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"
Links within article correspond to map points.
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.

Anclote Key Preserve State Park

“Best Hidden-Gem Beach” – USA TODAY (2013)

Located three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs, Anclote Key is accessible only by boat. Of course, this hidden gem is worth the trip. In all, the 403 acres make a bird-watcher’s paradise, and features a lighthouse from 1887 and epic white sand beaches.

Must do: Coordinate your trip with one of the few times the lighthouse is open so you can get a view unlike many others.

Caladesi Island State Park

“No. 11 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2014” – TripAdvisor
“No. 12 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2013” – TripAdvisor
“No. 1 Beach in America” – Dr. Beach (2008)

Sister island to Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island is routinely recognized as one of the best beaches in the country. Accessible only by boat, Caladesi, which is just off the coast of Dunedin, takes visitors to a place far from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. 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. You'll find nature in abundance on the island, which among all its other highlights is also a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Must do: Forget the ferry, get a true outdoors experience by kayaking from Honeymoon Island.

Clearwater Beach

“No. 21 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2014” – TripAdvisor
“No. 18 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2013” – TripAdvisor
“Best Beach Town in Florida for 2013” – USA TODAY
“Best Place to Watch a Sunset” – USA TODAY (2013)
“Best Beaches in the U.S.” – Peter Greenberg (2013)

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. 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.

Framed by its Beach Walk, visitors can take in long stretches of white sand beaches and a nightly celebration with the Sunsets at Pier 60 festival. It’s also home to Winter the dolphin, star of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Must do: Kick back, relax and enjoy sunset from the sand near Pier 60.

St. Pete Beach

“No. 9 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2014” – TripAdvisor
“One of America’s Top 10 Best Beach Towns for 2013” – Parents magazine
“America’s No. 1 Beach for 2012” – TripAdvisor

This postcard-perfect beach destination provides soul-soothing, sugar-white sands and welcoming blue waters, plus opportunities for as much adventure or relaxation as you desire. It has different stretches of beach for everyone--from families, to those looking to relax, to a younger set looking for vibrancy. Plus, it’s just 15 minutes from downtown St. Pete.

Interesting Tid-Bit: Don’t call it “St. Pete’s Beach.” Contrary to popular belief, it has no connection to the city of St. Pete. (Plus, it will make it obvious you’re just visiting.)

Fort De Soto Park

“Best Family Beach” – USA TODAY (2013)
“No. 4 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2013” – TripAdvisor
“No. 20 on World’s Top 25 Beaches for 2013” – TripAdvisor
“Best Family Beach” – Parents magazine (2011)
“No. 1 Beach in America – Dr. Beach (2005)

Fort De Soto Park, one of the area’s southernmost beaches, has an awards resume to match its many attractions. It's one of the few places you can enjoy a world-class white sand beach, be exposed to classic American history and get an escape from the norm.

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.

Must do
: Kayak the mangroves where you’ll often see manatees.

Pass-A-Grill

“No. 15 on America’s Top 25 Beaches for 2013” – TripAdvisor

On the far south end of the more popular St. Pete Beach lies little-known Pass-A-Grille. Charming and with an off-the-beaten-path vibe, its stretch of white sand beach is protected from construction by city ordinance.

Must do: Hit up the top floor of The Hurricane Restaurant for a cold drink and stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico.

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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