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When I first moved to Florida, I worked for Walt Disney World, smack in the middle of the state. I didn’t know much about the beaches on either side of the state, let alone the Tampa Bay Beaches. While I still live in Central Florida, we try to take a trip to the beach as often as we can.
Over the years I’ve tried out a few different beaches, both Atlantic and Gulf side, and both south and north Florida. I have to say I like the beaches in the Tampa Bay area… which really is known as the St. Petersburg and Clearwater area. (Did you know Tampa isn’t really on the ocean, but on the bay? It’s Clearwater and St. Pete Beach that are ocean side)
Everyone has different expectations for what a great day at the beach means. I tried to write the following recommendations based on different perspectives.
Most travelers think of Clearwater Beach when visiting the Tampa Bay area. This bustling area has it all; from vast stretches of white sands, surf shops, restaurants, and resorts. Clearwater can be a lot of fun but get there early if you are looking for a good parking spot. Better yet, stay at one of the many resorts along the beach for full-day adventures.
In Clearwater, stay at East Shore Resort. Read my review here.
Indian Rocks Beach & Indian Shores
Indian Rocks & Indian Shores are definitely a more “locals” beach and are often less crowded than Clearwater. Parking shouldn’t be an issue at these beaches. Don’t be swayed by the number of hotels on the western side of Gulf Blvd, you won’t see the beach from the road. But it’s not far beyond parking or the buildings. There are a couple of public areas. Shopping is lighter but the bigger restaurants are popular. You can find a few smaller dining, but you may have to drive a quarter-mile if you don’t want to walk.
In Indian Rocks Beach, stay at Cay Pointe Villas.
St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach, not to be confused with the city of St. Petersburg, offers miles of white sands and turquoise waters. SPB is certainly more populated, along the lines of Clearwater, and offers many amenities. Plenty of water-related rentals are available here, as well as world-class accommodations and dining yet still maintains a laid-back beach vibe.
At St. Pete Beach, stay at Alden Suites.
If you’re seeking authentic Greek culture and cuisine, Tarpon Springs has it. Best known for the working sponge docks, Tarpon Springs has a thriving Greek community and you’ll find it at the local restaurants and boutique stores. There are nature trails and canoe and kayak trails, but better beaches are further south.
Honeymoon Island & Caladesi Island
Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands are hidden gems in the Tampa Bay Beaches area. Honeymoon Island is accessible by car through the Dunnedin Highway; Caladesi is only accessible by Ferryboat from Honeymoon Island. Both offer miles of white sand beaches, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving as well as kayaking. There’s not much else to do, so pack a lunch and enjoy the relatively crowd-free areas.
Redington Shores & Beach
Keep traveling south on Gulf Blvd and one town merges into the next. Redington and Redington Shores are similar to Indian Rocks Beach with a local area, many smaller hotels on the beach and plenty of family-friendly restaurants.
As you move south to Madeira Beach, you start getting back into the more populous areas. Not as crowded as Clearwater to the north or small as Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira strikes a nice balance to things to do, parking and beach access without being as congested.
The further south you travel along the Gulf Beaches, the whiter and cleaner the sand gets. Not to say the sand is dirty north, there are just more shells. Treasure Island’s beaches are wide and the hotels are a bit further back from the ocean, which gives you plenty of space to play. Treasure Island is west of the St. Petersburg city area and is a short drive away from the popular attractions there.
Pass-a-Grille Beach is nearly the end of the line when it comes to the Tampa Gulf Beaches, and probably the most laid back of the bunch. Some of the beaches are a bit rockier, so think of Pass-a-Grille as more of your fishing adventures. You’ll likely see a bit more wildlife in this area in terms of dolphins and pelicans, not that they are not in the other areas. Beyond Pass-A-Grille is Ft. Desoto state park and then you
Do you have a favorite Tampa Bay area beach? Comment and let me know which is your favorite and why.
Are you visiting Tampa soon? I highly recommend taking advantage of a Tampa City Pass and getting 5 attractions for just a little more than what you might pay for one. Be sure to go to the zoo, one of my favorite places in Tampa!