By Rick & Sandi Griffin & McKenna, on July 17, 2013

The many beaches of Tampa Bay

Pinellas County, Florida, just a 30-minute drive west of Tampa International Airport, is home to nearly forty miles of award-winning beaches that stretch from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, each with it’s own distinct personality and charm. So we started at the south end of the county and worked our way north in search of which of these beaches fit each of our personalities. We concluded that we must have multiple personalities since each beach presented something we could appreciate.

Fort De Soto State Park

If camping and communing with nature is what you’re after, then Fort De Soto State Park is your ideal match. With 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands, you’ll find more than 320 species of birds, such as pelicans, egrets, and herons, just to name a few. Accommodations consist of both RV and tent sites. Outdoor activities reign supreme with seven miles of paved trails, fishing from two piers open 24 hours a day, a boat launch, kayaking, canoeing, and plenty of soft sand. You can even bring along your four-legged family members since the beach is dog-friendly!

Pass-A-Grille Beach

Here you’ll find a laid-back vibe. Spend the afternoon strolling along historic 8th Avenue perusing its local shops and boutiques or plan to stay for the entire day since the sunset views from the rooftop bar at The Hurricane Seafood Restaurant are legendary. While parking fills up fast, the good news is that it’s free.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is a casual beach destination with nearly four miles of white sandy beach for those who prefer that “Old Florida” feel. With one of the region’s widest stretches of beach, it’s the perfect spot to go fly a kite. Be sure to check out the brand new one-mile long beach walk, with built -in benches, illuminated at night by turtle-friendly LED lights.

Viewfinder Tip: Don’t miss the grouper at one of the local restaurants.

Madeira Beach 

When we think of Madeira Beach we think of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, featuring 1,100-feet of boardwalk along the Intercostal Waterway and filled with shops and restaurants.  More grouper is brought into John’s Pass by local fishing boats than any other place in the state, making it the perfect place to have lunch or dinner.

Indian Rocks Beach 

Indian Rocks Beach was developed in the 1920s as a weekend getaway destination for wealthy residents who lived inland. Today it’s thriving with restaurants, shops, and parks. With more than 20 beach access points along Gulf Boulevard, you’re sure to find the perfect place to set down your chairs and blanket.  

Sand Key Park

If you don’t like crowds and the beach-going hoopla, then you may just fall in love with the less populated Sand Key Park. It does have some amenities though, including a couple picnic shelters with grills, public restrooms, water fountains, and a dog park, sharing the same sugar white sand and gorgeous Gulf of Mexico view that the other beaches along this stretch of Pinellas County do.

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach may be the area’s most well-known beach. Recently named “Florida’s Best Beach Town,” there is something for everyone here, from free movies in the park on weekend nights to cocktails poolside at your favorite hotel. The best-kept secret here is that during low tide you can walk to Caladesi Island from the north end of Clearwater Beach.

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island got its name back in the 1940s when ads suggested that newlyweds would find undiscovered pleasures here. While no longer a honeymoon destination, it is a favorite spot for brides and grooms to exchange their wedding vows. If you’re not looking for romance, the unspoiled beauty of Honeymoon Island will awaken the explorer in anyone with mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, salt marshes, tidal flats, and sand dunes. There’s a café that serves up fish & chips, burgers, and smoothies, as well as rents chairs and umbrellas to shade you from the sun.

The common thread these Tampa beaches share is the same silky soft, pristine white sand and beautiful sunsets. Just like Goldilocks did in “The Three Bears,” we suggest you try them all on for size. Rent a convertible and take it all in during the leisurely drive, where speed limits are rarely over 35 miles per hour. Start just after sunrise and don’t stop until sunset.

What’s your beach vacation personality?