Looking for the best beaches in Tampa?
If you’re coming down to Florida for vacation, you will probably be hitting up the beach at some point. If you come to Florida and don’t at least visit a beach, you will probably be judged by your friends back home. I know that some of my personal favorite childhood memories were days spent at the beach, as my family and I lived a block away from one. I used to love going into the ocean and no matter how hard they tried, my parents just could never get me out of it!
Tampa, Florida is especially a hot-spot, as it is on the way down to Miami, and Miami is notorious for partying on the beach. There are many other beaches in the southern area of Florida, but this article is going to mainly focus on the top 16 beaches of Tampa, Florida and what you can expect at each beach!
16 Best Beaches in Tampa to Visit
1. Ben T. Davis Beach in Tampa City, FL
The first on the list is Ben T. Davis Beach located in Tampa City, FL! To be exact, it is located just ten minutes outside of downtown Tampa.
This beach is not really a “beach” but it is great for watching the sunset on the water. It is a strip of a beach. There are plenty of restaurants nearby such as Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill, Rusty Pelican, and Big Bamboo Bayside just to name a few. Whiskey Joe’s Bar and Grill is approximately 0.1 miles away from Ben T. Davis Beach, which makes this a perfect spot to walk up to!
As you can imagine, they serve bar food there. The Rusty Pelican is a little further away, as it is 0.5 miles from the beach. They serve seafood there. Big Bamboo Bayside is about 0.3 miles away and they serve seafood as well as bar food. As for the beach itself, it is not recommended for swimming. However, they do have volleyball nets set up for use, and they also have concession stands.
2. Clearwater Beach in Clearwater, FL
Clearwater as a whole ranks #6 on TripAdvisor for Top Trending Destinations in the US for 2022. If you do happen to visit, you have to take a trip to the beach!
At night, it is exciting with Pier 60. They have street performers and craft vendors at night. If that is not for you, however, it is also exciting during the day!
You can go jet-skiing, paddle-boarding, or even parasailing! You can also see dolphins out swimming in the ocean, which is fun for the whole family to see. It’s always cool to see them jumping out, putting on a show for spectators. You can also rent out your own boat for the day so you can take your family out fishing if you would enjoy that.
Just like the last beach mentioned, there are plenty of places to go for food. If you are in the mood to eat seafood after a long day at the beach, Crabby’s Dockside is only 0.1 miles away. They also have a Hawaiian place 0.2 miles away called the Bar Tiki Clearwater Beach.
- See more: Best restaurants in Clearwater
3. Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, FL
This next one, Fred Howard Park, is located on the Gulf of Mexico. Quite a few of the next beaches in this list are also going to be part of the same county that this one is a part of and that is in Pinellas County. Visitors of this park may also see nests for ospreys and even eagles!
They have other animals such as gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, other birds, and a ton of butterflies. The park itself is free to attend to, but there is a parking fee to park near the beach and that costs about $5 daily. They do have annual beach passes available for purchase as well!
Amenities include nine picnic shelters, six restrooms, two playgrounds, and even a ball field that many visitors have played softball at. Fred Howard Park protects sea grass beds, wetlands, and other disappearing habitats. Dogs are also allowed at the park itself at the entrance of the picnic area, however, they are not allowed on the beach.
- See more: Best day trips from Tampa
- See more: Best free things to do in Tampa
4. Caladesi Island in Dunedin, FL
Caladesi Island is a State Park located in Dunedin, Florida. It is located north of Clearwater Beach, in the Gulf of Mexico, across St. Joseph Sound. Caladesi Island is accessible by private boat or by ferry. For the ferry, it costs $16 for adults and $8 for children.
If you have your own and are going by boat, it costs $6 to enter. That entrance fee covers up to eight people per boat. Interestingly enough, you can potentially spot armadillos roaming around in the wild on this island! People have also said that a great way to get to Caladesi Island is by kayak! These are available for rent at Sail Honeymoon; they offer both single and double kayaks for those interested. If you kayak over, the entrance fee is $2 a person.
You can also walk to the island, and that is about a six mile round trip hike. When you finally get to the beach, there is so much wildlife to see and so many seashells to collect! Also, since it is mostly accessed by boats (whether private or ferry) it isn’t nearly as populated as some other beaches might be!
5. Madeira Beach in Pinellas County, FL
Madeira Beach was named the ninth best beach in the US by TripAdvisor in 2021. The town itself is best described as “lively but not rowdy.” This place is home to a great spot for shore fishing which is the rocky southern point of Mad Beach.
