There’s never been a better time to lace up the bathing suit, lather on the sunscreen and hit a postcard-perfect beach in St. Pete/Clearwater. With growing buzz that it boasts some of the best beaches in Florida — and even the US — there is truly something for everyone along the region’s 35-plus mile stretch of vibrant, white-sand bliss.
And, as it turns out, each of its beaches offers a unique vibe, with happenings that span from the outdoorsy to the more tranquil. Here’s our list of can’t-miss beaches, starting with the barrier islands to the north and venturing south.
The animal kingdoms of Honeymoon Island
What’s that chirping you hear? If you’re at Honeymoon Island, it’s most certainly the diverse bird population, and perhaps some beachgoers and wildlife watchers chirping back. The four-mile stretch of beach is home to various bird species such as osprey, oystercatchers, great blue herons and more. Amid the birds, you may even spot a 12-pound gopher tortoise or armadillo scooting by.
To maximize your wildlife viewing, head to Wheel Fun Rentals, which offers a variety of surrey bikes, cruisers and kids’ bikes rentable by the hour or day. From there, the Osprey and Pelican Trails — totaling approximately 2.5 miles — offer up calming Gulf vistas and birdwatching opportunities. Be sure to keep a respectful distance from the gulls, terns and sandpipers that nest in the sand; it's important to preserve their precious habitat.
If you’ve brought an animal of your own (your dog!), leashed dogs are permitted on nature trails, and Honeymoon Island Dog Beach is at the southern tip of the island for your pup to play.
Directly to the south of Honeymoon Island is Caladesi Island, a secluded locale accessible only by boat. The island is virtually as nature made it: unspoiled and pristine. You can rent a kayak to get across and once there, paddle the peaceful 3.5-mile mangrove trail. Or if paddling isn’t your thing, the ferry between the two islands takes 15-20 minutes and departs every 30 minutes.
Sand and sunshine at Clearwater Beach
Given its name, it should come as no surprise that Clearwater Beach is home to vast sand, and (you guessed it) often crystal clear water. Beyond its postcard-perfect allure, this beach offers activities aplenty. Whether you’re looking to settle into a rental chair and soak up some rays, go for a swim in its calm, shallow waters, or partake in a thrill that gets the heart racing, this coastal utopia will absolutely have it.
On the active front, a number of local institutions (like 2 Shea Charters) offer scuba and fishing charters daily. For an aerial perspective of Clearwater Beach’s vivid coastline, Parasail City and Chute ‘Em Up Parasail offer breathtaking adventures. Also, whether you’re a volleyball pro or just looking to bump around, there are a number of courts located just south of the beach’s iconic Pier 60.
Speaking of Pier 60, once you’re ready to wind down for the day, this spot is a spectacular place to catch a sunset. It even offers a daily festival with local artisans and performers.
Tranquility awaits at Belleair Beach
For those looking to escape the tourist-driven hustle-and-bustle, Belleair Beach will be your happy place. This primarily residential area has a classic neighborhood vibe with scattered condo buildings, very little noise and few commercial offerings; meaning you’ll definitely want to pack a cooler and anything you’ll need for a beach day ahead of time.
Begin at Morgan Park, which offers metered parking and is the only public access point for Belleair Beach (three other access points are available for residents). Once you emerge from the swaying palms, a 4,500-plus-foot stretch of white sand is waiting to greet you.
For boaters and fishers looking to dock for a bit, head to 7th Street Park, home to the town’s boat ramp and fishing pier.
Setting sail for Treasure Island
Colored by stretches of vast, flat beach and the sporadic sand dune, Treasure Island may sound like a dream and in many ways, it totally is. To get your lay of the land, hit the mile-long Treasure Island Beach Trail, a paved pathway that runs adjacent to the Gulf and is bike, pet and walker friendly. Along the winding trail is St. Petersburg Municipal Beach, a central place to claim some sand space for a bit, with dozens of volleyball courts and a snack bar nearby.
If Treasure Island’s calming waters inspire you to explore, Treasure Isle Boat Rentals offers pontoon and deck boat options in four- and eight-hour increments. For paddleboarders, Mad Beach Paddle Sports will supply the boards – so long as you can balance yourself on them!
Boatloads of activity at Pass-a-Grille Beach
Pass-a-Grille Beach is a beachy and boat-filled heaven. This stretch of pristine, barrier-island terrain is primarily a two-street town, with Pass A Grille Way and Gulf Way running north to south on the intracoastal side and Gulf side of the island, respectively. In between are a mix of quaint homes, condos, family-owned inns and staple restaurants such as Paradise Grille, Seahorse Restaurant and the Hurricane.
For endless Gulf views, soft sand and the bulk of the boating action, head to the south end of the beach where various crafts stream through the Pass-a-Grille Channel. For a boating adventure of your own, Shell Key Shuttle takes folks across the channel, and a variety of shops surrounding Pass-a-Grille Marina offer up everything from kayak to speed boat rentals.
Camping out at Fort De Soto Park
Comprised of five islands and 1,136 lush acres, Fort De Soto Park is a Gulf playground. In addition to mingling with 300-plus species of birds and weaving through miles of paved trails, you may catch a glimpse of some of Florida’s favorite creatures.
If you’re looking to paddle, Topwater Kayak Outpost (located in the park), offers kayak and canoe rentals by the hour and by the day. With a quick trek through and beyond the nearby Soldier’s Hole cove, don’t be shocked if you’re greeted by dolphins, manatees or jumping fish nearby. A popular spot for culminating your outdoor adventure is North Beach, with a sandbar, tidal pools and shells that span the color spectrum.
Make sure to also hit the park’s namesake fort. Built in 1898, it was constructed to protect the area from a prospective attack during the Spanish-American War. Today, visitors can walk a special historical trail and experience a variety of the fort’s buildings and relics firsthand, many of which are housed in the Quartermaster Museum.
Fort De Soto Park is home to 238 camping sites, with RV hookups, restrooms, showers and other modern amenities. Bookings may be made up to seven months in advance and, given the site’s popularity, it’s best to make reservations as early as possible.
If you can’t snag a reservation, it’s back to your hotel for the evening. As for tomorrow? A new adventure in St. Pete/Clearwater begins.
Produced by Lonely Planet for Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.