Florida is well known for its stunning beaches – a vacation State famous for its coastline, which almost touches toes with the Caribbean, people travel from all over the world just for a beach vacation.
With a seemingly endless coastline which stretches out on both sides of the State, there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to Florida beaches; wild ocean beaches to the East which back onto the Atlantic, or gentle Gulf beaches to the West.
Though if you’re looking for destination which has a diverse range of beaches, and balances out the dynamic with lively city beaches, as well as undeveloped, secluded hideaways, look no further than St Pete Beach!
Part of the Tampa Bay area, Clearwater and St Pete Beach offer a huge range of gorgeous beaches. Though when you’re booking St Pete Beach Hotels, don’t get St Petersburg and St Pete Beach confused. One is a city on the mainland, while the latter is a beach town on the barrier island of Long Key.
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The Best Beaches in St Pete Beach / Clearwater (Florida)
St Pete Beach
Starting in St Pete Beach itself, this is a great active beach, which is both urban, yet quaint, and strikes a dynamic balance of offering all the amenities of a modern resort town (ie resorts and restaurants), but wrapping it in a small town culture.
It’s set on the southern end of Long Key, and has 5 miles of sand perfect for shelling and active water sports. The water is calm, which makes it perfect for families, and water sport rentals.
Public access is via Upham Beach, where you’ll find facilities like bathrooms and showers, and if you’re planning on making a whole day of it, there are beach shacks which serve food, drinks, and icecream.
Being the first town that was established on Florida’s West Coast Barrier Islands, there’s a lot of history in Pass-a-Grille, and heading to the beach here (southern tip of Long Key) is a great way to get a feel for Old Florida.
This is a laid back, historic town, and there’s a distinct lack of tall buildings, shopping malls (instead you’ll find kitschy boutiques) and urban culture. There’s also a distinct lack of crowds!
The name comes from Cuban fisherman, who were known as ‘Grillers’, who would smoke their fish on the beach before heading back across the Gulf of Mexico. The vibe today remains charming, chilled out, and reminiscent of a past time.
If you’re interested in diving into the history of the town after you’ve dived into the water, wander through the the Historic District before heading back to your hotel.
Image credit: psyberartist (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Honeymoon Island State Park
This is a natural barrier island known for its soft beaches, abundant wildlife, and beautiful nature trails – people come here for swimming and snorkelling, but make sure you pack your walking shoes too.
There are many walks through the State Park including the Pinellas Trail, which allows you to walk the length of the Dunedin Causeway. Though if you’re more keen on exploring from the water you can pick up a kayak rental.
There are two bird observation points throughout the park, and this is a great place to spot for osprey. Keep an eye out too for the endangered gopher tortoise, and stop in at the nature center if you’re interested in flora and fauna.
From here on Honeymoon Island you can take a ferry over to Caladesi Island State Park, which is another barrier island right next door. It offers the same type of nature based experiences, though feels even more remote.
Clearwater is 40 minutes north of St Pete Beach, and is the perfect beach if you’re looking for an active, social vibe. It’s a hive of activity, from volleyball and water sports, to a busy pedestrian promenade lined with seafood restaurants and surf shops.
The beach itself is picture perfect, and without resorting to cliches, it has sugary white sand, and some of the clearest blue-green water you’ve ever seen. The water is shallow, which makes it perfect for people of all ages.
Activities here range really cover everything, from lazing on the sand to parasailing, water-skiing, wave-running, dolphin watching, and more. The beach does tend to get crowded, so make sure you mentally prepare to share your space!
Beyond the swimming and suntanning during the day, Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach is a massive draw for nightly events, like live music, concerts, and draws many out for the beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunsets.
Image credit: Carol VanHook (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
The Beaches In-between
Starting at St Pete Beach, and ending north in Clearwater, there are a huge range of fabulous beaches inbetween. Our favorite way of exploring is to just drive and pull off at stops where you feel the vibe, and some of our favorites using this method have been:
Treasure Island for its energetic activities. This is a wide beach which seems to always have a festival of some sort happening; the January kite festival, and sandcastle festival are fabulous fun if you time your itinerary.
Madeira Beach has a cozy fishing village vibe, with a rustic beach boardwalk, and further north, Indian Shores includes a beachside bird sanctuary which is home to the largest wild bird hospital in the United States and cares for more than 500 birds at a time.
Also be sure to check out Sand Key Park, which is part of the Clearwater region, but offers a beautiful wide open spaces, with a ton of amenities, but without the crazy crowds of the more popular namesake beach.
This is a great place to come for surfing, and there are nature trails, and wildlife, including sea turtles, which frequent the park / beach.