John’s Pass will be mentioned later, but it is a fun thing to check out when you are in Madeira Beach. Madeira Beach is actually best known for the rustic boardwalk of John’s Pass. This beach town is known to attract “preppy” college students during spring breaks. The population of this city as of 2020, is a little over 4,000 people.
Madeira Beach itself is about 2.5 miles long. It is nicknamed as the “Mad Beach” by the locals. Their motto is “two miles long and a smile wide.” Fun fact: if you measure the shoreline in Madeira Beach it’s roughly double the amount of land.
6. John’s Pass in Pinellas County, FL
As previously mentioned, John’s Pass is also another popular beach in Tampa. John’s Pass is home to over 100 shops, restaurants, and places to rent jet skis and other water recreational vehicles. It is essentially a boardwalk, where you can catch a dolphin cruise, go hang out with pirates on a pirate-themed cruise and there is even a floating tiki bar available!
There is a legend around this place that a pirate named John LeVique was the one who settled the area of Madeira Beach, which is why everything is now pirate-themed at John’s Pass! There is a seafood festival held here every year since there is more grouper here than in any other area of the state of Florida. This seafood festival happens each October and can bring as many as 130,000 visitors.
The festival is a celebration of food, music, and arts and crafts. John’s Pass also has a “Shark Boat” where you are quite literally in the stomach of a shark and the boat itself is about 40 feet long. The dolphins love to play in the wakes that the boat creates!
7. Sunset Beach in Treasure Island
Sunset Beach is a residential community located at the southern tip of Treasure Island. This is all near the St. Petersburg area, over by Clearwater. There is a scenic boardwalk that is about 1.2 miles. This trail is popular for fishing and just going out for a stroll.
However, it is unfortunately not dog friendly. Dogs are allowed in the area owned by the city, which is over by the boardwalk’s entrance points. The boardwalk itself runs alongside the Sunset Beach and the Blind Pass Waterway. Sunset Beach offers a tropical party cruise with buffet and drinks which starts at $40 per adult. It is a Caribbean-themed cruise, and it goes on for at least two hours, according to the website.
It is important to note though, gratuity is not included in the price. Please make sure to leave your crew something! If you ride the cruise during the afternoon, you can potentially see dolphins! It is rumored that Sunset Beach is another beach that inspired the song “Margaritaville!”
8. Archibald Beach Park
Archibald Beach Park is a park located in one of our previously mentioned beaches. The lively but not rowdy beach town of Madeira Beach! This park runs on hours and those hours are the same everyday: they open at eight in the morning and they close at nine every night.
At this memorial beach park, they have a concession stand called the Snack Shack where visitors can purchase food and drinks for their time at the beach! They also have two volleyball courts on the sand for those who love playing volleyball. Of course there are public restrooms also available for public use and after you are finished with the beach, you can rinse off the sand at one of two outdoor shower areas.
The best part about this park is that they have beach chair rentals for those who may not have one of their own! Also, something important to note: visitors have stated online that the website claims to be dog-friendly, but once they got to the park, they were told that dogs were not allowed. This could be subject to change perhaps, so make sure to call beforehand!
9. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach is located in Pinellas County, as are quite the majority of the other beaches mentioned previously. This beach is specifically known for their water recreational activities. Water sports such as kiteboarding, windsurfing, parasailing and paddle-boarding!
This coastal city was known as St. Petersburg Beach until about 1994 when locals officially changed it to St. Pete Beach, so it did not get mixed up with the city of St. Petersburg that was a few miles down the road. St. Pete Beach’s downtown is located on Corey Avenue, and this is where all of the bars, restaurants, and retail shops are.
As of 2021, St. Pete Beach was listed as the number one beach of America and actually number five best beaches in the whole world! Another interesting fact, similarly to Madeira Beach, the city of St. Pete Beach has a greater total area of water than land. The city is about 19.9 square miles and only 2.2 of that is land while the rest of the 17.6 is water!
- See more: Best bars in Tampa
10. Sand Key Beach / Park
Sand Key Park is a park beach that has hours that are the same everyday. They are open from 7 in the morning to 8:30 at night. There is a parking fee of $5 per day per car, and you can rent beach wheelchairs for no extra cost.
They have to be requested in advance, though. Sand Key Beach is a barrier island on the Gulf Coast and it stretches from Madeira Beach through Redington Beach. A cool fact about the Sand Key Beach is that most of the seashells you will find on the shore are unbroken.
That proves to make Sand Key Beach a great place for those who are enthusiastic about their seashell collection! This beach is known as the peaceful and pristine of the area, compared to the hustle and bustle of other beaches nearby.
This place is broken up into the beach and the park; the park allows dogs as they have their own designated dog park area. The park itself has quite a few amenities such as water fountains, grills, picnic tables, and more!
