The sun is bright. The breeze is balmy. You just can’t wait to get out on the sand and into the water. But first… where to park? A little bit of planning with the help of this quick sampler can enhance your beach visit by allowing you more time with your toes in the sand.
Except where free parking is mentioned, lots are either metered or park-and-pay. Many of the larger beachfront hotels offer day parking for a fee, usually at a flat rate that’s costlier than public parking, but sometimes it's worth it for convenience. If you decide you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, try the Suncoast Beach Trolley.
One way to avoid parking congestion at USA Today's 2013 "Best Beach Town in Florida" is to find a spot north of the roundabout at the end of Memorial Causeway. South of the roundabout has loads of parking, but it’s usually more crowded. Two metered lots are situated beachside, north of Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, totaling roughly 200 spaces. The Pier 60 lot, with its 146 spaces, is in the thick of it all, just south of the roundabout, beachside. A few blocks south, where Gulfview Boulevard bends, you’ll fine a generous expanse with 237 spaces.
The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa offers a parking garage with public parking available. A pay lot is situated directly north of the Hyatt Regency, and street parking can be found throughout Clearwater Beach.
On a smaller scale, visitors who don’t mind hoofing it a bit can find parking along the Memorial Causeway right after crossing the bridge onto Clearwater Beach. Lot 39 is slightly north of the big-lot options above. Located across Mandalay Avenue from the beach, it abuts McKay Park and includes roughly 20 spaces. It’s only a short walk to beach access.
You should have no problem finding a spot here. The beautifully landscaped Sand Key Park has roughly 700 spaces with direct access to the beach.
Free parking is available at the Belleair Beach Marina, on the east side of Gulf Boulevard. Park your car, cross the street and walk about 200 feet south to find the beach access.
Elsewhere, you might say the Morgan Park lot is hidden in plain sight. It’s located right on the beach, across from Morgan Drive. Best of all, its 16 spots are free.
The Indian Rocks Beach Access Park, with 80 spots, sits beachside just north of 17th Avenue.
Several Indian Rocks Beach avenues also offer small, free lots if you follow them all the way west to the end. The one on Eighth Avenue has a single lane of marked parking spots and a lovely, lush path to the beach.
In Indian Shores, the nicely landscaped Tiki Gardens/Indian Rocks Beach Access County Park at 196th Avenue sits across Gulf Boulevard from the beach and has 163 spots.
The Redington Shores Beach Access Park, with 162 spaces, is on Gulf Boulevard across from the Friendly Tavern and about a block from the beach.
In Redington Beach, which has limited parking, there’s a hidden gem at 164th Avenue and First Street East. Adjacent to a playground, it’s a block east of Gulf Boulevard, two blocks from the beach. The small gravel strip, which can accommodate about a dozen vehicles, has no signs that limit or prohibit parking.
Three large public lots dominate the main road and are situated beachside: Archibald Memorial Park (where Madeira Way meets Gulf Boulevard); Madeira Beach Access Park, a few blocks south at 145th Avenue; and City of Madeira Beach Parking and Beach Access at 130th Avenue.
Parking galore! There’s a public lot at 129th Avenue across Gulf Boulevard from the beach and plenty of pay spaces in the John's Pass Village & Boardwalk complex, including a multi-level parking garage.
The City of St. Petersburg Municipal Beach lot is smack dab in the heart of Treasure Island at 112th Avenue beachside. At 104th Avenue, just south of the Bilmar Beach Resort, there’s a public lot with 67 spots.
Immediately south of the John’s Pass Bridge sits a small sand lot on the western end of 127th Avenue with free parking. A similar hidden gem is at 101st Avenue, just south of the Jefferson Motel Apartments.
Heading south on Gulf Boulevard, veer right at the 7-Eleven (just past 98th Avenue) onto West Gulf Boulevard, and you’ve arrived at Sunset Beach. Pay parking and valet are available at Caddy's Waterfront, a popular restaurant/bar that’s right on the sand. Farther down West Gulf Boulevard are several medium-sized sand and gravel lots along the beach.
Turn west from Gulf Boulevard onto 71st Avenue, go three blocks to Beach Plaza, turn south and you’ll see Upham Beach Park. Farther south is the huge St. Pete Municipal Beach lot, on Gulf Boulevard between 46th and 48th avenues, across from Dolphin Village Shopping Center.
If you don’t mind a bit of a hike, street parking is available in the downtown section of St. Pete Beach, on and around Corey Avenue, some of it metered, some free.
Street parking begins on Gulf Way at 22nd Avenue and extends south to 1st Avenue. You’re more apt to find available spaces in the far northern and far southern areas of Pass-a-Grille Beach. Most of Gulf Way features angled spots on the beach side and parallel spaces on the east side of the street. There are pay stations at the walkways onto the beach. Along the east edge of Pass-a-Grille runs Pass-a-Grille Way with some metered spaces. Parking here presents a bit of a walk to the beach.
Side roads throughout Pass-a-Grille may tempt beachgoers, but parking there is for residents only.