After four-plus hours of zoning out on highway views from Miami, my curiosity is piqued when Google Maps begins leading me through an exclusive residential neighborhood, winding past lavish historic homes, and under moss-draped trees reminiscent of the Deep South. If I didn’t know better, I was bound for a weekend stay at someone’s home.
I finally arrive at a guard gate, offer my name, and soon, the majestic, white Queen Anne-style inn dramatically comes into sight.
Tucked away in a new, evolving gated community of carriage homes and mid-rise residences, just minutes from Clearwater Beach, Belleview Inn is a recently reincarnated boutique hotel with an intriguing past. Before shuttering in 2009, the former Belleview-Biltmore was a landmark resort which hosted A-list guests like Babe Ruth, Dick Clark, Bob Dylan and every U.S. President since opening in 1897. While much of the deteriorating resort was demolished, the original four-story building was moved a football field’s length to its new location, and over the last few years, was revamped with modern-day conveniences.
Now, guests are greeted by the sounds of a self-playing piano —immediately evoking memories of its Gilded Age glamour — along with the hotel’s original grand staircase, Tiffany stained glass, fireplaces and gorgeous heart-pine floors. With only 35 rooms, it is like vacationing in a private mansion.
Sink into the lobby living rooms’ plush sofas, perfect for reading; and deep-set porches dotted with wooden rocking chairs invite you to sip a glass of lemonade while noshing on rosemary-infused Marcona almonds.
Expect to encounter nostalgic locals who drop by for a daily history tour, spinning wistful stories of past vacations and whispering of ghost encounters.
Rooms are spacious, with walls and furnishings swathed in crisp blues and soothing beige, and some suites are fitted with luxe claw foot tubs and sitting and dining rooms. Beds tucked with luxurious linens are a dream, and guests are treated to gourmet chocolates at night.
DINE LIKE YOU’RE ON VACATION
Don’t bother changing out of your robe for breakfast — a basket filled with muffins or croissants, fruit and fresh juice is placed outside your door each morning. While Belleview only offers a market for coffee, beer, wine and light snacks, guests can join the golfers and tennis skirts at neighboring Belleair Country Club for a meal overlooking the greens.
Our suggestion — drive ten minutes to quaint downtown Dunedin, where there isn’t a chain restaurant in sight. Make a reservation at The Black Pearl, a romantic, 11-table restaurant that shines with starters like escargot en croute — flaky puff pastry that houses plump escargot in a goat cheese-garlic cream sauce — and mains such as white truffle lobster risotto sprinkled with pistachios.
Another standout meal can be found at Hew Parlor & Chophouse, which proves it’s more than a steakhouse with melt-in-your-mouth bison topped with crispy shiitakes, seared scallops in a smoked pork jus, and artful plates like candied-striped beets fringed with chili-spiced granola.
End your weekend at Caretta on the Gulf’s Sunday Champagne brunch to stack your plate with fresh seafood and sushi, omelets and mini-waffles, while toasting to endless glasses of bubbly and beach views.
While Belleview will entice you to sunbathe by its sparkling pool, zip off on a complimentary bike to explore the Pinellas Trail, or perfect your golf swing next door at the oldest golf course in Florida — don’t miss out on the natural beauty of Clearwater.
Take a shuttle to the hotel’s beachfront sister property, Sandpearl Resort, to lounge on their private beach and play in the clear, aquamarine water; or embark on a private catamaran cruise with Clearwater SunCoast Charters (sailthemoon.com), where you’ll settle into cushy bean bags for a BYOB-sunset celebration while keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins (If you don’t see a dolphin— or four — in Clearwater, did you even go?). The charter also offers daytime excursions to secluded Caladesi Island, which is consistently voted one of the best beaches.
Since the west coast is the best coast for Instagram-worthy sunsets, end your day by watching the orange ball slip into the water from the lively Hi-Fi Rooftop Bar overlooking St. Joseph Sound. The area’s breathtaking sunsets will stay in your mind on the drive back to Miami.
Belleview Inn is located at 25 Belleview Boulevard, Belleair, Florida; 877-905-4496.