Top Beaches of Tampa Bay Florida

Beaches in Tampa Bay
Photo by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

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Florida’s Suncoast

A visit to the west-central Florida coast is like winning the beach lottery since the area is home to many of the top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. Also known as part of the “Suncoast,” in fact the area gets its nickname from its seemingly always great weather. Furthermore, the coast runs over 180 miles along the west coast’s barrier islands, so there are many spots to choose from. White sugar sand beaches, as well as breathtaking sunsets, make the Suncoast a perfect destination for any traveler. Get ready to explore the Top Beaches of Tampa Bay Florida, from Clearwater down to Sarasota.

Getting There is Half the Fun

Getting to your Suncoast beach destinations is half the fun! Whether you choose to rent your dream convertible (see our article on Florida rental car facts) or come by bike, boat, or trolley,  you’ll love the view as you approach the beaches. Clearwater is the northernmost point of the Suncoast Beach Trolley system. The “Jolley Trolley” makes frequent stops up and down the coast to St. Pete Beach. Riders can take single rides or obtain unlimited ride passes. For information on the trolley click here. 

If you’d rather channel your inner pirate to get to and around Clearwater Beach by water, you can hop on and off the Clearwater Ferry. The service is available for one way or round-trip service from Downtown Clearwater. Get the Ferry schedule, and make your reservation here. 

Clearwater Beach

With a name like “Clearwater” you just know this has got to be one of the top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. With 35 miles of of soft, white sand, this laid back area attracts visitors year round. In the northern portion of the Suncoast, Clearwater is a the perfect spot for visitors to find something for everyone.

If you are seeking to relax, Clearwater Beach is a great haven. Its soft, white sand and calm waters are the perfect combination for refreshing yourself. There’s plenty to see as you stroll the shore, or visit the shops and restaurants along the Pier Promenade. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy Clearwater Beach’s many activities. Whether you want the thrill of parasailing, or choose to paddle yourself on the calm gulf waters, Clearwater Beach has it all.

Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60  is a bustling beachfront attraction. Weekends bring a market with street vendors selling arts, crafts, and other items. For pedestrians who want to take-in the scenery out on the pier, there is a $1 charge. You can also rent fishing gear and buy bait (there is a daily fishing fee) to try your luck above the deep Gulf water.

As the sun goes down, the excitement heats up with a daily Sunset Celebration at Pier 60. Live music fills the air and other entertainers come out to enchant visitors heading out to area’s many restaurants and bars.

To make your plans for what TripAdvisor has named  as the number one beach in the U.S. for the third time visit here.

Indian Rocks Beach

Head just six miles south of Clearwater Beach to the peaceful shores of IRB, as this top beach is known to locals.

This mostly residential Gulfside town has been called “Mayberry with sunsets” for its down-home vibe. The town’s two and a half mile of white sand beaches can be accessed by walkways. Crossing over the gently swaying dunes, gives the area a very laid-back vibe. The charming town has a few cafes, ice cream shops, bubs, a surf shop. There’s even a museum where you can take a break from the sun and learn interesting things, including how Indian Rocks Beach got its name.

There are over 25 access paths to the beach, and parking is free. However, finding a spot can sometimes be a challenge. If you’re not staying at one of the area’s many rental properties,  consider using a rental bike or the beach trolley to get to to town.

Redington Shores & Beaches

The beaches of Redington Shores, North Redington, and Redington Beach are among the most laid-back top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. This area is a perfect definition for relaxation.

Redington Shores Beach is at the north of this string of white sand gems along Gulf Boulevard. Here you’ll find grand waterfront homes, upscale restaurants, and shops. On the other hand, or in this case, on the other side of the street, there is the flawless beach. Nestled between condos and resorts at 18200 Gulf Boulevard is a beautiful 400 foot-wide public beach. This isolated paradise is accessible from the 170 space pay parking lot and has public restrooms and showers.

Head south to North Redington Beach where there are many motels and time shares to choose from. However, if you’re not staying in this area, there is a public access path to the beach at 17300 Gulf Boulevard. That said, there is no public parking.

