Discover Indian Rocks Beach, a quaint Old Florida beach town on the Gulf Coast, with the charm of Colonial Court Inn, the original Crabby Bill’s, and the very modern Slyce Pizza Bar.
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Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Indian Rocks Beach is a charming beach town situated on a barrier island between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway on Florida’s Suncoast. Clearwater lies to the north and St. Petersburg to the south. From the moment we turned the corner onto Gulf Boulevard and pulled into the parking lot of Colonial Court Inn, I had a feeling we were going to love this place.
We had been invited to visit Indian Rocks Beach for our second stop on the Florida Superior Small Lodging travel blogger road trip. SSL is an association of independently owned and managed boutique inns, B&Bs, and hotels designed to give guests an authentic Florida travel experience.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew there was something that set Indian Rocks Beach apart from other Florida beach towns we had visited. In fact, it wasn’t until I started doing research for this post that I realized what it was. Yes, sometimes I’m slow that way . . . .
I was reviewing the About Us page on the Colonial Court web site, and suddenly there it was. Indian Rocks Beach had been identified “by a major newspaper for being one of the few remaining quaint beach towns, essentially unspoiled by commercialism.”
Translation: NO high-rises allowed!
YES! That was the obvious difference I had missed at the time. There were absolutely no huge commercial hotels lining this stretch of Florida Gulf beaches.
Not one to be misled, I called the IRB Planning & Zoning Department to confirm this information and was informed that the maximum building height on beachfront property is 46 feet. Pretty cool, huh?
Colonial Court Inn
Maybe it was the picket fence or the cabbage palms or the shell gravel driveway, or maybe it was something else, something intangible. Whatever it was, Jerry and I felt like we had somehow been transported to an Old Florida beach town from the 1950s or 60s.
Unlike our first stop on the Florida SSL travel blogger road trip, Jerry and I worked our 9-to-5 jobs on Friday before heading to the beach. Since we would not be arriving until after office hours, innkeepers Laura and Jim Labadie made arrangements to leave our apartment open for us.
Colonial Court Inn has six themed apartments available for daily or weekly rental, as well as a cottage on an adjoining lot and a guest house at a nearby property. We stayed in #3 The Tarpon, a first floor beachfront apartment that also opens to the courtyard.
The Tarpon is a one bedroom, one bath apartment including a large open kitchen, dining, and living area. With a queen bed and sofa sleeper, the apartment can sleep up to four.
The kitchen area is fitted with all major and small appliances and stocked with cooking utensils, cookware, and tableware. We especially liked the large deep sink.
The eponymous Tarpon hangs in the dining area. In addition to his role as innkeeper, Jim Labadie is a charter fishing boat captain, and this was the first tarpon caught on one of his boats. Memorabilia and photos from the Labadie family’s 30+ years at Colonial Court adorn the whitewashed cedar walls. Some may call it kitschy, but the elements created an ambience that made us feel right at home.
We met Laura and Jim in person on Saturday morning. While Jim worked tirelessly at maintenance and odd jobs around the property, Laura gave us a tour of the unoccupied apartments. Apartment #5a The Starlight, with its many windows and French doors opening onto the upstairs porch, was flooded with light. I thought it especially fitting for a honeymoon or romantic getaway.
The best part of the tour for me, however, was when Laura took us through apartment #4 The Heart. The apartment is a tribute to Laura’s grandfather C. C. Beall, a commercial watercolor artist and contemporary of Norman Rockwell. You would recognize his work from WWII war bond posters and Saturday Evening Post covers. Laura has decorated The Heart with many of her grandfather’s original and published works, giving it the feeling of an art gallery and museum.
The Tarpon shares a porch with The Heart that directly faces the beach. Lining the path between the apartments and the beach you will find seating of every kind, including a porch swing, woven hammock, multi-colored Adirondacks, and lounge chairs you can drag to the water’s edge. The abundant seating sends the not-so-subtle message to let the relaxation begin . . . .
Indian Rocks Beach is neither private nor secluded. Adjacent parking areas allow public access to the beach. The beach is fairly empty early in the morning, but it fills up fast. Although crowded, the crowd is an eclectic blend of peaceful, fun-loving families and individuals who busied themselves swimming and fishing, building sandcastles, sunbathing, picnicking, playing music, and enjoying beach games.
