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Best Beaches in Tampa

Top 10 World-Class Beaches Near Tampa Feature White Sand, Warm Water


Visitors to Tampa have hit the beach lottery! From downtown Tampa, you are about a half-hour drive from, not one, not two, but over a dozen of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the world. You have merely to pick one. To help you make the most of this momentous decision, 10 Best has compiled a list of the best options to choose from. 

All the beaches feature soft, white sand and the warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. So the decision really comes down to the location and  nearby amenities. If you are looking for a full-service beach with cabanas, restaurants, water sports and entertainment, then the ever-popular Clearwater Beach is a good choice. A favorite of spring-breakers, it's the center of all the action and home to Pier 60 that hosts a daily sunset festival. 

If you're in the mood for peace and quiet, perhaps a beach in a more natural setting without condos and groomed sand, there are options for you too. One of the most stunning beaches in an area full of stunning beaches is found on Caladesi Island State Park. There are no high-rises here and the pristine beaches are completely natural. The perfect spot to reconnect with nature.

 

 

 


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Ben T. Davis Beach
Photo courtesy of Dylan Stinson/Film Tampa Bay

If you're vacationing in Tampa and are looking for a beach close-by that offers powdery white sand for lounging, calm water for cooling off and shelters for picnics, then Davis Beach is for you. This is the closest beach to downtown Tampa and the locals' favorite tailgate spot. Davis offers ideal proximity to the airport for travelers who value efficiency. Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings see the beach populated by local volleyball players. This is one of the best spots in town to watch the sunset and is located adjacent to the new Courtney Campbell Trail, a four-mile biking and pedestrian bridge.

Recommended for Beaches because: Ben T. Davis Beach is Tampa's largest and most popular beach within city limits and is located adjacent to the four-mile Courtney Campbell Trail.

Skye's expert tip: Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Read more about Ben T. Davis Beach →


9
Outside the city

Fred Howard Park is a popular beach and nature preserve located on the north end of Tampa Bay's barrier islands. The Park is connected by a mile-long causeway to the charming town of Tarpon Springs which is home to the area's famous Sponge Docks and a delicious concentration of authentic Greek restaurants. In addition to allowing visitors access to white sand expanses, the Park offers protection to endangered Florida habitat. Visitors are likely to catch glimpses of local wildlife, including nesting ospreys and eagles, as well as dolphins and manatees. Amenities include picnic areas and playgrounds.

Recommended for Beaches because: Fred Howard Beach is both a gorgeous expanse of white sand and a protected nature preserve, perfect for beach and nature lovers.

Skye's expert tip: This beach features an area dedicated to windsurfing.

Read more about Fred Howard Park →


8
Outside the city

Indian Rocks Beach offers expansive white sand beaches with less emphasis on commercial development. Known as IRB to the locals, this quiet, residential beach area is a less crowded alternative to Clearwater or St. Pete. Public beach access is wonderful with over 20 entries to the sand, but amenities are minimal with showers, restrooms and parking. The surrounding area features a mixture of residential and vacation rentals - you won't find any big chain hotels here. In spite of its laid-back atmosphere, there is still plenty to do here with skim boarding a popular pastime. Check out the friendly surf shops to find rentals and lessons. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from when you want to take a break from the beach.

Recommended for Beaches because: Indian Rocks Beach offers expansive white sand beaches with ample public access without the crowds and commercialism.

Skye's expert tip: Jump on the Jolly Trolley to explore the other beaches if the quiet gets too much for you. Visit the nearest stop on Gulf Boulevard to check the schedule.

Read more about Indian Rocks Beach →


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7
Tampa Downs

If you're searching for a tranquil, family-friendly Tampa Bay beach, explore Sand Key Park just south of Clearwater. This beautiful park is both park and beach offering visitors access to white sand and a boardwalk and nature trail. If you come at the right time of year, you can observe the sea turtles nesting areas on the beach. So, whether you're looking to view Florida wildlife or are just looking to swim and get a tan, this is the ideal location. Situated on a barrier island between the Gulf and the Florida mainland, the park offers plenty of parking space, picnic shelters, shower and restroom facilities and a playground for the kids.

Recommended for Beaches because: Sand Key Park offers visitors the best of both worlds with a beautiful sandy beach and family park amenities.

Skye's expert tip: This is a great spot to splurge on a cabana rental as the prices are more reasonable than on the more well-known beaches!

Read more about Sand Key Park →


The jumping off point to the beach on Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island, also has plenty of beautiful sand to offer visitors - and you don't have to take a boat to get there. In addition to 4-miles of white sand, the Island includes a several nature trails and bird observation areas where you can find nesting Ospreys and a variety of water birds. Visitors can learn more at the Rotary Nature Center. The Island offers plenty of amenities including a concession and restaurant where, in addition to food, you can find umbrella, chair and kayak rentals. Families will enjoy the picnic area complete with playground and covered pavilions in case of rain.

Recommended for Beaches because: Honeymoon Island is a natural paradise with four miles of white sand beach, full amenities, and an undisturbed nature sanctuary featuring nesting Ospreys.

