An Expert’s Guide to Tampa Beaches

If you’re a wave-riding, sun-soaking, sand-kicking beach lover – you could do a whole heck of a lot worse than Florida.

Florida’s beach-to-land ratio is probably one of the best in the world – the benefits of a warm climate and a huge peninsula. And while very few of the coastlines will let you down, the beaches along the natural harbor created by Tampa Bay are truly unforgettable.

This expert’s guide of Tampa beaches should get you in the water in no time.

Treasure Island

Arrr, me hearties. Though Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins never reefed sails in this bay, Treasure Island beach is filled with its own form of glorious reward.

One of the coolest features of Treasure Island beach is the look – it’s soaked in a retro-chic aesthetic that almost makes you want to break out your turn-of-the-century bathing costume, bushy mustache, and straw hat so you can treat your date to a chocolate phosphate up at the Walgreens.

Classic two-tone wheel umbrellas stretch out as far as the eye can see, and the boardwalk is filled with all kinds of activities.

There’s even a replica fishing village called “Saint John’s Pass” at the end that offers up a little slice of a bygone era.

Honeymoon Island State Park

This romantically-named hotspot is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Honeymoon Island State Park includes four miles of white, sandy beach. Lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Honeymoon Beach is a fantastic spot for swimming or shell-hunting.

Though much of the beach is as natural as the day humans first set foot upon the shore, they’ve got snack shacks right on the beach if you’re feeling peckish. The park also contains the famous Osprey Trail, where, if you’re lucky, you can spot a whole host of raptors roosting. You may spot ospreys, eagles, and even owls on the trail!

One of the best parts about Honeymoon Island is that it’s also dog friendly – they encourage you to bring your puppers (on a leash, of course) to splash along in the waves.

Fred Howard Park

Fred Howard Park is an interesting addition to Tampa Bay beaches – it’s a bit different than most of the other beaches on this list.

You see, Fred Howard Park is almost an island – it’s a near-perfectly rectangular, 155-acre stretch of land plopped out in the Bay. The only thing connecting it to the mainland is a thin strip of highway, really just two lanes, a tenuous thread linking the park to the rest of Florida.

The benefit of its near-island status is that the whole park is pretty much beach on all sides. It’s the perfect spot for fishing, enjoying sunsets, dolphin-watching, and hiking. The park also contains tons of native wildlife and vegetation, making it a great spot for would-be naturalists.

Clearwater Beach

This beach is the 10/10, grand-daddy beach of excellent beaches.

Clearwater Beach was voted the #1 Top Beach by Trip Advisor in 2018 AND “Best Beach Town in Florida” in 2014. Lucky for any visitors and beachgoers, there’s good reason for those accolades.

Picture a flat stretch of white sand beaches and clear, viridian-tinted water. A long line of luxury cabanas and beach chairs, available for rent at any time. Plant yourself, recline in the shade, and sip a drink while the water twinkles beneath the flaring sun.

The amenities around the beach are just as awesome as the water and sand. Palm Pavilion Beach Side Bar & Grill slings its signature “Palm Rum Runner” and other beach cocktails, alongside delicious all-American grilled fare.

They’ve been at it since 1926 and are a true institution on Clearwater Beach. And do not, absolutely do not, miss the “Nachos Beach Style.” Jalapenos, salsa, and lemon crema gushed over a bed of crispy corn tortilla chips? Forget packing your own sandwiches to the beach – this is the way to do it.

There’s also plenty of live music to be heard at the establishments that line the beach, featuring every conceivable style. Add to that the buskers and the street musicians, and you’ve got yourself a lively atmosphere that makes for a well-spent evening with friends or loved ones.

Sand Key Park

Over 1 million people visit this beach each year, which is actually located on Sand Key, an island situated between the coast and the Gulf. An isolated and beautiful spot, Sand Key frequently serves as a venue for destination weddings and special occasions.

One of the neat things about Sand Key Park is that it’s not just a beach – the inside of the island is also part of the park, and contains grills, shelters, dog parks, and playgrounds!

Sand Key is a fantastic choice for families who want to fill a day, or even a whole weekend! When the kiddos get tired of the beach, just venture inland for the park amenities.

Another factoid about Sand Key Park – it’s the headquarters for a program to build an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico, which hopes to increase the number of viable habitats for the ocean life around Florida.

Redington Shores

More than just a quaint beach or a relaxing strip of sand, Redington Shores is a full-blown resort town just a half-hour drive from the airport.

Not only is the white sand beach and warm water inviting, but Redington Shores delivers the whole resort experience. Rent a wave runner or a paddleboat – and jet across the water with your friends. Get a tee-time at a nearby golf course and watch the sun slide over the horizon while you drive. Hop on a charter boat for some deep-sea fishing, or just take a relaxing swim in the bay.

Redington has three parks, all of which offer something a bit different.

  • Del Bello Park is right on the water and encourages fishing off its dock or relaxing on its beach. If sweat and fresh air is more your game, Del Bello has fitness gear like rowing machines and treadmills right on the beach! They also feature a kayak launch if you’re tired of training and ready to dip your oar in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Thelma Spitzer Park is packed with playground equipment and is a great distraction for the wee ones.
  • Constitution Park is a solid choice for adults and kids, and it has courts for adult sports and plenty of slides and swings for children.

Choose any one of the six different hotels all on Gulf Boulevard, or dine on fresh local cuisine at any of the ten restaurants and lounges right on the main drag.

Redington Shores isn’t just a place to spend a day –  it’s a spot to enjoy an entire vacation.

Sunset Beach

In a pile of resort towns and busy beaches, where do you go for a nice, peaceful respite from the daily grind? Where do you lay back, feet on the sand, head in the clouds, the only sound in your ears the rustle of the waves and the song of distant gulls?

There are a few great spots like this on Tampa’s shores, make no mistake, but Sunset Beach is definitively the best.

Grab a chair and a drink and enjoy one of the best sunsets in the area. There’s a reason it got the name “Sunset Beach” – the array of colors and the wide vista created by the landscape produces quite a show in the night sky.

When you do choose to leave the beach and mix with the locals, you’ll find the residents of Sunset Beach to be a relaxed, very open and friendly group of people. An eclectic clan, they’re welcoming of everyone and are out to have a good time.

Tampa Riverwalk

When you’re over sunsets and relaxation and you’re ready to party, head down to the Tampa Riverwalk for a real shot of the nightlife. Or multiple shots, your call.

Hit the “Yacht Starship,” which is the first dining yacht in America rated three diamonds by AAA. So not only do you get a cool nautical setting on a huge luxury yacht, you also land the kind of quality food you’d expect in the city’s fanciest dining joints.

Grab a pint or three at the “Four Green Fields,” an authentic Irish pub that’s so natural it has an honest-to-God thatched roof on top! This place looks like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie, but you won’t find hobbits inside. Instead, you’ll get live music from incredible bands, home-country décor, tasty Irish cuisine, and more beer than you can handle – not that you shouldn’t give it your best shot.

These are just a few examples, of course. The Tampa Riverwalk is filled with shopping, dining, drinking, dancing, and live music – more than enough to tucker out even the most ardent partier.

A Tampa Beach for Every Mood

Any one of these beaches can settle the stressed mind or perk up the idle body.

Whether you’re looking for exercise, a gorgeous sunset, a family-friendly trip with the kiddos, a romantic weekend with the partner, or an unforgettable plunge into the nightlife, Tampa beaches can scratch any itch.


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