If admiring stately homes is something you enjoy, check out the ones lining the Gulf along Redington Beach. Similarly, at North Redington, there is limited public access at 16258 Gulf Boulevard with no public allowed. Therefore, you might want to plan a long stroll, bike ride, or take the trolley system to explore this slice of paradise.

Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach has so much to offer, making it one of the most diverse top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. Archibald Beach Park anchors the north end this friendly 2 mile-long beach town. Visitors can park in the pay lot, and enjoy a day on the sugary sand and in the mellow waves. This wide beach gets busy on the weekends with visitors of all ages having fun. On the subject of fun, even though adult beverages are allowed here, the beach maintains its relaxed vibe.

It’s an easy stroll to the other end of town, and the appropriately named South Beach. This is a great spot to watch boat traffic in John’s Pass inlet, or maybe even spot some dolphin showing-off for you!

The west side of Madeira Beach is home to historic John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. Once a marina for commercial fishing boats, the Village has been transformed to include a variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. The Village is home to an annual Seafood Festival each fall.

John’s Pass is a great place to watch people and sunsets. Speaking of sunsets, John’s Pass Marina is the departure point for a number of charter and sightseeing boats. Whether you want to get in touch with your inner pirate, or explore the natural bounty of the area, adventure awaits!

To learn more about what great things await you in Madeira Beach click here.

Treasure Island Beach

After an afternoon of adventure at neighboring John’s Pass, enjoy sunset at Treasure Island. The wide, clean beaches and many lodging options make this one of the most inviting top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida.

Have fun cruising around Treasure Island on a rental bicycle, scooter, or even a surfboard! Many of the hotels and resort properties along the beach walk offer concessions. If relaxing is more your pace, likewise, you can rent a cabana or beach chair and umbrella for the day.

You won’t go hungry on Treasure Island! The town is home to dozens of restaurants, including casual concession stands to fine dining. Many eateries are walking distance from hotels and motels. In some cases, you’ll even find restaurants inside the larger resorts.

Treasure Island offers bountiful activities to choose from year-round. For example, each fall is the annual Sanding Ovations “master level” sand sculpture competition and music festival. Visitors come from around the world to watch artists build their creations.

To discover what treasure awaits you on Treasure Island click here.

Sunset Beach

At the southern end of the Treasure Island peninsula is Sunset Beach. This piece of paradise was once home to Bedrox, a popular beachfront gay bar. While the bar is long-gone, the beach remains a popular spot with LGBT folks. This stretch of sand comes alive on Sunday afternoons year-round, but even more so during the fall, or in June when St. Pete Pride is usually held.

To find your way to this hidden treasure, head south to the pay parking lot at 8000 West Gulf Boulevard (you can pay via credit card or app). From there, look left for the Sunset Beach Scenic Boardwalk. Cross over one of the wooden walkways and walk north along the shore. Eventually you’ll spot an oasis of rainbow flags, a sign of the “unofficial” gay beach in the area.

For more on preparing for your next Florida vacation read this.

St. Pete Beach & Pass-A-Grille

St. Pete Beach and Pass-A-Grille are among the most unique top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. The style and history of these landmark beaches set them apart.

The Don CeSar hotel and resort serves as an iconic symbol of St. Pete Beach. This historic property has been standing guar over the Gulf since 1928. Even if you’re not planning to stay here, dropping in to explore the grounds, or have an treat in the lobby ice cream parlor.

At the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach is historic and quaint Pass-A-Grille. This charming town is known for it’s laid back vibe. You can park your car, at a metered lot, or along the many spots along Gulf Way and explore on foot. Join in the fun, and unique activities of this small beach haven. For instance, you can learn about the history of the Gulf Beaches, or participate in the decades-old tradition of the daily sunset bell ringing

The beach here is quiet and pristine. During the week you’ll find many locals coming for a late afternoon dip. Fishermen can cast their lines from the beach’s jetties.

