Where To Find The Best Beaches Near Tampa
The city by the bay has some of Florida’s finest sands within a stone’s throw.
Open Google maps to find Tampa and you’ll notice the city on Florida’s Gulf Coast is pretty much surrounded by water—not the ocean or Gulf of Mexico, however, but the great expanse of Tampa Bay, which anyone flying into Tampa International Airport will get views of on landing.
Still, visitors are often surprised to learn there isn’t an actual Gulf of Mexico beach in Tampa itself. For that, you’ll need to cross Tampa Bay from the city (or drive around it to the south or north) for a half-hour or longer to get to some of the best beaches near Tampa. And trust us, they’re worth coming here to explore.
This stretch of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coastline boasts beaches with a sand consistency that’s baby powder-esque. And the shallow waters tend to rustle gently ashore rather than roar, making a swim here feel akin to splashing in a swimming pool for much of the year. Follow our lead to the best beaches near Tampa for Florida fun in the sun to remember.
Regulars at this favorite Tampa-area beach just north of St. Pete Beach and roughly 26 miles from Tampa love how wide Treasure Island stretches. From the billowing dunes all the way down to the water’s edge, there’s tons of space to spread out with your beach blanket, umbrella and cooler for the day. Outside of peak season, including Spring Break and during the Sanding Ovations Master Cup sand-sculpting competition held every fall that brings talent from around the world, you can almost always go for a walk on the beach with just a few people and busy shorebirds for company.
Said to have gotten its name from an iteration of Passe aux Grilleurs–a reference to bygone French fishermen who used to grill their fresh catch ashore here at the southern tip of Long Key–Pass-a-Grille Beach has a lovely, laid-back residential appeal. Occupying the southern tip of St. Pete Beach, about 30 miles southwest of Tampa, it’s known for beautiful sunsets and a rocky jetty where you can snorkel to scout for octopus and other marine creatures hiding in the sand.
St. Pete Beach
Lined with family-style beach resorts and independent inns with retro appeal, St. Pete Beach stretches for around 35 sugar-spun miles to the southwest of Tampa along the Gulf of Mexico. When you’re not splashing in the gentle waves or strolling the sand here, head out to spot dolphins during a cruise with Sunshine Scenic Tours or rent a standup paddleboard from one of the many beachfront vendors to explore the calm waters along the beach and nearby canals on your own.
About 21 miles due west of Tampa, Clearwater Beach is a favorite among families thanks to the vibrant Key West-style sunset celebrations held at Pier 60 every afternoon and evening and the long, wide beach covered with sugar-fine sand. You can have the beach almost entirely to yourself during early morning strolls to see sunrise among the twittering sea terns and sandpipers. Come early evening, crowds gravitate down to the sand (some having never left it all day) to scout for the green flash as the sun sinks down into the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Honeymoon Island State Park
For a desert island beach experience on the Gulf Coast west of Tampa–with no high-rise developments in sight and pristine Florida beaches that look much the way they always have– it’s hard to beat Honeymoon Island State Park, about 26 miles northwest of Tampa. Beloved by birdwatchers for all the native and migratory species that land here, the beach is often patrolled by dolphins, too, completing the natural Florida experience. Spend your day swimming, shelling and fishing then cross the causeway to downtown Dunedin’s cute shops and restaurants when it’s time for off-the-sand action.
Anna Maria Island
It’s worth trekking roughly 50 miles south of Tampa to reach one of the Gulf Coast’s most quaint and picturesque seaside hamlets and beach towns on Anna Maria Island. With hardly a chain restaurant or store in sight, tons of quirky independent charm and cheerful candy-colored vacation rental homes everywhere, the whole scene oozes Old Florida appeal. Bring the kids to toss out a fishing line at the old school Rod and Reel Pier on the north end of the island or rent surrey bikes or beach cruisers from Beach Bums to pedal around the beaches and town. Sandbar, shown here, is a popular spot for beachside bites and cocktails.
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