous. We never intended to spend sunset in the soft-focus light, sharing a quiet toast and breathing in the salty Gulf air. In fact, we've come to the TradeWinds for a close-to-home family getaway – a good old-fashioned rollicking trip to the beach. Which is easily had: a quick tour of the grounds reveals a colorful mini golf course, an area for pets and that lazy waterway, with at least three or four pairs of kids traveling it by paddleboat. There are five heated pools, Har-Tru clay tennis courts and two decked-out fitness centers.
The moment we enter Island Grand's spacious lobby it's as if we've gained entry to a self-contained paradise, the kind of island your kids would dream up, filled with pirate outposts and beachside trampolines. Only later is it clear to us that the TradeWinds is as romantic as it is rollicking.
The sunny atrium boasting potted palms and a circular bar is scented – I swear – with lime and coconut. Our room is bright and airy, and throughout the resort, the sound of island music plays softly in the background.
But it's the beachfront that really brings visions of frolicking with the family to life. There, kids take turns going down the enormous three-story inflated slide pinned to the sand while moms and dads relax in beach cabanas facing the Gulf.
A family zooms by on WaveRunners, a father and son toss a football and the hoots of volleyball players rise over the sound of the waves. Toddlers stomp around gleefully in the wet sand, and a ragtag group of kids runs by. This, I later learn, is an example of the exclusive, no-parents-allowed KONK Club in action (it stands for Kids Only, No Kidding!). This fully supervised program for kids ages 4-11 offers all manner of activities designed to give mom and dad the night – or the morning – off. And therein lies the opportunity for romance
Parents' Night Out
It's the KONK Club that allows us a leisurely dinner at the resort's upscale Palm Court Italian Grill where we find ourselves ensconced in a tidy courtyard and tucking into lamb. All around us are other parents, familiar for their relieved smiles and easy banter. After dinner we head over to Sharktooth Tavern for some live music. We've seen Sharktooth Tavern in its other incarnation during the day – home to Captain RedBeard and gateway to Pirate Island, where kids are face-painted into buccaneers.
Tonight we even have time to collapse onto one of the many hammocks strung up in an out-of-the-way spot on the resort grounds. I fantasize about the next day's scheduled breakfast in bed.
Sun, Fun & Relaxation
In the morning, after a hot stone massage at Body Works Salon & Spa, my husband and I head over to the resort's other accommodation, the recently renovated Sandpiper Suites. While we're soaking up the sun (and the quiet) at the Sandpiper's adults-only Oasis Pool, the TradeWinds Adventure Center team – a recreation service that tailors activities to each family's needs – has the kids involved in a sandcastle building contest. When it's time to move from the Oasis pool to its companion whirlpool, we relish the opportunity to sit close together in the soothing water.
The TradeWinds Adventure Center team tells us there's glow-in-the-dark volleyball on the roster that evening, and we happily attend after feasting on fresh seafood at Bermudas restaurant. We take our time on the way from Bermudas to volleyball, walking the decks and bridges on the grounds at Island Grand, following a trail of small, wet footprints.
For more information on planning your relaxing family getaway to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, call the TradeWinds Island Resorts at 1-866-JUSTLETGO or visit www.justletgo.com.