Some local and regional favorites for having fun, learning a little and getting in touch with unpaved Florida.
MUSEUMS & ATTRACTIONS
The park is open daily March through October; hours vary. Single-day passes are $42 adults, $38 ages 3-9 with a $5 discount if you purchase online; children 2 and younger enter for free ($12 parking fee). Busch Gardens/Adventure Island combo tickets are available. 10001 Malcolm McKinley Drive, Tampa, 888-800-5447. adventureisland.com.
ARMED FORCES HISTORY MUSEUM
The 33,000-square-foot facility features a range of military vehicles, weapons, uniforms and other artifacts from World War I through the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun. $17.95 admission for adults, $12.95 children 4-12 (free for ages 3 and under). 2050 34th Way N, Largo. armedforcesmuseum.com.
BIG CAT RESCUE
The Bay area nonprofit organization is a retirement home for exotic cats. More than 150 felines — former circus cats, pets, fur-farm animals and other surplus felines — live out the rest of their days here. You can see anything from lions and tigers to bobcats and caracals on 90-minute guided tours that are offered at 3 p.m. Mon.-Wed. and Fri., and at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sat. and Sun. (ages 10 and up only; admission is $36 per person. The Kid’s Tour (for children 9 and younger, $19; must have a parent guardian $36) is offered 9 a.m. Sat. and Sun.; other tour options available. 12802 Easy St., Tampa, 813-920-4130. bigcatrescue.org.
BOK TOWER GARDENS
The Lake Wales National Historical Landmark has gardens that have been acclaimed as among the most beautiful in the country. Its signature feature is the 205-foor Singing Tower, the site of popular daily carillon concerts. Special events throughout the year. Open daily, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. $18 for adults, $12 for kids. 1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales. boktowergardens.org
BOYD HILL NATURE PRESERVE
Amble through a 245-acre preserve along the shores of Lake Maggiore that features group camping, picnic and playground facilities, three miles' worth of nature trails and boardwalks, and the environmental education study center and library. Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and Sun. and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat. Trail admission is $3 for ages 17 and older, $1.50 for ages 3-16. 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg, 727-893-7326. stpeteparksrec.org/boyd-hill-nature-preserve.html.
BROOKER CREEK PRESERVE
This 8,700-acre wilderness preserve is located in northeastern Pinellas and supports populations of white-tailed deer, wild turkey, otter, gopher tortoise, bobcat, and coyote. The four miles' worth of hiking trails are open from 7 a.m. to time posted daily, with guided hikes (times, dates vary). The center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs, 727-453-6800. brookercreekpreserve.org.
10165 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa (813-987-5000). This 300-acre African-themed park and zoo boasts more than 2,000 animals. Check website to see if some rides will close briefly for maintenance. Normal park hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Hours are extended during select weekend, summer and holiday periods from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. $82 for adults, $77 for children 3-9. This price is for Florida resents and buys a Fun Card, which is good for return visits through the rest of the year. $17 parking. The Busch Gardens Weekday Ticket is a savings of up to $30 and can be purchased online for U.S. residents. buschgardens.com.
CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM
The nonprofit aquarium is dedicated to public education, marine research, and the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick or injured dolphins, sea turtles and river otters. Guests can visit Winter, star of the Dolphin Tale films and the dolphin rescue. Renovations have included a 100-seat widescreen theater, windows in the dolphin pool and an expanded gift shop. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Admission is $19.95 adults, $17.95 seniors, $14.95 children and 2 and under are free. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.- Sun. 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, 727-441-1790. seewinter.com.
THE CHIHULY COLLECTION
The permanent collection displays works by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose vivid and unique creations can be seen in an awe-inspiring, 10,000-square-foot space designed by award-winning architect Albert Alfonso. 400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. 727-822-7872. moreanartscenter.org.
THE DALI MUSEUM
The bigger and better Dali is now open with an expanded installation of the museum’s permanent collection. Viewing salons offer visitors vistas of the paintings from various angles in ambient natural light. Hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat. with extended hours through 8 p.m. on Thurs.,and noon-5:30 p.m. Sun. Admission for adults is $21; $19 for seniors 65 and older, military, police and firefighters; $15 for children ages 13-18; and $7 for children 6-12; free for children 5 and younger. After 5 p.m. on Thursday, general admission is reduced to $10. Salvador Dali Museum, One Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg. 727-823-3767. thedali.org.
