With so many beaches in the Bay area, how do you choose where to go? The beaches all line a stretch of road near the coastline called Gulf Blvd. Essentially, if you travel north or south down this road you will find all of the following beaches! If you're new in town (or just looking to head to a new beach), use this guide developed by residents to get the most sand out of your surf.
Clearwater Beach tends to be the more popular tourist attraction in the area. Contrary to its name, the water is actually much darker than most would expect, but the stunning white sand will have you in awe regardless. The majority of people on Clearwater Beach are families and tourists, and also high school and college aged students. There is a lot to do in Clearwater - a brand new Hooters is located right on the main strip, and countless beach bars like the Brown Boxer. Beautiful towering hotels and resorts dot the coastline, but these are mostly new to the area. The majority of hotels are smaller, privately owned rentals like Palm Pavilion, which has been in the area for years. Near the Pier (Pier 60) you will find the most congested area, and it will spread out north and south. If you are headed to Clearwater, the best advice is to go as early as possible - the roads leading into Clearwater from Tampa are congested by 11 or 12 am on the weekends with people heading to the beach. Parking can also be difficult, especially in the metered parking, so be sure to bring cash for the parking lots that line the beach.
Sand Key Park
Located just south of Clearwater Beach, Sand Key Park is a great family attraction. It is both a beach and a park, giving families plenty to see and do. There is also plenty of wildlife to see here, so expect your beach time to be meshed with some camping experiences.
Indian Rocks Beach/ Indian Shores
Indian Rocks Beach is a local favorite. You will find an older crowd here, but mostly it is just people relaxing, no matter what the age! This beach is rarely too crowded, whereas in Clearwater you may have trouble finding a place to lie. The resorts and hotels that line Indian Rocks and Indian Shores are smaller and generally more personal. You will be more likely to find a private owner just renting out a few units that they maintain themselves.
St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach is a beautiful beach, and is also full of historic landmarks. The first most people notice is the looming pink hotel – the elegant Don CeSar. St. Pete Beach seems to be lined with more residences than hotels, but there are a few great little beach bars that line the coast and really attract people. Undertow is one of these, and is known for its reggae music and great drink specials. Undertow has a mix of different crowds depending on the time you go. Jimmy B's is another popular destination on the beach, and generally has live music going on the weekends, which is great. Jimmy B's tends to host an older crowd, and can get a little crazy on Fridays and Saturdays by the time the last band goes onstage at 10pm. St. Pete Beach is a great, fun atmosphere for tourists and residents alike!
Treasure Island is another gem when it comes to Florida beaches - this smaller beach town has no shortage of things to do! Many smaller condos, hotels and resorts line the water, but the entertainment in the area can't be beat! St. John's Pass is a fabulous shopping area, and has plenty of "touristy" shops coupled with regular stores and restaurants and bars you don't want to miss! Caddy's on the beach is an epic party destination for students and young professionals on the weekends. This bar sits right on the beach and even boasts private "VIP" cabanas for lucky patrons. In Treasure Island, you are more likely to find a condo for rent for the weekend, so check vacation rental websites. These generally offer better rates and you end up with a better quality room.
Ft. DeSoto Park/Beach
This is a little known area, even to residents of Tampa. The furthest south of all the Gulf beaches on this list, it is quite a drive from Tampa. From the majority of places in South Tampa, the drive will average about an hour. From North Tampa, you could find yourself in the car for two hours! However, we would like to urge you that it will be worth your time and drive. This pristine gem is one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, and is also preserved as a park. You will also find that many dog owners are drawn to the area. This is because of the Ft. DeSoto Dog Park… and beach! That's right, a portion of the beach is dedicated to dog owners and their pets. Even without a furry friend, sitting in the clear water near the mangrove roots is an incomparable experience, and one you must have while in Tampa!
Whatever beach you choose, you are sure to have a blast, since all of these Bay area beaches have so much to offer. Now, lather on the sunscreen and head out for a great time on the water!« Return to Resources.