You won’t go hungry in Pass-A-Grille. The area’s restaurants offer a range of dining options, from casual Gulf-side eats, to more upscale experiences.

Learn more about this special piece of paradise by clicking here.

Fort DeSoto Park

With over 1,100 acres, Fort DeSoto is the largest of Pinellas County’s beaches. However, that’s not the only reason it is one of the top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. The park’s three miles of white sand beaches offer breathtaking views of the Gulf, and ships passing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

The park is located at the southwestern end of Tierra Verde, along the Pinellas Bayway, across several bridges. There is a $5. entrance fee per vehicle, that includes parking. However, there is no fee for bicyclists or pedestrians to enter the park.

In addition to the beautiful beaches, the park features several trails, historic features, and two fishing piers, each with food and bait available for purchase. Indeed, this beach has something for everyone, and their dogs!

Fort DeSoto’s Dog Beach Park offers your furry companions an chance to run and play in the surf. Additionally, there are separate fenced grass areas for large and small dogs. These are located near the pier, to the right of the parking lot at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South. There are water fountains, shaded areas, and even hoses to rinse your pet pals off after their fun in the sun.

To learn more about what you and your fur babies can expect click here.

Bradenton & Sarasota Beaches

The barrier island of Anna Maria is known for its wide, beautiful beaches, such as the one at Manatee Beach Park. The area’s rich history can be explored at the nearby City Pier, which dates back to 1911. Likewise, for those who crave more culture, and possibly a break from the sun, there are plenty of shops, galleries, and even an historical museum to explore.

Coquina Beach is a great place to spend the day. The longest stretch of beach on Anna Maria Island offers free parking, a playground for young visitors, picnic tables, and grills. Additionally, the calm water and wide beaches make for a relaxing day. If you’re eager to get some steps in, stroll or bike along the paved path, or go search for shells and sand dollars along the shore.

For all that Anna Maria Island has to offer click here.

Lido Key Beach

Visitors to Lido Key Beach have a lot explore, making this one of the top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida. For example, the south end of this public beach (400 Benjamin Franklin Drive) is where the Gulf meets the Big Pass Channel. This makes for some strong currents, and a beautiful windswept shoreline.

Lido Key Beach offers lots of amenities, including shaded pavilions, a children’s playground, and even a public swimming pool. Visitors needing a wheelchair can borrow a complimentary beach device during their visit.

LGBTQ Highlight: This quiet, secluded beach (400 Ben Franklin Drive) is popular with gay sunbathers. Sarasota Pride takes place in October and this beach becomes a popular destination.

The Beach is walking distance to the upscale St. Armand’s Circle, where there are seemingly endless posh restaurants and shops to check out.

To plan your time at Lido Beach visit, click here.

South Sarasota Barrier Islands

Siesta Key is home to three different beach experiences. Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach, and Turtle Beach each have something different to offer. It’s this diverse beauty that makes this area one of the top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida.

Siesta Beach is known for its 99% pure quartz sand that stays cool under your feet. Additionally, this shallow beach has lifeguards on duty year-round making it a safe haven of the Gulf. If you’re done relaxing, this beach has tennis courts, volleyball, and easy access to Siesta Key Village.

Crescent Beach has limited public access, and a laid-back vibe. At the beach’s southern end is Point of Rocks, which, true to its name, offers visitors access to coral formations perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving.

Turtle Beach at the south end of Siesta Key is a bustling spot. The beach itself is narrower, and the sand has more shells for collectors to search for. To get moving, visitors can play volley ball or even horseshoes. Boaters often launch from here to fish in the Blind Pass Lagoon.

Nearby there are a number of restaurants, shops, and even some local live music venues for enjoying after you watch the beautiful sunset.

To help you decide which of the Siesta Key Beaches is right for your next visit click here.

Walking on Sunshine

Whichever parts of the Suncoast you make your destination, you will feel like you are walking on sunshine. Your time among the white quartz sand and soothing Gulf waters will help you create wonderful new memories of the top beaches of Tampa Bay Florida.

For more ideas to help you plan your Suncoast adventures click here.

**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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