DAVIS ISLANDS SEAPLANE BASIN
Located at the end of Davis Islands, the park offers a small beach area, off-leash area for dogs, picnic area, canoe launch and boat ramps. It is also adjacent to the Davis Island Yacht Club and Davis Island Seaplane Basin.864 Severn Ave., Tampa, tampagov.net.
Life-size models of dinosaurs welcome families and classes to learn, have fun, or just enjoy a quiet encounter with the lifelike animals. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; during the months of November, December and January the park is open from 9 a.m. time to 5 p.m. $14.75 plus tax for adults, $11.95 plus tax for children ages 3 to 12, $12.95 plus tax for seniors over 60. Well-behaved pets on leashes permitted free of charge. 5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City, 813-717-9865, dinosaurworld.com.
DUNEDIN FINE ART CENTER
The non-profit state-of-the-art facility offers creative, entertaining, enlightening, Earth-conscious and educational experiences in the visual arts through changing exhibitions, from its annual Wearable Art Fashion Show to lectures, studio classes and workshops. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin. dfac.org.
THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM
This impressive, aesthetically soothing downtown Tampa attraction focuses on Florida marine life and habitats. Admission is $23.95 for adults, $20.95 for seniors and $18.95 for children 12 and under. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.laquarium.org.
FLORIDA BOTANICAL GARDENS
See what’s in bloom at this cute, 182-acre park, which is filled with native Florida plants and exotic tropicals displayed in both natural and formal gardens. Open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, 727-582-2100. Free admission (donations welcome). flbg.org.
FLORIDA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTS
In addition to exhibiting important works, the museum displays photography central to contemporary life and culture. FMoPA collects, preserves and exhibits historic and contemporary works by nationally and internationally known photographic artists, and enriches the community by operating outreach programs to educate children and adults. Hours: Tue.–Thu. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Free for members, $10 adults and $8 for students and military.
GLAZER CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The kid-fun facility boats a 53,000-square-foot, candy-colored wonderland for kids 10 and under. The 170 interactive exhibits in the ergonomic, safety-minded facility runs the gamut from high-tech stimulation to simple pretend-play settings that engage the imagination. Glazer Children’s Museum, 110 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. glazermuseum.org.
GREAT EXPLORATIONS CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Bring your kids to a fun and educational facility that allows children to play and learn in an interactive environment. There are arts and science sections, a Critter Cave, tons of sensory activities and a fire engine station packed with fire safety tips. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sun. noon-4:30 p.m. 1925 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg. $10 for adults and children, $9 for 55 and older.727-821-8992. greatexplorations.orgHERITAGE VILLAGE
The 21-acre, open-air park features 23 historical structures reflecting turn-of-the-century lifestyles of Pinellas pioneers. An archive library contains more than 2,000 volumes, along with photos, maps and other materials. Docents in period costumes also offer tours and demonstrate embroidery, basket making, quilting, weaving and more. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 1-4 p.m. Sun. Admission is free (donations accepted). 11909 125th St. N., Largo. 727-582-2123. pinellascounty.org/heritage.
HOMOSASSA SPRINGS STATE WILDLIFE PARK
See West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park’s underwater observatory in the main spring. The park showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles and river otters. Transportation from the visitor center on U.S. 19 to the West Entrance is available by tram or boat. The park has two concessionaire-operated gift shops and a café with a selection of beverages and snacks. Plan 3 1/2 to 4 hours to tour the park. 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa. 352-628-5343. floridastateparks.org.
JOHN’S PASS VILLAGE & BOARDWALK
Tampa Bay’s Key West-wannabe tourist haven is a turn-of-the-century shanty-style village with 100-plus souvenir shops, restaurants and tons of artificial, Old Florida goodness. Out on the dock, check out dockside dining options, the local fishing fleet, dolphin watching, shelling tours, boat rentals, parasailing and jet skiing. Recommended are Kohr Frozen Custard Family Ice Cream and DeLosa’s Pizzeria’s pies by the slice. 150 Johns Pass Boardwalk W, Madeira Beach. johnspass.com.
