I moved to Charleston over a year ago from Oregon, and one reason was to be in warmer weather and to be closer to the beach. Well, this has led to many trips to Florida, since it’s not that far away. And, that led to me discovering the beaches in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. I was astounded. I’ve mostly visited the eastern coast of Florida, but discovering the Gulf coast area has made me decide to move there next year. Here are the best beaches I’ve discovered in the area.
The Best Beaches In St. Petersburg and Clearwater, FL
1. Pass-a-Grille Beach
Pass-a-Grille Beach has four miles of powder soft sand and those gorgeous aquamarine waters. Almost no building is on the sand, so you really feel like you’ve gotten away to a tropical escape for the day. The only place that is on the sand is one of my favorite spots to eat, The Paradise Grille. Here, you get gorgeous views of the Gulf without touristy prices. A pound of peel and eat shrimp was only $14.95 when I went, and a frozen Miami Vice was only $7. If you’re not a seafood lover, you can get a cheeseburger for around $10. They also have a sunset celebration on this beach every night, something you don’t want to miss. This beach is also where the famous pink Don CeSar hotel is, which everyone should see at least once.
2. Fort de Soto
If you really want to feel like you are a world away, head out to Fort de Soto for the day. I explored the famous North Beach and the beach by the Fort, and I loved them both. There’s also a 7-mile paved trail at this park should you be inclined to walk, run, or rollerblade. Other activities include boating, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, skating, running, nature trails, historical fort, fishing piers, shelling, birding, camping, and swimming. There’s just so much to do at this beach park. There’s even a dog beach in the park! This park was voted by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach) as the number one beach in the nation in 2005. It’s $5 to enter the park, which is actually cheaper than paying for parking at Pass-a-Grille or St Pete beach.
3. Upham Beach-St Pete Beach
Upham Beach is located off Gulf Blvd at 68th Avenue. It’s part of St. Pete Beach, and was my favorite beach to watch the sunset from. The sand is sugar white, and it’s less crowded here than on other areas of St Pete Beach. Paradise Grille also has a branch on this beach, near the restroom. The north end has a hidden garden that’s lovely to walk through.
4. Sand Key, Clearwater
The blue green waters of Sand Key Park in Clearwater will make your heart sing. Endangered sea turtles frequently lay eggs on the beach at Sand Key. This beach is a peaceful retreat from the business of Clearwater Beach. There’s also a salt marsh here where heron, roseate spoonbill, great horned owl, and common moorhen nest and feed.
Sand Key also offers disabled visitors beach wheelchairs, which are easier to use on the sand and float in the water, free of charge. Make sure to take a credit card for the $5 parking fee at the pay stations. Make sure to check out my article here if you need places to stay in Clearwater.
5. Caladesi Island State Park
If you’re looking for the getaway of all getaways, look no further than Caladesi Island. This, so far, has been my favorite of the beaches in St Petersburg. You have to take a boat or kayak to get there or take a long, hot walk from Clearwater Beach. I opted for the boat option, and took the hourly ferry from Honeymoon Island. (Pets are not allowed on the ferry.) This untouched island is everything you think of when you think of a paradise getaway. The park is open from 8am to sunset every day of the year. I can’t wait to take my kayak out to the mangroves once I move to the area. There are many nature trails, and the beaches are also known for shelling.
The soft white sand provides a beautiful contrast to the deep blue green waters, and you will find yourself not wanting to leave. Go during the week, like I did, and you will find you practically have the island to yourself. I enjoyed the swaying palms and island breezes and spent all my time on the beach. This island is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, so I definitely plan to go back and do some hiking next time.
6. Shell Key
If shells are what you’re after, Shell Key is one of the best beaches in St. Petersburg to get them at. The beach is full of exotic shells and sand dollars. Shell Key is at the mouth of Tampa Bay, and you can get there by taking a boat from Fort de Soto. This preserve is also a sanctuary for nesting birds, so you will see plenty of wildlife on your trip. There are no facilities on this undeveloped barrier island, so take plenty of water, sunscreen, shade, and food for your day. Don’t forget your bag for all the shells you will find! Also, I recommend snorkel gear if it’s sand dollars you want to find. You cannot bring alcohol, glass, pets, kites, or drones to the island because it is a wildlife preserve and these items are prohibited.