St. Pete Beach, located just outside Tampa Florida, makes an incredible beach getaway. You can imagine the warm, blue Gulf waters washing gently up on wide sandy beaches. Of course, there’s fun beach hotels and exciting water sports.
What you might not expect is the wide assortment of day trips, top-notch restaurants, and the vibrant Tampa city scene. Combine all of this with a wide selection of budget flights, and you’ll want to start planning your St Pete Beach getaway right now!
Explore the Beaches of St Petersburg
St Petersburg is a large peninsula at the mouth of Tampa Bay with a series of barrier islands on the gulf side. Each of these islands offers beaches with their own personalities.
- St Pete Beach – Long Key is the most developed of these islands, where you’re most likely to book your St Petersburg Beach hotel. There is public beach access, but you’ll most likely walk right out of your hotel and onto the beach. Tons of vacationers do precisely that.
- Pass-a-Grille Beach – Located immediately south of St. Pete Beach but still on Long Key, Pass-a-Grille is a little quieter and more natural than its northern neighbor and can be reached with a short walk. You will even find a couple of stands of oat grass along the boardwalk.
- Treasure Island – Treasure Island is on the next island north of St Pete. It’s a little far to walk to Treasure Island, but you can bike or even take the free beach trolly. You could drive too, but beach parking is always limited. Treasure Island features the St Petersburg Municipal Beach, which is the widest beach in the area. There’s also Sunset Beach that has more condos than hotels in the area, which makes for a tranquil beach experience.
- John’s Pass – Heading over John’s Pass from Treasure Island to Sand Key, you’ll find John’s Pass Village, a fun waterfront shopping center with plenty of dining and entertainment options. It’s a great marina to get you out onto the water. From pirate ship tours to deep-sea fishing to jet skis, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. There’s plenty of public access points to reach the beach at John’s Pass too.
- Middle Baches of Sand Key – Sand Key is about 14-miles long with two exciting destinations on each end (John’s Pass & Sand Key Park). In the middle, there’s a series of ‘Condo Beaches,’ including Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, Indian Shores Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, and Bellaire Beach. These are all similar in that they are very quiet, with limited parking and access points. The highlight of the region is Splash Harbor Water Park. It’s a regional water park with a couple of slides and a lazy river that’s consummate with it’s mid $20 price point.
- Sand Key Beach – Sand Key Park is a natural gem along the St Petersburg shoreline. It features ample parking, wide white beaches, and access to Clearwater Pass. Clearwater Pass is perhaps the best place to see dolphins from the shore, especially at sunset. The jetty along Clearwater Pass (obviously the beachside to avoid boat traffic) is a decent place to snorkel, especially at high slack tide.
- Clearwater Beach – Clearwater Beach is a great beach and an even better beach town. Watch the sunset at Pier 60’s sunset celebration or from a rooftop bar or catch a charter from the marina. The Clearwater Beach scene is worth checking out, particularly for sunset.
St Petersburg Attractions
A trip to St Petersburg is more than just beaches. Tampa is a vibrant city with a surprising art scene and an exciting nightlife. What’s more, there is still plenty of nature just outside the city.
- State Parks – Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island, and Fort De Soto are state parks in and around St Petersburg. You can kayak the mangroves and bays or explore the natural beaches.
- Florida Aquarium – This aquarium introduces you to the unique Florida aquatic ecosystem. Of particular interest are the interactive experiences, including swimming with sharks that get you into the exhibits.
- Tampa Riverwalk – Tampa Riverwalk is a hip and cool trail along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. Be sure to make it down to the Armature Works Public Market to sample from their various innovative eateries.
- Busch Gardens – Tampa’s answer to the Orlando Theme parks offering arguably the best rides in Central Florida without the sticker shock of Disney or Universal.
- Dali Museum – The Dali offers a curated collection of Dali works to inspire and educate. Be sure to check out their calendar for their rolling exhibit series such as Dreams of Dali that takes you inside of his work Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus.”
- Ybor City – A former cigar manufacturing center turned entertainment district. Now it’s home to some of Tampa’s best boutique and vintage shopping and Latin dining.
Day Trips from St Pete
- Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs – The historic sponge docks used to be home to the world’s largest sponge harvest. Shop for all your sponge and sponge accessories in the Greek styled village. Why Greek, you ask? Because it was the Greek sponge divers who put Tarpon Springs on the map.
- Swimming with Manatees at Crystal River – Crystal River gets 400+ manatees coming every winter to stay warm in the freshwater springs. Tour operators offer trips to swim with manatees where you can get up close and personal with these gentle giants.
- Visit Orlando – It’s less than two hours from St Pete to Walt Disney World with the rest of the Orlando destinations just a little bit farther down I-4. For adult travelers, you might be surprised at the amazing romantic things to do in Orlando. You can stay on the beach and still see the mouse.
- Hunting for Shark Teeth – Venice Beach is the Shark Tooth Capital of the world. You can find hundreds (yes hundreds) of shark teeth on a single visit, especially if you’re searching at low tide.
- White Sands of Siesta Key – The beaches of St Pete are beautiful, but Siesta Key takes sand to another level. The sugar sand of Siesta Key is so white that sandcastles look like snow forts.
- Shelling on Cayo Costa – Cayo Costa Park can only be reached by boat, but that means more shells for you when you get there. The closest ferry to St Pete is the Punta Gorda ferry that makes the crossing a combination party and dolphin tour.
St Pete Beach Hotels
There are lots of options to stay beachfront in St Petersburg, but here are a few of our favorites.
- The Don CeSar– This iconic pink palace has been welcoming visitors to St Pete Beach since 1928. It’s a four-star property with a lot of history. Even if you don’t stay here, you should stop in for a visit to soak in the gilded era ambiance.
- The Grand Plaza – Spinner’s Bistro is the highlight of the Grand Plaza. This revolving restaurant is the best place to watch the sunset in St Pete. You can toast the sunset on the 11th floor or book a table for a seafood dinner on the 12th.
- Alden Suites Beachfront Resort – This is where we stayed at St Pete’s Beach. It’s the only family-owned resort on the beach with active and involved management. They love this property, and it shows! It has a family-friendly atmosphere from the price-point to the pool. From our home base at Alden Suites, we could walk down to Spinner’s or tour Don CeSar and still enjoy their hospitality. On the subject of walking from Alden Suites, make sure you check out Snapper’s Restaurant right across the street for some of the best seafood and steaks in St Pete!
Finding the Best Things to do on a St Pete Beach Getaway
St. Pete Beach offers a complete beach vacation in a tidy little package. Wide, sandy beach, and warm gulf water provide a perfect backdrop for beach hotels. You have your choice of beaches from the fully supported St Pete Beach strip to laid back parks and everything in between. Off the beach, there’s all the city life of modern Tampa and small-town Florida hospitality waiting for you up and down the coast. There’s so much to do in Saint Petersburg that you might have to make more than a weekend getaway to do it all.
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