Best Hidden Gem Beaches
If quiet, uncrowded coastlines are what you crave, these secluded shores offer a laid-back beach escape.
If you imagine relaxing on an uncrowded shore where you might see as many seabirds as people, you’ll find the perfect spot in St. Pete/Clearwater. Nestled among well-known beaches like Clearwater Beach and Fort DeSoto Park, these uncrowded stretches of sand promise a secluded place in the sun.
Lay of the Land: Three miles off Tarpon Springs, this island is only accessible by private boat or by ferries that depart from the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. That means you’ll find miles of sandy shore that invite your footsteps (and few others’). If you go, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, as there’s nowhere to buy food on the island (no trash cans either, so be sure you leave no trace that you were there).
Why You Should Go: Spend hours bird-watching and dolphin-spotting. It’s also one of the few places in the area where you can camp right on the beach. Plus, getting here involves a boat ride – and who doesn’t love that?
Honeymoon Island State Park
Lay of the Land: Charming, small-town Dunedin is lucky enough to be home to two lovely “sister” islands, both Florida state parks. Best-known is Honeymoon Island, which is accessible by car via the Dunedin Causeway. It can be a busy place, but the crowds thin out as you walk north on the beach, and you can find a comfortably distanced spot on the sand. You’ll find food, drink and bathrooms at South Beach Pavilion Cafe.
Why You Should Go: You can catch distant vistas of bright-and-bustling Clearwater Beach from the island’s tip, while Honeymoon Island’s coastal scrub trails offer access to the natural side of Florida.
Caladesi Island State Park
Lay of the Land: Named the #2 Beach in the U.S. by Dr. Beach in 2022, this island is only accessible by private watercraft, ferry or kayak/stand-up paddleboard (which you can rent right on the Dunedin Causeway). Caladesi is even more secluded than its sister island to the north, particularly if you avoid the side of the island near the ferry dock and marina, which is where you’ll find amenities such as restrooms and a snack bar.
Why You Should Go: With more than a mile of white-sand beach lining the island’s western edge (and considering that cars can’t access it), you’re sure to find a stretch of shoreline to call your own for the day. The bird-watching is phenomenal, and you’ll feel like you’re miles away from civilization, even if Dunedin is just a hop, skip and a paddle away.
Sand Key Park
Lay of the Land: Just to the south of Clearwater Beach via Clearwater Pass, Sand Key Park is home to a wide, pristine, white-sand beach with a relaxing vibe that contrasts with its active, colorful neighbor to the north. Here, you’ll find beach cabanas for rent, bathrooms, a dog park, a playground and lifeguards (seasonally). Yet while amenities abound, the beachfront is big enough (and flies far enough under the radar) for everyone to find a quiet patch of sand.
Why You Should Go: You'll feel like you’re on island time in this peaceful park, and the opportunities to spot endangered birds nesting and other wildlife make this park a perfect escape from everyday cares. Plus, abundant amenities make this spot very family-friendly.
Lay of the Land: This 4,500-foot shoreline feels quiet and secluded – and it’s surrounded by some of the most impressive waterfront homes on the west coast of Florida. You'll find free parking in palm-dotted Morgan Park across the street from the beach.
Why You Should Go: You won’t find any crowds here, or raucous rounds of beach volleyball, for that matter – just the seabirds, dolphins playing and, perhaps off in the distance, a paddle boarder or two. Plus, no dealing with crowds when you park.
Indian Rocks Beach
Lay of the Land: Indian Rocks Beach offers a beautiful dune-lined expanse dotted with small motels, vacation cottages, rental condos and some early 20th-century shell and sand roads. As any local will tell you, it’s easy to find a generous radius of sand without a soul around it.
Why You Should Go: This cozy hamlet is a throwback to Old Florida, even with top-notch cuisine like Keegan's Seafood Grille (a Food Network "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" pick), quaint shops and an intimate beach experience.
Lay of the Land: Situated between Indian Rocks Beach and busier Madeira Beach, Redington Shores is a small resort community with rental properties and beloved seafood restaurants – but big crowds are never a thing here. It’s a beach that’s often overlooked (read: delightfully quiet), which makes it perfect for solitude-seekers. Find parking and restrooms at 18200 Gulf Blvd.
Why You Should Go: Redington Shores offers broad stretches of dune grass-framed sand, with beautiful and unencumbered views of our signature fiery St. Pete/Clearwater sunsets. The beach walks are excellent here: Not far north in neighboring Indian Shores, you’ll find Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, a refuge for injured birds and peaceful beachgoers alike.
Lay of the Land: Technically part of Treasure Island, this three-mile stretch of beach is beloved by locals. It’s narrower than the rest of T.I., but it also draws fewer crowds south of a small cluster of bars at the north end. There's on-street parking in the neighborhood that skirts the beach, but you’re probably better off using the metered parking in the two lots around the 8000 block (where you’ll also find bathrooms).
Why You Should Go: As evidenced by the friendly locals who stroll to the water in a nightly sunset ritual, this beach is famously laid-back and known for its amazing sunsets (as the name suggests). The neighborhood has a Key West-like vibe, with great spots for food and drink nearby (Caddy’s, Ka’Tiki, Sea Dog Brewing Co.) after you’ve watched the sun descend into the Gulf.
Lay of the Land: Another local favorite, Pass-A-Grille stretches south of the Don Cesar (a.k.a. the “Pink Palace”). Paid parking and beach accesses line much of the beach, and Paradise Grille, a restaurant/snack bar, sells beer and wine at 10th Avenue. Also nearby is the legendary Hurricane Seafood Restaurant and Historic 8th Avenue, where cool boutiques line the short street.
Why You Should Go: The beach never feels too crowded, but if you want more distance than you’re finding south of 10th Avenue, walk north until you find a less crowded spot (though you probably won’t need to). Bonus: There’s a fun nightly sunset celebration at Paradise Grille.
Shell Key Preserve
Lay of the Land: Shell Key Preserve, just south of Pass-A-Grille Beach, stretches long and far to give local beachgoers a truly secluded place to enjoy a day (or night) on the beach. Known for beach camping, bird watching, fishing and (you guessed it!) shell hunting, you won't find any high-rise hotels here - just a wide open beach to roam! Access to Shell Key is limited by water vessels, such as public shuttles or private boats. Note: This is an undeveloped barrier island and there are no facilities on it, so be sure to pack accordingly.
Why You Should Go: When visiting Shell Key, you’ll experience authentic coastal nature at its best. Rent a see-through kayak from Get Up and Go Kayaking or take the Hubbard’s Shell Key Ferry to help transport any camping and beach gear. Walk along countless sandbars, snorkel for seashells and watch peaceful sunsets from your beach tent, boat, or kayak.