The Clearwater Beach area of Florida consistently ranks high among the very best beach vacation destinations in the United States. Found on the Pinellas Peninsula near the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, this area is known for its glorious white sand beaches, its clear gulf waters, and its abundant sunshine. The beaches of highest repute are found on slim barrier islands approximately 20 miles from Tampa and St. Petersburg, and they offer plenty in the way of variety. Some are highly developed, while others are in a more natural state. Visitors can choose accordingly. They can also decide how much activity they want to include in their Clearwater Beach vacations.
Activity options in the Clearwater Beach area include swimming, parasailing, wave running, water-skiing, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and any other number of waterborne diversions. The best places to arrange such activities are the Clearwater Beach Marina and the Hubbard’s Marina. The former can be found in Clearwater Beach at Coronado Drive and Causeway Boulevard, while the latter is found on the southern tip of Sand Key at John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk.
Clearwater Public Beach
The Clearwater Public Beach is the central spot for beachgoers in Clearwater Beach. Also known as Pier 60 because of its pier and its location at the terminus of Florida State Road 60, this long stretch of sand offers numerous amenities and activity options. Features include a playground, watersports rentals, beach volleyball, a snack bar, and a bait-and-tackle shop. If you just want to swim, Clearwater Public Beach is known for its excellent swimming. Sunbathing is also a popular activity, and once the sun begins to set, the nightly sunset celebrations begin. These celebrations feature musicians, artists, and local merchants. Metered parking is available across the street from the Clearwater Beach Marina. Also worth noting is the Beach Walk area, which is found on the southern side and features a compact pedestrian zone, high-end hotels, bicycle racks, and shower nozzles for rinsing the sand off. There is a small walk-on admission fee for the Clearwater Public Beach, and daily fishing fees apply for those who want to do some angling.
Sand Key Park
Separated from Clearwater Beach by Clearwater Pass is one of the finest local beach parks in all of Florida. This beach park is known as Sand Key Park. The name relates to the park’s location on the barrier island of Sand Key. Sand Key Park has two distinct areas – a beach and a park. The beach is known for its soft white sand and its largely natural appeal. Sea turtles make annual visits to the Sand Key Park beach to deposit their eggs. As for the park area, it has water fountains, picnic shelters, grills, a playground, a dog park, changing stalls, and restrooms. Other features of Sand Key Park include concessions, outdoor showers, a boardwalk, a nature trail, and a salt marsh with viewing benches. Available rentals include bicycle, kayak, cabana, and umbrella rentals. A lifeguard is on duty daily at Sand Key Park from March to September between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm. Parking is available for a fee.
Caladesi Island State Park
No discussion about the best beaches in America would be complete without mentioning Caladesi Island State Park. Found north of Clearwater Beach on a natural, three-and-a-half-mile-long island, this park’s fine soft sand is edged by palmettos and sea grass. Swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing figure among the activities of choice. It is also possible to enjoy boat and surf fishing at Caladesi Island State Park, or you can treat yourself to a stroll along the nature trail. Complementing the nature trail is a kayak trail. Should hunger set in during a visit to the park, you can hit the concession stand or take advantage of the picnic facilities. The paradise that is Caladesi Island State Park can only be accessed by boat or ferry. The ferries are offered by Caladesi Island Ferry and depart from nearby Honeymoon Island State Park. Both Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island State Park are open daily from 8 am to sunset, and admission fees apply.
St. Pete Beach
Clearwater Beach vacations can include visits to the area’s other major beach resort – St. Pete Beach. You can find St. Pete Beach to the near west of St. Petersburg on a barrier island. A heavily developed destination, it features plenty in the way of accommodations, shops, bars, and eateries. It is very much a center of action and can be overcrowded, especially during the winter season. If you like your beach experiences to fall on the more relaxing side, then you can head to the island’s southern end. That is where the relatively quiet residential enclave of Pass-a-Grille can be found. That’s not to say that Pass-a-Grille doesn’t get crowded. Word has gotten out, and in addition to its beach, visitors come to indulge in its eclectic shops.
Fort DeSoto Park
To the south of St. Pete Beach at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Fort DeSoto Park consists of more than 1,000 acres and occupies five interconnected islands. Very much a bird, animal, and plant sanctuary, it is also a haven for beach enthusiasts. Thanks to their natural appeal and their sugary white sand, the beaches of Fort DeSoto Park actually rank quite high among the very best beaches in the United States. There is more to this park than just amazing beaches, however. Other features include a Spanish-American War-era fort, a playground for kids, fishing piers, mangrove channels, kayak and canoe rentals, changing rooms, restrooms, and miles of trails that can be used for walking, jogging, in-line skating, and cycling. Park rangers conduct history and nature tours, and should you wish to stay overnight, Fort DeSoto Park has what is arguably one of the best campgrounds in Florida. Both tent and RV sites are available, and they tend to fill up fast, especially on the weekends. Admission to Fort DeSoto Park is free, though there are fees if you want to stay overnight. The general visiting hours for those who aren’t camping are 8 am to dusk, though it is possible to stay later if you are fishing from the piers.