Food & Drink
Another feature that gives Indian Rocks the Old Florida beach town feel is the close proximity of small businesses fronting Gulf Boulevard. Everything we needed was within walking distance of Colonial Court. The Beach Boys were my mental soundtrack as we made tracks up and down the street.
The original and only remaining family-owned Crabby Bill’s seafood restaurant is about a block away from Colonial Court. Although they are known for their live music and party atmosphere on The Loading Dock, we heard they had an excellent breakfast. So we headed there Saturday morning. Jerry ordered the Eggs Benedict, and I ordered the Sandy IS Crabby Benedict, a creation that replaces the Canadian bacon with blue crab cakes. Our breakfast was everything I thought it would be, and I am salivating as I write looking at that delicious plate!
Slyce Pizza Bar
For lunch we walked across the street and down a ways to Slyce Pizza Bar, another renowned local establishment. We sat at the bar and ordered personal size Chicago Deep Dish and Sitton Supreme pizzas to share. We had great conversation with the bartender, who gave us the inside scoop on some of the best local joints along Gulf Boulevard.
As much as I enjoy the flavor of Old Florida, I still love the availability of modern conveniences. The largest CVS I have ever seen sits directly across the street from Crabby Bill’s. We stopped in to pick up a couple of things on the way back to the apartment. Nice to have a store in such close proximity to the beach.
Colonial Court Inn
Colonial Court Inn’s courtyard is Laura Labadie’s domain. Evidence of her green thumb abounds in the lush tropical foliage, from bright blooming orchids to a giant staghorn fern to the various succulents and bromeliads that line the sidewalks under the shade of two giant oaks.
Perhaps the most practical feature of the courtyard area is the outdoor shower. More than the novelty of open air bathing, this shower is practical for washing away the salt and sand before entering the apartment after a day at the beach. I never used the indoor shower once during our visit, but Jerry said it was clean with plenty of hot water, complimentary toiletries, and towels.
The Colonial Court web site and brochure call this beachfront structure a gazebo. I disagree. If this shelter and expansive deck is anything, it is a pavilion. Featuring both gas and charcoal grills, two picnic tables, and more than enough seating, this area is the perfect spot for grilling at sunset.
On our previous weekend road trip to the Florida Space Coast, we had only taken a small cooler with drinks. Determined not to make the same mistake twice, Grillmeister Jerry had gone shopping before this trip and packed his 5-day Igloo cooler with everything needed to grill hamburgers with all the fixings.
The beachfront picnic on Indian Rocks Beach was everything you would imagine it to be, leaving us with wistful stuffed smiles on our faces long after the sun had dipped below the horizon.
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An incurable social butterfly, Jerry never meets a stranger. By the time I walked out on The Tarpon’s back porch for the first time, he had already made friends with an extended family from Iowa and Illinois who have been vacationing at Colonial Court for seven years. Later we met a couple on the beach from Missouri who had been coming for eleven years and were completing a two-week stay. The last day we made acquaintance with a Canadian family who had been guests at the inn for three years. There was a part of me that wondered whether these people realized there were other wonderful, yet to be discovered destinations in this world. Still, I knew and understood the many reasons why so many clients return to Colonial Court again and again.
When designing your next getaway, why not make plans to travel to Indian Rocks Beach on the Florida Suncoast and book a stay at Colonial Court Inn? You will enjoy the ambience of Old Florida while walking to the original Crabby Bill’s or Slyce Pizza Bar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you happen to leave a necessity at home or want to plan a spur-of-the-moment picnic, the convenience of CVS is just down the block and right across the street.
And when considering accommodations anywhere in the state, be sure to check out the 170 member properties of Superior Small Lodging for an authentic Florida experience!
If you need information about accommodations, dining, and attractions on the Atlantic, be sure to read about our weekend road trip to the Florida Space Coast.
As always, Jerry and I love hearing from our readers. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!
We were guests of Colonial Court Inn, but the nostalgic journey to an Old Florida beach town was all ours!