Loving Pelican Kitsch in Gulfport, Florida
“It’s kind of old Florida-ish,” the diner at the next table over told his dining companion when describing Gulfport, Florida.
Some visitors to this waterfront community would probably say the funky boutique shops are their favorite amenity about Gulfport while others may say the Walter & Bert Williams Fishing Pier. Another group may say the cobbled streets tug at their hearts. Me? I fell in the love with the kitschy pelicans perched atop a building blaring with a neon sign reading “Gulfport Casino” and found more while wandering the streets.
Back in the day (pre-Las Vegas et al), casino meant a community gathering place and housed social functions as dances. The original Gulfport Casino began hosting citizens in 1906 and was the meeting spot for Gulfport’s founding fathers to lay the foundation to incorporate the city in 1910. (Source: City of Gulfport)
Boasting a wood floor still enjoyed for dancing, the current building (which is building number three) was built in 1934. It still hosts community events ranging from political to social.
Why Did I Visit Gulfport, Florida?
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve lived in the great Sunshine State since 1997 (and worked for the state tourism office for a few years) yet had no idea Gulfport, Florida, existed. In my quest to learn something new while having the use of a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid this week, I wanted to visit someplace I haven’t been to and since Gulfport has been in media lately, it was on my list to see.
Why has Gulfport been in the media as of late? They’re in the running for the Rand McNally and USA Today Best of the Road contest for Best Food destination. Yup, it was my inner foodie (and OnStar’s Turn-by-Turn Navigation) which led me to the Gulf Coast Florida community, less than a 2-hour drive from my Port Charlotte home.
Once I found the waterfront community, I hit the beach followed by a walk by a building called the Gulfport Casino, the Walter & Bert Williams Fishing Pier and row of restaurants which were pretty busy with diners. I was going to head out without sampling the culinary delights but a quick look at the restaurant selections and I found myself sitting at Peg’s Cantina on Beach Boulevard. (Read review: Grabbing a Bite at Peg’s Cantina.)
My Gulfport visit was probably about three hours long as I had to hit the road about 7 p.m. to make my next destination at a reasonable time and participate in a conference call for my day job.
Chevy Tahoe Driving Experience
Heading north on I-75 I did encounter rain (much needed rain for Florida, I should add) and was worried the Tahoe couldn’t handle it but alas, the machine laughed at the downpour and wet highway to safely carry me to my destination. As for OnStar, I’m finding it has a unique way of routing me to destinations but I did make it.
Gulfport is located in Central Florida on the Gulf Coast in Pinellas County on Boca Ciega Bay near St. Petersburg.
Here’s a quick video of my visit to Gulfport.
If the above video does not play, please click here.