In sunny Florida, I awake to the realization that I don’t want to leave this Belleview Inn hotel room ― ever. It starts with a king-size bed thick with white linens and a duvet as soft as my Siamese cat’s fur. I’m wrapped inside a cotton cocoon.
However, the morning sun is softly filling the room through translucent blinds, gently letting me know day has arrived. I grab the TV remote to turn on the morning news and get up to make myself a cup of locally roasted coffee with my in-room coffeemaker.
I fool myself into thinking this will be a productive morning of emails and phone calls. Who am I kidding? As soon the mug is full, I return to the cocoon, prop myself up with the bed’s giant pillows and sip while scrolling through Instagram. Work can wait.
Welcome to the Belleview Inn in Clearwater, Florida
The Belleview Inn in Clearwater, Florida, exudes the kind of Old-World opulence not seen much anymore. That’s because this “White Queen of the Gulf” is one of the oldest continually operating hotels in the state.
While today’s Belleview Inn is a shadow of its former self, it still beckons back to a by-gone era.
The Hotel Belleview’s History
The Hotel Belleview originally opened in 1897 along Clear Water Harbor. Over the course of the next century, the hotel hosted royalty, presidents, celebrities, and business tycoons.
Built by Henry Plant, a Florida railroad baron and the west coast contemporary of east Florida’s Henry Flagler, the Queen Anne-style building was designed to be an elegant European salon and a natural wilderness cabin.
At that time, the hotel’s guest rooms were tiny and guests shared communal bathrooms. According to hotel historian Joey Vars that is because back then, the whole point of staying at a hotel like The Hotel Belleview was to see and be seen.
Guests lounged poolside or played croquet on the lawn all day and attended gala dinners in giant ballrooms at night. You wanted everyone to know you were there to see what you were wearing and hear about the amazing things you did.
What about the rooms? Those were just for sleeping.
At the height of its popularity, Hotel Belleview expanded from its original 200,000-square feet, 145 guest rooms to over 820,000-square feet with 455 rooms, 36 holes of golf, a swimming pool and bicycle velodrome used for the Olympic trials in the 1920s and a ballroom with 96 original Tiffany leaded glass ceiling panels.
Sadly, over time even the brightest pearls can lose their luster. As Hotel Belleview approached the new millennium, its owner abandoned the property where it sat empty for over a decade.
Florida’s Historic Belleview Finds New Management and a New Home
With new development taking away the hotel’s original waterfront views and the city wanting to create a more residential area, it looked like the end for this old hotel.
Then in 2015, a new owner purchased the hotel property and created a compromise. JMC Communities demolished 90% of the structure (losing the hotel’s place on the national historic register).
Then they took the original main building, including the lobby, 4-story grand staircase, Tiffany ballroom and guest rooms above, moving it 320 feet to a new foundation more centrally located and spending $13 million to renovate the building to its former glory.
While keeping the design and décor as true to the original as possible, the remodel expanded the size of the guest rooms into suites by combining two or more together and adding spacious bathrooms with modern amenities.
The Rebranded Belleview Inn in Belleair, Florida
Rebranded The Belleview Inn, the hotel is now a quiet getaway tucked into the Belleair community near Clearwater, a quiet place away from the crowds of Clearwater Beach, making it perfect for those looking to escape the bustle of daily life.
All the rooms are anchored by those amazing beds with plush fabric headboards and a painting of the original resort on the wall above. There is also a small sitting area, a coffee hutch and a closet.
Even if you can summon the willpower to leave the comfortable bed, you won’t get much farther than the beautiful bathroom with its large soaking tub and luxurious Nest bath products.
Sit, Stay, Relax at the Belleview Inn
If you do make it out of the room, there is no reason to leave the property. Every nook and corner invites guests to sit, stay, relax.
Throughout the lobby, cozy sitting areas are overseen by a large fireplace. Rocking chairs entice on the front and back porches.
Adirondack chairs line the lawn, but instead of croquet, guests can play cornhole. Beyond the lawn is the large pool surrounded by tranquil fountains, lounge chairs, and a hot tub at the far end.
Socialization at the Inn
For those of us trapped in the 24-hour news cycle with a smartphone at arm’s length, The Belleview Inn will reprogram you on the art of doing nothing.
Just because you’re not doing anything doesn’t mean you can’t socialize. Like its predecessor, The Belleview Inn offers events that both guests and locals enjoy, a remnant of the see and be seen scene, but in a relaxed, fun atmosphere.
There are daily sunset parties on the lawn beginning 30 minutes before sunset with a complimentary champagne toast. Every Friday from 5-9 PM, listen to pianist Rod Keiser with complimentary charcuterie and wine and beer for purchase.
Everyone looks forward to the hotel’s monthly wine-pairing dinners in the elegant Tiffany Room. Each month a different world-class winery partners with the hotel; the meal comes from the superior kitchen at the nearby Sandpearl Resort, a sister property in the Opal hotel collection.
And if you should happen to get too much sun at the pool or drink too much wine at dinner – or in my case, both – you can return to that fabulous room and draw yourself a warm bath, sip a cup of hot tea, or disappear into the king bed and forget the outside world exists. Or, in my case, all of the above.
Book This Trip
Less than 20 miles from Tampa International Airport, The Belleview Inn is near Clearwater’s gulf coast beaches. Guests of The Belleview Inn have exclusive access to 36-holes of golf and fine dining at the private Belleair Country Club.
The hotel is open and observing all health guidelines. Wine dinners for 2021 will be announced shortly. To view its COVID-19 protocols, visit The Belleview Inn. The Belleview Inn is located at 25 Belleview Blvd., Belleair, Fl. 33756
Author Bio: Carrie Dow is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC, whose work has appeared in a variety of regional and national magazines. Former editor for The Drink Nation, she uses her expertise on the food and beverage industry to travel the world looking for unique eats and experiences. She also founded What’s Pawsitive, a website that profiles animal-based travel, animal rescue organizations, and animal welfare around the world. Follow @whereiscdnow on Instagram and Twitter.