11. Indian Rocks, Pinellas County
Another one located in Pinellas County, the Indian Rocks (or Indian Shores) are known to be the destination if you want a quiet vacation. The Indian Rocks borders other beach towns, which makes this a great spot to look for seashells! Also, a fun thing they have available is the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.
This is a non-profit organization dedicated to capturing and helping injured, sick, or orphaned wild birds get better. The Sanctuary itself is open from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. It does not cost anything to get in, but of course, donations are much appreciated. Another fun thing to do at the Indian Rocks is to go to the Splash Harbour Water Park which is actually part of the Holiday Inn Harbourside Hotel.
There is a water slide that is about 42 feet high, they have a lazy river which is always a good time and even a little splash park for kids. When you get hungry, both kids and adults alike will enjoy going to Jimmy Guana’s for some food, and adults can enjoy a tasty tropical beverage.
12. Pine Key Island
An interesting tidbit of information right away: Pine Key Island was once called Beer Can Island. This started off as a man-made island and it was created as a “spoil” island. The name of Beer Can Island originated because, well, you guessed it: people were partying and leaving their beer cans behind.
There were also no bathrooms on this island, which caused quite a bit of health concerns. There is even a song made by Matt Billor about Beer Can Island. Once it got purchased, the owners tried to commercialize it, and it is available to anyone, but you have to be a member.
The owners insisted, however, that membership is free. You can sign up for free membership, as they didn’t want to charge people for simply visiting the island. However, you have to pay for improvements or use of amenities. It is unclear to everyone what the current access policy is. One thing is for certain though, you can book any kind of private event, whether that be a wedding or a corporate event.
13. Redington Beach, Pinellas County
Not shocking to anyone, this next beach is also located in Pinellas County. This beach is tucked in between Madeira Beach and Indian Shores; it is a hidden gem.
Redington Beach has a boutique owned by a mother and daughter called Beachside Boutique, which is perfect if you want to go shopping! There is also a coffee shop that doubles as a gift shop called the Sweet Sage Cafe and Boutique. Gulf Boulevard is also a great place to check out, they have great dining options, no matter what time of day it is.
Redington Shores is a fantastic place to watch the beautiful sunsets! The sand here and views of the ocean are perfect for long strolls on the beach. As of 2020, it has a low population of 1,233 people, which makes it a great vacation spot for those not wanting to deal with that many people!
14. Honeymoon Island State Park
According to their website, they recently had to adjust hours from June 5, to June 23. The Dunedin Causeway paved in, so they are not allowing people to be there from 8 at night to 8 in the morning daily. They have different fees to enter, depending on what time you go.
If you are by yourself, your entry fee is $4. If you go starting one hour before the park closes, your fee is $4 per vehicle. You can actually reserve a picnic shelter at this park, but most of them are first come first served. Another fun thing to do here is go bird-watching as there are plenty to look at!
There is a dog blog that has a list of dog friendly places, and Honeymoon Island is listed as one of them. However, in the past, the Internet has had something listed as dog friendly and it in fact was not. To be on the safe side, I would call them before hauling your furry friend to Honeymoon Island State Park!
15. Fort De Soto Park
The Fort De Soto Park is open from 7 in the morning to 7 at night every day according to their website. Fort De Soto is also listed as a dog friendly beach, but it is always a good idea to call them ahead of time to verify.
The Fort De Soto Park is made up of five interconnected islands. You can go camping with your family, and there is also over three miles of white sandy beach to explore! This beach was named America’s Top Beach in 2009, by Trip Advisor.
Another interesting fact is that on average, this beach sees more than 2.7 million people per year. Amenities include but are not limited to: fifteen picnic shelters, youth groups, two fishing piers, and ferry service to different keys.
The Gulf and Bay Piers are both open from seven in the morning to sunset everyday. There is a trail about seven miles long connecting North Beach, East Beach, the boat ramp and the camping area. There are also playgrounds for the kids. One of the best beaches near Tampa.
16. Davis Island Dog Beach
This beach gets an honorable mention as it is technically a dog beach. We have been talking about beaches strictly for humans (although some of them have areas where they allow you to bring your dog), but sometimes you want to take your canine with you and have them experience the full beach! Dogs are allowed to play off of the leash here.
As of the time I am writing this article, this dog beach is currently closed, or rather it is under advisory. According to the Tampa Veterinary Hospital website, two local dog beaches (Davis Island and Picnic Island) are under advisory due to high levels of bacteria.
This bacteria could be harmful to both humans and dogs alike. However, when that is not the case, many dog owners have commented that their dogs love this beach. Even small dogs who typically get overwhelmed, especially when dealing with big dogs, have loved this beach!