LEEPA-RATTNER MUSEUM OF ART
LRMA’s building, designed by Tarpon Springs Architect Ed Hoffman, has been nominated as one of the Top 100 Buildings in the Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places competition held by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Florida. The museum on the Tarpon Springs Campus of St. Petersburg College offers a 20th century collection made up of art from Abraham Rattner’s estate donated by Allen and Isabelle Leepa, and a large donation made by the Tampa Museum of Art in 1997 — much of it Rattner’s lithographs, tapestries, sculptures, paintings and stained glass. Hours: Tue.-Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thu. 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m. $5-$6. 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs. spcollege.edu/central/museum.
The largest of its kind in the world, the 150-acre interactive theme park has more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, restaurants, shopping, a breathtaking botanical garden and a water park — all geared to families with children ages 2 to 12. Now open, The Lego World of Chima, presented by Cartoon Network, features an interactive water ride, The Quest for Chi, a super-charged Speedorz Arena, Cragger’s Swamp water play area, a 4D movie experience and character meet-and-greet sessions. Tickets range from $62 to $92. Discounts available if you order online. 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven. florida.legoland.com.
LOWRY PARK ZOO
Recognized today as one of the top three mid-size zoos in the country, Lowry Park Zoo currently features 41 acres of lush, natural habitats. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $24.95 for adults, $22.95 seniors, $19.95 ages 3-11; free to children 2 and younger, not including the price of rides. 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa, 813-935-8552, lowryparkzoo.com.
MOREAN ARTS CENTER
With roots dating back to 1917 as the Art Club of St. Petersburg, the center focuses on an innovative, community-oriented approach to art and art education. Its exhibitions have included contemporary art created by local, regional and national artists to the community in virtually all media — prominent artists such as Jasper Johns, Duncan McClellan, Allison Massari, Peter Max and Jun Kaneko. 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-822-7872. moreanartscenter.org.
MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
See a renowned permanent collection with impressionist masters like Monet and Renoir, 19th-century European and early 20th-century American paintings, in addition to traveling exhibits, unique events, ancient artifacts, a sculpture garden, glass gallery and one of Florida’s most respected photography collections. $15-$17. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (with reduced admission after 5 p.m.) and Sun. noon-5 p.m. 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, 727-896-2667.
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY
MOSI, a not-for-profit educational institution, is the largest science center in the Southeast. Museum highlights include two replica diplodocus dinosaur skeletons; the IMAX Dome Theatre and its 82-foot hemispherical movie screen; BioWorks Butterfly Garden, an engineered ecosystem that emulates natural wetlands; the Back Woods, 40 acres of special water conservation elements and outdoor exhibits. Museum hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. General admission: $Adults $21.95, senior $19.95, children $17.95. Parking $5. 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-987-6000. mosi.org.
The 1,080-foot fishing pier/recreational park encompasses a bait house, telescopes and six covered pavilions. Parents and kids enjoy the well-equipped playground, one of largest beach playgrounds on the Gulf, which provides hours of fun for the little ones. “Sunsets at Pier 60,” a Clearwater Beach tradition, offers a variety of crafts and entertainment from 6-9 p.m. each night. The view of the sunset makes for a perfect way to celebrate the end of the day. The park also features restrooms and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days of the year. 10 Pier Drive, Westernmost point of State Road 60, Clearwater Beach, 727-461-7732, myclearwater.com.
Converted from an unused railroad corridor, this 34-mile paved trail is a favorite among hikers, bikers, skaters and more. The trail starts in South St. Petersburg and winds northward through Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs. Open 7 a.m.- dusk. 727-549-6099.
PIONEER FLORIDA MUSEUM
Life doesn’t seem so hard after visiting this museum, which depicts how the pioneering folk of Florida’s past lived. On display are tools of the cracker era, a turn-of-the-century Porter Steam Engine, a two-story farmhouse from the 1860s and an 1878 Methodist church. Hours are 1-5 p.m. Tues.-Sun. Admission: $8 general admission; seniors, $6; children $4, and children under 5 are admitted for free. 15602 Pioneer Museum Road, Dade City. dadecity.com/museum.
