St. Pete/Clearwater Award Winning Beaches

Story highlights:
  • Fort De Soto Park: USA Today's "Best Family Beach 2014"
  • Anclote Key Preserve State Park: USA Today's "Best Hidden-Gem Beach 2014"
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Fort De Soto Park: USA Today's Best Family Beach 2014

It comes as no surprise that St. Petersburg and Clearwater beaches have earned accolades throughout the years. They offer sugar-soft sands, sparkling waters and activities to satisfy every type of beachgoer.

Most recently, Fort De Soto Park and Anclote Key Preserve State Park won two coveted USA Today awards - Best Family Beach 2014 and Best Hidden-Gem Beach 2014, respectively. In 2013, four of the area's beaches were named to the 2013 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards Top 25 U.S. Beaches. Led by Fort De Soto Park, which was named fourth best beach in the country and 20th among the coveted Best Beaches in the World, the list also includes Caladesi Island State Park (No. 12), Pass-a-Grille (No. 15) and Clearwater Beach (No. 18). Read on to learn more about each of these award-winning beaches.

Clearwater Beach

In addition to its TripAdvisor accolades, Clearwater Beach was also voted the “Best Beach Town in Florida” by USA Today readers in January 2013, Clearwater Beach is lauded for its gorgeous white sand and sparkling waters, not to mention beachside fun for all ages, from kid-friendly water sports and cruises to dining and dancing hot spots. It beat out nine other popular Sunshine State destinations, including Siesta Key, Sanibel Island and Miami Beach.

Clearwater Beach was also honored in Fodor's 2011 roundup of Florida's best beaches, taking the “Best for Family Fun” award for its attentive lifeguards and shallow, warm and clear waters. Pier 60 and its nightly sunset celebrations, Captain Memo's Original Pirate Cruise and a plethora of beachside activities and water sports add to the kid-friendly fun. Throw in a big playground and plenty of showers and restrooms, and it’s no wonder that Clearwater Beach is a family paradise.

In 2009, Clearwater Beach was also recognized by the Orlando Sentinel as one of the "Top Five Singles Beaches in Florida." It just goes to show that when a beach is this good, everyone likes it! Clearwater Beach’s fun vibe and energetic nightlife will have even the most reserved beachgoer making new friends. Area favorites include the Wave at Shephard's Beach Resort, a two-level nightclub; Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, a beachfront favorite with live music; and, across the parking lot, the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar, which also offers stunning beach views.

St. Pete Beach

Voted the No. 1 beach destination in the U.S. and the No. 5 in the world in 2012, St. Pete Beach was awarded the 2012 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Award based on the reviews of millions of TripAdvisor vacationers throughout the world.

This postcard-perfect beach destination, including charming Pass-a-Grille to the south, provides soul-soothing, sugar-white sands and welcoming blue waters, plus opportunities for as much adventure or relaxation as you desire. Here, you’ll discover historic neighborhoods, eclectic shopping, fantastic sunset spots and great restaurants. Plus, you can settle into accommodations that suit you – from world-renowned resorts to mom-and-pop motels to quaint bed-and-breakfasts. There’s something for everyone in St. Pete Beach.

Fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto Park, one of the area’s southernmost beaches, has an awards resume to match its many attractions. In 2014, it was named USA Today's "Best Family Beach" of the year. In 2011, the editors of Parents, the nation's top-selling parenting and family lifestyle magazine, named Fort De Soto Park America's best family beach. In both 2008 and 2009, TripAdvisor also voted Fort De Soto the No. 1 beach in North America.

Parents will especially love watching their swimmers frolic in the park’s lagoon-like Gulf waters, created by a natural sandbar just off the coast. But the fun doesn’t end there: This gorgeous, 1,100-acre beach playground is spread out over five islands, offering plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beach and explore the area’s natural wonders, but still within reach of tons of convenient amenities. Favorite park features include the leash-free dog beach, historic fort, boat launch, boat docks, two fishing piers, shaded picnic areas and miles of cycling and kayaking trails.

Anclote Key Preserve State Park

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is truly a "hidden-gem" beach: located off the coast of Tarpon Springs, it's accessible only by private boat - so if you are looking for a secluded island vacation experience, look no further. In addition to the pristine beaches and one-of-a-kind Gulf views, you'll be able to spot local wildlife like Bald Eagles and Oystercatchers. Take a day trip out to the preserve for the day to relax and recharge, or bring your binoculars and camping gear and get back to nature.

Caladesi Island State Park

Fodor's 2011 roundup of Florida's best beaches actually included two St. Pete/Clearwater gems in the top rankings. The area’s second Fodor’s 2011 honoree is Caladesi Island State Park. It was awarded the title “Best for Couples” for its crowd-free shoreline and get-away-from-it-all feeling – it’s accessible only by boat, after all.

Whether you get to Caladesi by ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park or float up on a private boat, once here, you’ll find yourself immersed in a true island paradise. Settle down in the soft, white sand and relax as the calm, azure waters tickle your feet. Wander the beach admiring the shells and sand dollars that have washed ashore. If you’re looking for a little adventure, escape to the island’s interior, where hiking and kayaking trails weave through mangrove and slash-pine forests. When you get hungry, cozy up for a meal in the Caladesi Café or claim a picnic table with a view.

Honeymoon Island State Park

In 2009, the beaches of Dunedin’s Honeymoon Island State Park were ranked in the nation’s top 10 by TripAdvisor. The park may serve as the launch site for the ferry to Caladesi Island, but this barrier island also offers plenty of its own attractions. Nature lovers will feel especially at home here among Honeymoon Island’s mangrove swamps, tidal flats and slash pine forest that draw a variety of bird species including osprey. Beachcombers will love searching for treasures along its four miles of sandy shores, which collect a variety of intriguing shells from passing Gulf currents. Even Fido will feel welcome here and can frolic at the designated dog beach, as long as he’s on a six-foot leash. The park also features a restaurant, playground and concessions offering beach equipment and kayak rentals.

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