Close your eyes and picture where you’d like to be right now: It’s likely an open space with fresh air, sunshine, and dreamy scenery as far as you can see, with endless days of exciting activities ahead.
That’s exactly what you’ll find in St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida—an area that showcases America’s top beaches, warm crystal-clear water, gorgeous sunsets, lush parks and gardens, and even a brand-new pier. When you’re ready to travel again, this alluring vacation spot awaits. Here are five reasons to make St. Pete/Clearwater your next stop.
America’s Best Beaches
Pushing your toes into sugar-soft sand as the surf swirls around your ankles is the perfect way to begin your return to traveling. So why not start on two of America’s greatest beaches? Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach both made it into the top five in TripAdvisor’s list of best beaches in the U.S., thanks to their sparkling white sand and clear blue-green waters. Stroll them and look for wild dolphins, manatees, and colorful wading birds—and don’t miss the spectacular sunsets.
You’ll also find swoon-worthy beaches with fewer people. Explore the sands of Honeymoon Island State Park, then look into taking a kayak or ferry to Caladesi Island State Park. Here, you’ll discover spots where you’ll practically be alone, surrounded by quiet and natural beauty. Another great option for a beautiful stretch of sand: Pass-a-Grille Beach (in the tiny town of the same name), which features sea oats and sand dunes.
Add some more fun by visiting dog-friendly beaches, like those in Fort De Soto Park and Honeymoon Island State Park. If you’re visiting without Fido, Fort De Soto Park also features a great tidal pool at North Beach, as well as kayak rentals to explore inland waters.
Another standout feature of the St. Pete/Clearwater area beaches: You don’t have to go far when the sun goes down. You’ll find plenty of beachfront accommodations at affordable rates.
Discover the Green Spaces
The beaches of St. Pete/Clearwater may get all the attention, but the area’s parks also offer plenty of open space and fresh air, like along the Tampa Bay waterfront. Bring a chair or blanket, pick up some picnic snacks, and stroll to pretty spots like Coffee Pot Park, North Shore Park, and Vinoy Park.
To explore a nature treasure full of mangroves, wildlife, and waterways, head over to Weedon Island Preserve. It’s an area easily explored on foot, thanks to an elevated boardwalk, or rent a kayak and paddle the waterways. Climb the cool lookout tower and look into visiting the small cultural and natural history museum, where you’ll get a sense of the prehistoric Native Americans who once lived here.
Another stunning option is Boyd Hill Preserve, which has lovely boardwalks overlooking Lake Maggiore and trails shaded by oak and cypress trees. Look for ducks, osprey, and gallinules. Bird-lovers will also want to check out Boca Ciega Millennium Park to see its water birds, birds of prey, and songbirds. Stroll the boardwalk along sparkling Boca Ciega Bay and climb the 35-foot wooden observation tower for a panoramic bay view. Hint: The sunset here is especially beautiful!
The area’s two botanical gardens also dazzle with color and lushness. Sunken Gardens has been around for more than 100 years old and features a stunning collection of trees and exotic plant species. Or visit Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo, which offers more than 10 specialty gardens spread out over 30 acres.
Get Out on the Water
Of course, you’ll want to fully enjoy the shimmering water surrounding you; fortunately, you have plenty of watersports options. Rent pontoon boats and kayaks to explore local waterways, or rachet up the adrenaline by renting a WaveRunner for some zippy fun with the wind in your hair. Paddleboarding is another popular activity, and you’ll find plenty of places to rent one. You can even try paddleboard yoga. Want someone else to drive? Local marinas offer fishing charters and boat tours for sightseeing and dolphin watching. Whichever you choose, follow a couple tips: Go when it’s cooler (early in the morning or later in the day) and remember to wear plenty of sunscreen!
Enjoy a New Playground
The buzz you’ll hear in St. Pete/Clearwater is around the brand-new St. Pete Pier, which opened this summer and is touted as the Southeast’s largest waterfront playground. This mammoth space includes a nature center, waterfront restaurants and bars, shops and kiosks, and watersports rentals. Much of the pier complex is in the open air, including a public bayfront beach. Be one of the first to explore it!
Amazing Open-Air Restaurants and Bars
Rounding out your getaway to St. Pete/Clearwater: Lots of great bars and restaurants to enjoy…outdoors, of course! Settle into a place like Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, which opens right onto gorgeous Clearwater Beach, or Mangos Restaurant and Tiki Bar, where you can enjoy a great sunset. Even the area’s urban cafes, restaurants, and breweries often come with outdoor patios, like at the Parkshore Grill and the Annata Wine Bar. In fact, no matter where you turn in this beautiful area, you’ll find plenty of space and room to spread out.
Editor’s note: We recommend checking the hours and status of all locations before heading out for your adventure.