THE HENRY B. PLANT MUSEUM
A national historic landmark, the museum’s housed in what was once the luxurious Tampa Bay Hotel. Exhibits include original artworks from private collections, period sporting goods, clothes and décor, as well as a permanent Spanish-American War exhibit and mementos from Teddy Roosevelt’s frequent visits. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun. $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students and $5 for children. University of Tampa, 401 Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. 813-254-1891. plantmuseum.com.
SAFETY HARBOR MUSEUM AND CULTURE CENTER
The museum’s exhibits show the history of Safety Harbor and the surrounding Tampa Bay area from prehistoric to modern times. Descriptive dioramas and displays of fossils, projectile points, shell tools, beads and pottery tell the story of Florida’s first people and the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues..-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. Closed Sun. and Mon. Free. 329 Bayshore Blvd. S, 727-726-1668. safetyharborculture.org.
ST. PETERSBURG MUSEUM OF HISTORY
See hundreds of historic photos and artifacts including a cannon ball fired by Union sailors, a Megalethoscope (a predecessor of modern motion picture projectors), and replicas of the early Williams Park band shell bonnet and a parlor car from the Orange Belt Railway. The museum’s signature exhibit traces the story of local commercial aviation from its inception a century agoon Jan. 1, 1914. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; noon-5 p.m. Sun. $15 adults, $12 seniors and students, $9 ages 7-17; ages 8 and younger enter for free. $28 family four-pack. 335 Second Ave. N.E. 727-894-1052. spmoh.org.
Paths meander through this four-acre, 100-year-old garden, which drops 15 feet below street level and combines lush tropical areas with flowing ponds and waterfalls. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-4:30 p.m. Sun. Admission is $8 adults, $6 seniors, and $4 ages 2-11 (free for members and children under 2). 1825 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg. 727-551-3102. stpete.org/sunken.
TAMPA MUSEUM OF ART
A sleek visual landmark at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa, the museum distinguishes itself with an exterior illuminated with programmable LED lights, 45 feet high and 300 feet long, embedded within two-layers of perforated aluminum panels, designed by Leo Villareal. The 66,000 sq. ft. facility shows world-class touring exhibitions in addition to bettering the community with educational programs and access to scenic outdoor events along Tampa’s Riverwalk. 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. Open Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-5 p.m. tampamuseum.org.
TAMPA BAY HISTORY CENTER
The state-of-the art interactive museum displays photos, artifacts and other items from the past, and offers programming on the west central Florida’s indigenous and cultural origins, ecology, immigration and settlement, the role of cigar manufacturing in Tampa and other industrial milestones, urbanization, sports, war and even a juicy mobster or pirate tale here and there. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $10.95 and $7.95. 801 Old Water St., Tampa. tampabayhistorycenter.org.
USF CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
One of the area’s most reputable sources for vanguard art from around the world, and it’s free, too. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 1-4 p.m. Sat.; call for directions. Closed on some holidays; call to check. 3821 USF Holley Drive, Tampa, 813-974-4133, ira.usf.edu.
WEEDON ISLAND PRESERVE
A half-dozen surrounding islands complement this 3,190-acre shore preserve. Mangroves, birds and abundant sea life make Weedon most popular with nature watchers, though visitors also enjoy fishing from the preserve’s pier, or attending any of the various programs offered by the educational center, such as photography hike and bird-watching walks. Open 7 a.m.-posted time. Free admission, donations are welcome. 1500 Weedon Drive, St. Petersburg. 727-453-6500. weedonislandpreserve.org.
WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS
This attraction includes the world-famous Mermaid Shows, riverboat rides, animal shows, scuba diving opportunities, and Buccaneer Bay, a spring-fed water park, beaches, flume rides and more. Buccaneer Bay’s slides, lazy river, and kiddie pool. Park is open daily, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Admission is $13 adults, $8 children 6-12 (ages 5 and younger enter free). 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. 352-529-5656. weekiwachee.com.
See ponds are that are real, and alligators that aren’t animatronic. The nature preserve and airboat road ride attraction offers kayak tours, a full-service restaurant, animal exhibits and lush nature trails. Airboat rides are $25-$45 for adults and $22-$35 for kids. Wildlife Park admission is $18 for adults, $15 for kids. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 3301 Lake Cypress Road, Kenansville, Fla., 407-957-3135. wildfloridairboats.com.
