An uncommon perk of dining in St. Petersburg/Clearwater is the number of restaurants that offer gentle sea breezes and sparkling water views. You can pull up a chair, order a sandwich and look out over bays, inlets and the Gulf at many an eatery here, but establishments that are truly beachfront – meaning located on or mere steps away from the sand – are especially rewarding to discover.
The local favorites listed here are just that. They range from lesser-known casual gems that welcome patrons in beach garb to fine dining establishments, but they all have two things in common: excellent food and a sand-and-water setting that can’t be beat.
Or, if you’re looking to dine in the sand (literally), St. Pete/Clearwater’s many beach accesses and parks offer endless stretches of sand that are perfect for a DIY beach picnic.
Paradise Grille, Pass-a-Grille Beach
If you were any closer to the Gulf of Mexico, you’d be eating your Paradise Grille grouper sandwich in the surf. Grab a picnic table, hoist the umbrella and take in the sights and sounds – not to mention tastes – of this outdoor beachfront eatery. The embodiment of Pass-a-Grille Beach’s super low-key, old Florida vibe, Paradise Grille offers everything from burgers and wraps to smoothies and craft beer. Some evenings, you’ll find live musicians adding to the tropical vibe, and some weekends, local artists and craftspeople sell their wares. Stick around for sunset, when one lucky guest is chosen to ring the ceremonial bell exactly 15 times at the precise moment the sun sinks into the Gulf.
Crabby Bill's, St. Pete Beach
If you think mountains of crab claws are the only draw at this classic establishment, situated among St. Pete Beach’s lively resort district, wait till you see the view. Sure, the tasty crustaceans are rightfully famous at this bustling establishment, but the beach vistas you can take in from pretty much every seat in the house sweeten the deal. There’s almost always a beach party vibe here, so there’s no need to ditch your beach duds. You can enjoy your Philly-style grouper sandwich and a cold one just as you are. Make sure to set aside a little time to take in the sunset from the rooftop deck.
Palm Pavilion, Clearwater Beach
Locals love this open-air seaside institution, which is the spot on Clearwater Beach for sunset-gazing. You'll enjoy great views of the area, which was voted the "Best Beach Town in Florida" by USA Today readers in 2013. Flip-flops are more than welcome at this easy-going bar and grill. The Palm Pavilion has been serving up a variety of seafood and casual dining favorites, plus free nightly sunsets, since 1926. Try out the fried gator nibbles or wasabi scallops, and wash ’em down with a frosty draught beer or specialty cocktail. The restaurant also features live music throughout the week.
Sea Porch, St. Pete Beach
Unparalleled luxury and no-nonsense beachfront dining can peacefully coexist. Situated among the pink-tinted grandeur of the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, the newly renovated, seaside-chic spot features Floribbean fare, with menu items including ceviche, wood-oven-baked Cuban bread and, of course, local seafood. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it’s there for you no matter what time you decide to take a brief hiatus from the beach or pool, which are just a quick walk down the hotel steps away.
Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater Beach
Whether you seek a breezy spot near the dunes or prefer a bird’s-eye view, you’ll get an amazing beach panorama at either of this world-class resort’s dining establishments. Named after Clearwater Beach’s first settler, Tate Island Grill offers both beachfront cool and casual elegance. Stroll up from the beach or poolside for a wrap, hummus or a refreshing beverage. Stay for sunset to check out some live music and the nightly ringing of a ship’s bell. Both the bell and the indoor bar are originals from the legendary Clearwater Beach Hotel, the Sandpearl’s precursor. For a more refined experience, throw on your finer accoutrements and head to Caretta on the Gulf on the hotel’s main floor. This AAA Four-Diamond restaurant offers sweeping views of Clearwater Beach and serves everything from prime steaks to sushi.
If you prefer to feel your toes in the sand while you dine, St. Pete/Clearwater offers many picnic-friendly beaches. But before you head for the shore, make sure you’ve got some key logistics covered.
Where to Go
You can expect a breezy, romantic experience nearly anywhere you decide to spread your picnic blanket on the beaches of St. Pete/Clearwater. Most beaches offer plenty of space for you and yours to find your perfect spot in the sand. Opt for a beach with ample parking so you won’t have to lug your gear very far. Some best bets include Fort De Soto Park, Pass-a-Grille Beach, Sunset Beach in Tarpon Springs, Treasure Island, the beach on the north side of John’s Pass inlet and Sand Key Park in Clearwater Beach.
What to Bring
Make a checklist before you start packing to ensure you grab everything you need for your beachfront meal. Some must-haves are disposable utensils, plates, and napkins; hand sanitizer and trash bags. Select a cooler or basket that reflects the size of your group. Nylon cooler bags offer more flexibility and are easier to carry. Bring a beach blanket or towel that’s at least as big as a full-size sheet. Check your destination’s rules on alcohol consumption – beaches such as Treasure Island welcome you to sip a beverage at sunset, as long as it’s not packaged in glass. For the utmost picnic ease, there are both local delis and hotels that offer ready-made picnics, or you can enjoy takeout from one of the many local restaurants.
Set-up and Breakdown
The key to a pleasant beach picnic experience for you – and for those who’d like to enjoy the beach after you – is to leave the beach as beautiful and pristine as it was when you arrived.