Gorgeous beaches and endless sun: There’s certainly a synergy between the Tampa Bay area and the Cayman Islands. But the connection goes back more than a century.
Over the decades, the exchange between Tampa and the Cayman Islands — from cargo service to construction and shipping to hospitality — has created a strong and steady flow of business and commerce. And with year-round tropical temps and a leisurely pace of life compared to more bustling cities, universities in Tampa and St. Petersburg are also prime picks for Caymanian students seeking to travel beyond the Islands, whilst staying close to the rhythm of home.
If en route to Tampa, swing by its neighbour to the south and west, St. Petersburg. Less than an hour’s drive from Tampa International Airport, St. Pete is a city of sparkling shorelines, a vibrant cultural community, an ever-blossoming culinary scene and dynamic shopping destinations.
The Gulf Coast has plenty to boast about when it comes to the great outdoors. For diving enthusiasts, visit St. Pete Beach Reef. The artificial reef began its formation in the 1970s, when old bridge materials were established as the reef’s foundation. No pirate ships here, but inquisitive divers can explore a 200-foot barge, which sunk in 1984, as well as 10 U.S. Army tanks, which sank in 1995. For more sunken adventure, head topside to a St. Pete botanical beauty, the Sunken Gardens. The enchanting gardens have inspired visitors for over a century and are home to more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers from across the globe. And for a close-up glimpse of both Florida’s waterways and local flora, make your way to Fort De Soto Park. A birdwatcher’s dream, keep your eyes peeled for ospreys, egrets and hummingbirds, or take to the water via a kayak that’s completely translucent.
From sitting tableside with moray eels to meals in motion above the shoreline, St. Pete’s culinary scene is full of flavour and fun. First up: the seafood stylings of Rumfish Grill. The restaurant serves up Florida favourites like crab cakes, oysters and lobster tail, alongside an enormous 33,500-gallon saltwater tank complete with moray eels, right in the dining room. The restaurant also offers a Caymanian connection, located at an official outpost for Cayman-based artist and conservationist, Guy Harvey.
For a truly all-encompassing view of St. Petersburg’s coastal beauty, visit Spinners Rooftop Revolving Bistro, located on the 12th floor of the Grand Plaza Hotel. Savour refined and flavourful dishes like Chilean sea bass in a béarnaise sauce, as the elegant bistro slowly revolves 360 degrees whilst you dine.
For yet another immersive experience, make your way to the Locale Market. The vision of chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona, it’s perfect for an afternoon of meandering and munching, whether you seek locally roasted coffee, artisan pizzas or stocking up on fresh ingredients for your own creations. Try a St. Petersburger hot off the grill, loaded with bacon, sautéed mushrooms and gouda cheese, topped with a secret sauce.
With seven distinct art districts, including some of international accolade, there’s plenty to do on the arts and entertainment front. The Dalí Museum features a collection of more than 2,000 works from the career of iconic surrealist Salvador Dalí, including paintings, sculptures and book illustrations. Embracing the digital age and seeking to inspire the next generation of dreamers, the museum also offers an award-winning virtual reality experience, Dreams of Dalí, and hosts an onsite Innovation Lab. Just across from The Dalí lies the beautiful Mahaffey Theater. Live performances across the creative spectrum can be found within its ornate ballroom, as the venue hosts everything from Broadway to comedy shows, as well as the acclaimed Florida Orchestra.
The Morean Arts Center not only holds historical significance for St. Pete, but for the state. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017, the museum was the first art gallery south of Atlanta, and it is most known for hosting an exquisite permanent collection of renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s artwork and large-scale installations.
Whether you’re seeking to update your wardrobe or snag a novelty keepsake, St. Pete offers destinations far beyond the local shopping mall. Corey Avenue has delighted shopping enthusiasts for decades, with clever and quirky speciality shops, beachwear, hobby stores and a weekly Sunday afternoon farmers’ market. For seaside shopping, check out Pass-A-Grille Beach, home to art galleries, swimwear and clothing boutiques.
The Grand Central District is perfect for any treasure hunter, with vintage stores and antique shops located throughout Central Avenue. Discover even more unique items during the city’s monthly Second Saturday Art Walk.
Cayman Airways offers nonstop flights year-round from Grand Cayman to Tampa, with daily nonstop flights during the Summer.
Author: Jessie Gilmartin