YBOR CITY MUSEUM & STATE PARK
Permanent exhibits include old photographs of Ybor City and its early inhabitants, the cigar factory workers. Current exhibits include The Jewish Roots of Ybor and Beisbol: For the Love of the Game. Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; admission is $4. 1818 E. Ninth Ave., Ybor City. 813-247-6323. ybormuseum.org.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND
There are three major public beaches on Anna Maria: Coquina, Manatee and Bayfront Park. 40 miles south of Tampa, seven miles west of Bradenton. annamariaislandchamber.org.
The area boasts 2 miles of sand with several beach access areas, a boat ramp and a municipal marina. Causeway and Gulf Boulevards, between Clearwater and Indian Rocks beaches. 727-595-4646. cityofbelleairbeach.com.
BEN T. DAVIS BEACH
This narrow beach is ideal for those who like to keep their car nearby (or for those who like to tan on the hood), and don’t mind noisy, traffic on the nearby causeway. Parking isn’t usually a problem, and dogs are allowed. Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa. 813-758-8286. tampagov.net.
BEER CAN BEACH
Really no more than a tiny cove, the oasis is especially popular with dog owners. It’s not gorgeous, but the easy-to-access area offers breathtaking views of the sunset. There are no restrooms, parking is limited, but it’s hardly ever crowded. Davis Islands Seaplane Basin (Severn and Martinique avenues). tampagov.net.
The pristine barrier island is continuously voted No. 1 Beach in the U.S. by various tourism publications, and it’s accessible only by boat. Beginning at 10 a.m., an hourly, 70-passenger ferry ride makes the trip to Caladesi Island in 20 minutes (no roads or bridges link it to the mainland). The roundtrip ride is $14 for adults and $7 for children (free for kids under 5); boaters pay a $6 docking fee per day per boat of up to eight people, $2 per additional person, and $24 per slip per night. Ferry boats from Honeymoon Island State Park, One Causeway Blvd., Dunedin. 727-469-5918. floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland.
This beach has two sections — the northern part at Palm Pavilion and the main beach at the Holiday Inn/Surfside. This is the hot spot for Spring Break crowds and other hormone-fixated types; families like it for the shallow water and gentle surf. Take State Road 60 west until it ends. clearwaterbeach.com
Accessible by boat only, this small wildlife refuge is located between Anna Maria Island and St. Pete Beach. Part of the island’s north and south ends are closed to the public, but the open areas feature secluded, pristine beaches good for swimming, fishing and picnicking. Egmont also boasts a working lighthouse originally constructed in 1858, as well as the ruins of Fort Dade. 4905 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. floridastateparks.org
FORT DE SOTO BEACH
Serene, raw and rarely crowded (just on holidays), Fort De Soto’s five interconnected islands offer forested areas with picnic tables. The 1,136-acre park has a 238-site family campground (costs range per site provided: $33.60 to $41.44) two piers, floating docks for boat access, canoe and kayak rentals, a 6.8-mile recreational trail and pavilions with grills. Grill reservations are available. Entry fee is $5 per car, plus a toll before you reach the gate. 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. pinellascounty.org
HONEYMOON ISLAND STATE PARK
One of the few northern barrier islands accessible by car in Pinellas, Honeymoon Island features a popular beach and nature trail, plus facilities for fishing and picnicking. Open 8 a.m.-sunset. Admission is $8 per carload of two to eight people, $4 for single occupant vehicles and $4 per vehicle an hour before sunset. Pedestrian admission is $2 per person. 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin. 727-469-5942.floridastateparks.org.
FRED H. HOWARD PARK
Many don’t know about this quasi-hidden jewel named in honor of a former mayor of Tarpon Springs. Its swath of 155 acres comprises picknicking areas and a mile-long causeway to a white sandy beach and swim area. Amenities include nine picnic shelters, playgrounds, a walking path to six restrooms, a ball field, lifeguard on duty 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from March to September, a wind surfing area, launching area for canoeing and kayaking, fishing and beach showers. $5 parking fee. 1700 Sunset Drive, Tarpon Springs. pinellascounty.org/park/06_howard.htm.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH
The 2.7 miles’ worth of beach has numerous access points, the most popular (1700 Gulf Blvd.) featuring restrooms and plenty of nearby shopping and dining. Parking (50 cents per hour) is often at a premium. On Gulf Boulevard, between First and 28th avenues. indian-rocks-beach.com.
