Marcea loves writing about Florida and knows many unique things to do and places to explore in the Sunshine State. A graduate from the University of Central Florida, she is attempting to visit all 175 of Florida’s state parks and enjoys kayaking, visiting museums and reading as many books as she can. Keep up with Marcea’s adventures on her travel blog, My Cornacopia.
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The third largest city in Florida, Tampa has become a popular vacation destination in Florida. With access to arts, entertainment, sports, and great dining, Tampa is home to Busch Gardens theme park and close enough to head to Orlando for a quick trip. One thing most vacationers headed to Florida are looking for, though, is a spot to hang out on the beach. Many of which are close to Tampa. Here are the best beaches in the vicinity of Tampa.
A small beach town west of St. Petersburg, Madeira Beach has almost three miles of shoreline to explore. Quieter than some of the surrounding beaches, Mad Beach, as it’s known to locals, is also home to John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, where views of the Intercoastal Waterways greet those there to enjoy its restaurants and bars. This underrated Gulf Coast beach has multiple public beach access points, including Archibald Memorial Beach Park, which offers public restrooms, wooden walkovers, a snack shack, and two beach volleyball courts.
At the south end of Anna Maria Island in Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach is the longest beach on the island. Sea oats and sea grass line the dunes overlooking the flat beach area, making it a favorite spot for sea turtles to nest. Coquina Beach offers free parking, picnic areas, sand volleyball courts, and a concession stand. It’s also home to a beach market locals love and a top thing to do on Anna Maria Island.
Sitting at the edge of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key has the dual honor of being a Florida state park and the United States National Wildlife Refuge. Accessed by ferry or private boat, Egmont Key is a remote escape from everyday life. A small island of 300 acres, the beaches give unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico and provide sunbathing, shelling, and snorkeling opportunities. The island also has historical sites, including Fort Dade, built during the Spanish-American War. And bird watchers should keep an eye out for the over 100 species known to call Egmont Key home. There are no restrooms or drinking water on the island. Keep this in mind when planning a trip.
One of the most famous beaches in the area with tons to do, Clearwater Beach offers three miles of beach to explore. With white sand beaches several blocks wide, beach volleyball, restaurants on the beach, and a promenade lined with palm trees, it’s what many think of when imagining a beach vacation. Looking to relax all day? Beach chairs and cabanas are available for rental all along the beach. Want to get some exercise? There are public beach volleyball courts, and lifeguards are on duty every day if you’re interested in taking a swim. Before heading home, don’t miss the sunsets at Pier 60. Starting two hours before sunset, street performers and artists are on hand to entertain before the star of the evening sets in the western skies in front of visitors.
Four miles of undeveloped beaches let visitors to Honeymoon Island State Park forget that they’re in the most densely populated county in Florida. Located just across the Dunedin Causeway, the island has two beaches with plenty of room to lay out and go swimming. When the waves are good, there’s also the ability to surf in the north beach area. Honeymoon Island also is home to one of the only pet beaches in the state park system. After a relaxing day on the sand, visitors can enjoy the perks of one of Florida’s most beautiful state parks by exploring the island’s nature center, two and a half miles of hiking trails, and picnic/playground areas.
A 1,800-acre preserve at the southern tip of St. Petersburg, Shell Key is one of the area’s largest undeveloped islands. But don’t let being only accessible by boat deter a visit. Several privately owned ferries take visitors to the island, and it’s also accessible by kayak from the mainland. Home to many migrating birds and marine life, Shell Key is also one of Florida’s best beaches for shelling. Those with sharp eyes can find various shells, including sand dollars and scallops. Keep an eye out for the shells hanging off the trees on the beaches, some say in honor of lost loved ones. There are no restrooms or facilities on Shell Key, so be sure to be prepared with enough water and food for your trip.
Just across Hurricane Pass from Honeymoon Island is Caladesi Island State Park. Another mostly undeveloped beach, Caladesi Island is accessible only by boat. That shouldn’t deter visitors, though. A public ferry leaves from Honeymoon Island, allowing everyone the ability to explore Caladesi. Visitors can enjoy the beach, go shelling, rent a kayak to explore the mangroves, or take a hike along the nature trails. Caladesi Island also has raised boardwalks, and beach wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The island has restrooms and a small shop on site to purchase drinks and snacks. An additional plus – rental slips are also available to boat owners for overnight boat camping.
One of the most gorgeous barrier islands in Florida (near St. Petersburg), Treasure Island, has three beaches totaling four miles of sand that offer public access. Mid-Island Beach offers the widest beach area and is closest to hotels, restaurants, and shops. Located on either end of the island are Sunshine Beach, located on the north end, and Sunset Beach, located on the south side near Blind Pass. Public parking is available for all three locations.
Containing five connected islands and spread across 1,100 acres, Fort De Soto Park offers plenty for visitors to do. Originally home in the late 1800s to a military fort, the land is now used for recreational purposes. Named the best beach in the USA multiple times by various media outlets, Fort De Soto Park has 3 miles of beaches for visitors to enjoy. The vast beaches and flat waters are great for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring. There’s also a dog park where four-legged friends can enjoy the Gulf of Mexico. When not at the beach, visitors can use the hiking and bike trails, visit one of the fishing piers, go bird watching for one of the over 300 species seen in the park, and even spend the night at the on-site waterfront campsite.
Located on a barrier island off Sarasota, Siesta Key is well known for its white quartz sand. While the sand on beaches in surrounding areas is composed of ground coral, the white quartz sand of Siesta Key helps keep the sand cooler to the touch, even on the hottest days. The powder soft quartz sand also has a bright, crisp white appearance, which, along with the blue waters and nearby amenities, is one reason Siesta Key Beach has been voted the top beach in the country multiple times over the years.
Nicknamed the Shark Tooth Capital of the World, Caspersen Beach is a fun getaway for kids of all ages. Strong waves rolling in and rough sand makes it different from other beaches in the area, so don’t expect to be able to make sandcastles while there. This difference, though, is precisely what makes it an exciting visit. The currents that come in from the Gulf of Mexico at Caspersen Beach leave behind sediments in the shallow areas of the beach. Visitors often find shells and fossilized shark teeth during low tide. When looking, keep an eye out for darker triangular-shaped objects – those are the shark’s teeth. After exploring the beach, head to the nature trail to overlook the mangrove islands of the park.