Skye's expert tip: If you plan on walking the nature trail, make sure to pack mosquito repellant!

Read more about Honeymoon Island State Park →


5
Outside the city

Treasure Island is another popular beach that features a funky, retro vibe and offers plenty of wide, white sand beaches and fun activities. This beach is especially wide making it a haven for kite flyers who provide a colorful visual display to entertain visitors. Treasure Island is easy to get around with a mile long paved trail that connects many of the hotels, restaurants, bars and shops along the beach. At the north end is St. John's Pass that replicates a quaint fishing village and serves as a hub for charter boats, an eclectic variety of souvenir and apparel shops, and several great bars and restaurants. Drinking is allowed on this beach.

Recommended for Beaches because: Treasure Island is a classic beach community with a 3-mile expanse of beach and a great selection of nearby restaurants, bars and shops.

Skye's expert tip: It's called "Treasure Island" because an early hotelier buried a couple old chests on the beach as a publicity stunt and the name stuck.

Read more about Treasure Island →


Caladesi Island State Park
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Picked for its beauty, the beach on Caladesi Island is one of the most stunning stretches of sand on the planet. At this secluded beach the sand seems whiter and the water more teal colored than anywhere else. Shell hunters will appreciate the pickings and nature lovers will find plenty of small critters to watch. It is a nature sanctuary so there are few amenities and is only reachable by ferry or private boat. While this may be slightly inconvenient, it is a small price to pay for maintaining the Island's pristine condition. Ferries run from Honeymoon State Park to Caladesi Island on a daily schedule, check their website for details and fees.

Recommended for Beaches because: Caladesi Island is a beautiful and secluded nature sanctuary with a stunning beach, perfect for shell hunters.

Skye's expert tip: If you're game, you can rent a kayak on the causeway to Honeymoon State Park and paddle over to explore the Island.

Read more about Caladesi Island State Park →


3
Outside the city
St. Pete Beach
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

St. Pete Beach is another area beach that frequently makes it to the top of "best beach" lists world-wide. Yes, it has white sand beaches and warm Gulf waters, but it's the extras that make this beach special. There are plenty of beach-side amenities including restaurants, Tiki bars, cabana rentals, jet ski rentals and other adventure opportunities. If you're staying overnight there are plenty of full-service resorts and retro boutique hotels lining the beach. Explore the shopping opportunities along historic Corey Avenue and take some time to tour the landmark Don Cesar Resort. Nicknamed the "Pink Palace," this impressive Mediterranean-style hotel was built during the jazz-age and sets the standard for old-school beach-side luxury.

Recommended for Beaches because: Laid-back St. Pete Beach offers something for everyone with a wide range of beach activities as well as restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities.

Skye's expert tip: Luckily there are lots of beachside bars to relax in because unless you are a hotel guest, there is no drinking on the beach!

Read more about St. Pete Beach →


2
Outside the city

Ever wanted to camp on the beach? This is a great spot to do it! Fort De Soto Park consists of over 1,000 acres of preserved land that covers five interconnected islands. These islands are home to numerous forms of wildlife that live in the Park's beach grasses, mangroves, wetlands, and palm hammocks. The beaches are naturally beautiful and there is a calm lagoon protected by sand bars that provides a safe place for little ones to play. There is also a 7-mile paved trail for biking and walking. Included in the park's extensive list of amenities are two piers where visitors can fish without licenses, a dog park and beach area, and kayak and bike rentals.

Recommended for Beaches because: Fort De Soto Park is a family-friendly favorite with beautiful beaches and a host of other amenities including on-beach camping.

Skye's expert tip: History buffs may enjoy touring the historic Fort De Soto site that was used as a gunnery and bombing range during WWII and visit the Quartermaster Storehouse Museum.

Read more about Fort De Soto Park →


1
Outside the city
Clearwater Beach
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Clearwater Beach is a very popular and busy beach with a long list of "Best Beach" honors. In addition to meticulously groomed beaches, there are tons of beach amenities such as watersports rentals, concessions and cabanas with shade (an essential). If hanging out on the beach gets old, there are also a host of other activities close-by including fishing, dolphin-watching tours and leisure charters. You can also visit the former home of famous Disney dolphin, Winter, at the Clearwater Aquarium. Some of the best seafood restaurants in the Tampa Bay area are found at Clearwater Beach, including two versions of the region's perennial favorite, Frenchy's. At sunset every evening people gather at The Pier to take part in the sunset celebration that includes entertainment and a craft market. After dark, a variety of clubs and nightlife options round out the day's itinerary, including two-story dance club, The Wave, at Shepherd's Beach Resort.

Recommended for Beaches because: Clearwater Beach is a world-class beach featuring lots of beach-side amenities and nearby attractions, restaurants and nightlife.

Skye's expert tip: Parking is very challenging if you're not staying on the island. Get there early, pack lightly, and be prepared to walk as beachside parking is very limited. Check out other options such as the Clearwater Ferry or Trolley.

Read more about Clearwater Beach →


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Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye

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