Florida is all about beaches and those who favor the Gulf Coast beaches over those of the Atlantic seaboard will tell you that the Tampa Bay area beaches are second-to-none.
For years, top travel magazines and other media, including TV's The Travel Channel™, have been dubbing Tampa area beaches among the best in the country. From family-friendly sands to secluded romantic getaways, the water and sands near Tampa Bay aim to please everyone.
The city of Tampa is home to a few beaches of its own, though the city is not on the Gulf but on the bay. While these aren't as popular as the Gulf-front sands, they do attract a crowd at times.
- Ben T. Davis Beach – This small, but nicely landscaped beach fronts the Bay and stretches along the causeway that connects Tampa with Clearwater. Popular with day-trippers.
- Davis Island Beach – Not really a swimming beach because of the abundance of boats anchored here, this is – instead – the perfect sandy area for sunbathing or just sitting and enjoying a book.
- Picnic Island – This little beach has plenty of sand, a playground, picnic areas, and a pier from which you can fish.
Sand Key Beaches
Across the bay from Tampa sits a peninsula that's home to cities like Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park, and Gulfport. Running alongside that peninsula is a barrier island known as Sand Key that boasts some of the Gulf Coast's most magnificent beaches. From Honeymoon Island at the northern tip to ritzy Pass-a-Grille Beach in the south, this island provides myriad opportunities to choose the beach that best fits your idea of the perfect vacation or home-away-from-home.
- Honeymoon Island State Park – This beautiful nature beach is complete with trails and bird observation areas, but there's still plenty of space to swim, fish, and sunbathe. This is also a great beach for shelling.
- Caladesi Island State Park – Comprised of six islands and more than 3,000 acres, this beach is one of the last remaining undeveloped areas on the barrier island. Accessible only by boat or ferry from Honeymoon Island, it's a hit with nature lovers. Be sure to check out the 3-mile trail that traverses the island's interior.
- Clearwater Beach – Clearwater Beach is actually an island connected by two bridges. Continuously touted by USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, and "Dr Beach", Clearwater Beach is the proud recipient of many "Best Beach" awards. Year-round lifeguards make it a perfect place for families and the swimming is excellent. This is also a prime place for boating and other watersports. In Clearwater Beach, visitors have lots of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals from which to choose and restaurants and other tourist amenities are plentiful. (Be sure to catch a Clearwater Beach sunset while you're in town!). Also visit our Clearwater site for detail about Clearwater, Florida and Clearwater Beach.
- Indian Rocks Beach/Indian Shores – This 2.7-mile-long beach is wide and welcoming and popular with tourists as vacation rentals abound. The town of Indian Shores is home to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, which rehabilitates sick and injured wild birds.
- Redington Beach area – The communities of Redington Shores, Redington Beach, and N. Redington Beach each boast about 1 mile of beachfront. The shores and N. Redington provide public beach access with facilities like changing areas. The area is known for its Redington Long Pier, which extends more than 1,000 feet out into the Gulf and is popular with anglers.
- Madeira Beach – This town is home to five very nice public beaches. Two, Archibald Beach Park and County Park, have restrooms and showers. John's Pass Park remains popular because of its proximity to John's Pass Village, a fun and lively touristy area with over 100 retail establishments and plenty of eateries.
- Treasure Island – This area boasts three beaches. The widest is at the center and is where you'll find the most hotels and lodging options. On either end are Sunshine Beach and Sunset Beach, which are both residential. At the southern tip is Blind Pass Boardwalk, popular for fishing and long walks by the beach.
- St. Pete Beach – Not to be mistaken for the city of St. Petersburg on the mainland, the city of St. Pete Beach, originally formed as "St Petersburg Beach" in 1957, changed its name in 1994 to lessen the confusion. It's a barrier island community featuring 4.5 miles of beach. It's wonderfully historic and traditionally a place where the well-to-do have gathered. Aside from the beaches, shopping opportunities are fun and upscale, restaurants are top-notch, and it's home to one of the finest Historic Hotels of America, the pink Don CeSar Beach Resort, built in 1928.
- Pass-a-Grille Beach – This beach sits at the southern tip of St. Pete Beach and was the first "weekend" beach on the Gulf Coast. This peaceful, romantic stretch of sand and the accompanying town are historic and pristine, attracting an upscale crowd.
- Fort DeSoto Park – Located on Tierra Verde, the southernmost tip of Pinellas County, Fort DeSoto Park is more than just a beach. It also boasts 238 campsites, picnic and play areas, an old fort complete with cannons, two large swimming areas, and two fishing piers.
South of Sand Key, accessible from Bradenton or Sarasota, is Longboat Key. Some of the beaches on Longboat, including one bearing the same name, are less developed than their northern counterparts and attract an upscale clientele.
- Anna Maria Island – Known for its white sands, Anna Maria has a private island feel. With waterfront property on both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, the real estate here is exceptional. Lodging options include everything from small Bed and Breakfast establishments to motels to luxury villas. Anna Maria Island also includes pretty Holmes and Bradenton Beaches.
- Longboat Key Beach – Most of Longboat Key Beach is not accessible to the public unless you're staying at one of the posh resorts nearby. If you're fortunate enough to have access, you'll enjoy a relatively unspoiled beach with few crowds and plenty of shells. Like the rest of Longboat Key, what you won't find is lots of noise, ugly signage, or crowded malls. Longboat is about as pristine as you can get!
Further south is a barrier island known as Siesta Key. Less upscale than Longboat Key, the area nonetheless attracts a quality clientele that come to enjoy the clean beaches, comfortable accommodations, and quality shops and restaurants.
- Siesta Key Beach – Praised for its baby powder-soft, white sand, Siesta Key Beach is consistently ranked as one of Florida's top beaches. The public beach is perfect for families, offering rest rooms, concession stands and a gift shop directly on the beach. The rest of the beach is bordered by tasteful condos that offer magnificent views of the Gulf of Mexico, including spectacular sunsets.
- Turtle Beach – Located at the southern end of Siesta Key, Turtle Beach lacks the white sands of Siesta Key, but if you're looking for privacy, you'll find it here. The other thing you'll find is lots of shells (sometimes making it difficult to walk) and the occasional petrified sharks tooth. Great collecting beach!