Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A day-drinker's guide to Tampa Bay's top destination for all-day debauchery, Treasure Island

Drinking in the morning presents a whole host of problems, and the biggest one seems to be what happens with the rest of the day.

You can't drive. It's not like you can run a marathon. Pretty much, all day drinking sets you up for is afternoon sleeping and evening binge eating.

So the location you pick to get your a.m. sip going is crucial. Luckily, the ideal spot is right in your backyard.

For 20 or so awesome years, the good people of Treasure Island have been following the natural order of things and allowing beachgoers to partake of libations on their humble shores. This benevolence has bred the perfect morning drinking paradise, where scenery, food options and relaxed surroundings combine to create the best day ever.

Whether you're a resort, inn or condo kind of person, hotel options are plentiful on Treasure Island, and most are beachside, so you never have to cross the street. Plus, a hotel will help save you the trouble of a nasty DUI.

There are tons of choices for price points depending on your goals for the evening; most places of repute start in the $100 range. Several swanky resorts have direct beach access and offer 15 percent discounts for Florida residents.

To stay at the Thunderbird Resort, known for its eye catching sign and gulf view rooms, be ready to fork over somewhere in the neighborhood of $180 per night before taxes. Condo hotels offer the chance to relax with friends, and the South Beach Condo Hotel has two-bedroom, full-kitchen rentals for $185 a night before taxes. If sleep is your prime directive and frills aren't of concern, there are a few motels on Treasure Island with low rates, such as the Beach House Motel, which has prices starting at $60 a night for its property on the eastern non-beach side of Gulf Boulevard.

Early risers will appreciate local restaurants Caddy's on the Beach and R Bar for opening their doors at 7 a.m. to serve up bacon, eggs and booze, of course. Caddy's scenic beachfront setting is tempting, but beware the birds, who have an eagle eye for bacon and a strong determination to scare the bejeezus out of diners. Both places let you kick off the day with whatever drink tickles your fancy, but for less than $8 you can get started with a Tequila Sunrise (tequila, grenadine, orange juice) to start your day with tropical vibes.

After breakfast, unpack your cooler from on of the 12 public parking lots and head out to any stretch of beach north of 107th Avenue and Gulf Blvd. The most convenient place is the metered lot on Gulf Boulevard at 112th Avenue because the lot is next to a snack bar and public restrooms that are well maintained.

Keeping the party in this area is to your benefit, since there are a couple of rules about drinking at Treasure Island's beaches. Two years ago, Treasure Islanders imposed rules on a small stretch of Sunset Beach that prevents drinking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The aim was to stop the partying kids from peeing in yards. Rental cabanas start at $10 per hour, so traveling light is an option. Just plop down and bring cash.

When it's time nosh again, several restaurants litter the resorts, but the one every drunkard can see from the sand is Sloppy Joe's, a lazy-day favorite in the Bilmar Resort. The restaurant offers outdoor covered seating with ocean view and has a full liquor bar as well.

When it all becomes a bit too warm, grab a cup from the legendary Beach Snoballs, where a variety of flavors, including Cactus Juice, Frog in Blender and Bubble Gum, will pair nicely with the vodka or gin in your cooler. Because you're smart and got a hotel, you can step at anytime into your room to prevent heatstroke and liver implosion.

The community welcomes relaxed day drinkers from far and wide, openly advertising its beach drinking rules to all comers. Don't risk trying to sneak a sip anywhere else. Go where you're wanted.

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