Tourists and locals alike love this large expanse of sugary-sand beach. A rock cooking grill and a few picnic tables are available, and coolers are welcome (no bottles). Gulf Boulevard between 128th and 154th avenues, between Clearwater and St. Pete beaches. 727-391-9951. madeirabeachfl.gov
NORTH REDINGTON BEACH
Quiet and secluded, this beach is great for reading a book without interruption or gettin’ it on with your honey. The beach has six public accesses along Gulf Boulevard. On Gulf Boulevard between 164th and 174th avenues in the town of Redington Beach, Pinellas County. 727-391-4848.
An idyllic old Florida charmer, swept by pristine sea oats, is one of the nicest beaches in the Bay area, and it’s directly across from the popular Hurricane Restaurant. Restrooms with showers and concessions are available, including a snack bar with great grouper sandwiches. Metered parking is $1.25 per hour, $5 for the day and is enforced from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Gulf Way, between First and 22nd avenues in southern St. Pete Beach. On Gulf Way, between First and 22nd avenues, in southern St. Pete Beach. pass-a-grillebeach.com.
PICNIC ISLAND BEACH
Despite its location in an industrial area near MacDill Air Force Base, this 7.8 acre beach is quite peaceful. The small stretch of sand is seldom busy and offers a great view of the Bay. There’s a small fishing pier (not that you’d want to eat anything you caught), grills and shelters. 7409 Picnic Island Blvd., Port of Tampa. 813-274-8615. tampagov.net.
Quiet, pristine beaches can be accessed at the County Park, 18220 Gulf Blvd. Parking is free. Gulf Boulevard between 174th and 183rd avenues. 727-397-5538. townofredingtonshores.com
SAND KEY PARK
The 95-acre beachfront park is overwhelmingly popular during the sunny, temperate seasons and offers a stunning view of the sun setting across the Gulf of Mexico. Open 7 a.m.-dark, with lifeguards on duty every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Automated pay stations for parking, with $5 daily parking. No parking fee for those with disabled permits or tags. 1060 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater. 727-588-4852. pinellascounty.org
Located between Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach, Sunset Beach runs along a small road that continues after Gulf Boulevard turns toward St. Pete Beach. Parrothead alert: According to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, “it is rumored to be (yet another!) beach that inspired the hit song ‘Margaritaville.’” 9000 W. Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. mytreasureisland.org
ST. PETE BEACH
The 1.5-mile-long beach located just north of the Don CeSar is conveniently situated near a variety of popular beach bars and an array of authentic, ktichschy and haute-cuisine international restaurants. A favorite spot with the locals. Parking meters cost $1.25 per hour or $5 for the day. 4700 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 727-367-2735. stpetebeach.org
ST. PETERSBURG MUNICIPAL BEACH
The public beach is one of the widest in Florida, stretching a quarter mile from the water to Gulf Boulevard. The 500-foot beach has five volleyball courts, a small playground, concessions, showers, picnic tables, grills and restrooms. 11260 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. 727-360-3278.
TREASURE ISLAND BEACH
Treasure Island’s beach is wide and busy. A nearby selection of restaurants and stores makes it feels like a little piece of the Jersey shore right here in Florida. A paved trail makes bike riding and traversing to different hotels and bars a lot easier. Access at 10400 Gulf Blvd. 727-549-6165. mytreasureisland.org.
UPHAM BEACH AND HONOR WALK
With the closest public beach access to Pasadena Avenue and Corey Avenue, Upham is a nice escape from the congestion of St. Pete Beach. The recently renourished beach has four wooden dune walkovers that originate from a pay and park lot and an art deco facade and Seaside Grille for after-beach munchies. A wide, white sandy beach awaits. 6700 Beach Plaza, off Gulf Boulevard at 68th Avenue (Corey Causeway is at 74th Avenue). Metered parking is $1.25 per hour or $5 per day. Enforced from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Amy Daire and Mario Baez contributed to this report.