The pace on this southwest Florida island shifts to slow-mo in sultry summertime, especially on a Sunday morning, when the hours melt as sweetly as an ice cream bar from Paradise Sweets. Just one block wide, this little sliver of beach colony sits at the southern end of St. Pete Beach, which serves as the unofficial town square.
The day begins early on this sea-oat-fringed stretch of sand: Squadrons of white ibises and skittering sandpipers are the first shift, scouting the shore for treats the ocean delivered overnight. Their human counterparts arrive soon after, stooping to scoop up whelks, sand dollars, and other glistening treasures. The pickings are especially fine after a tropical storm.
There are the regulars, like “metal detector guy,” whose fingers are bedecked with gold wedding bands he has found in the powdery sand, and the fishermen, who cast their lines from the jetty as two brown pelicans stand sentry.
By 9 a.m., a crowd gathers for breakfast at the beachfront Paradise Grille. Savvy diners eat quickly, since bold sea gulls will snatch the toast right out of your hand. Now the families come, led by the little ones who toddle straight to the water.
The sun shimmers against a backdrop of blue-on-blue, and the day feels like it could go on forever. If only!