BeachFlorida, from one beach to another

Florida, from one beach to another

Have you ever wondered which beaches are considered Florida’s best? Here we showcase some of the beaches that take the top spots on many lists and rankings. Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Treasure Island, and St. Pete Beach are spread along a 35-mile stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa Bay, making it easy to hit all of these truly spectacular beaches in one visit.

By Margarita de los Ríos

Photos: Javier Pinzón 

Bookended by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, a narrow strip of soft sand constitutes a truly spectacular string of beaches. This area, running from St. Pete (St. Petersburg) through Clearwater and Honeymoon on the Pinellas Peninsula, features beaches that have often landed at or near the top of lists of the best beaches in the United States.

The peninsula is home to some two dozen communities and a population of slightly under one million. The limpid waters are warm year-round, the sands are baby-powder soft, and the vibrant cities abound in exquisite restaurants, sports activities, and lively cultural scenes, making these beach destinations special.

This year, TripAdvisor’s ratings noted the “wide-open spaces and panoramic views of the amazing sunsets” on Treasure Island, “clear, calm waters and sea shells by the bushel” at St. Pete Beach, and the “white, sugar-fine sand” of Clearwater Beach. 

You can reach any of these beaches from Tampa, Florida. Just decide whether you prefer a bustling city, a broad white-sand beach all your own, or a combination of the two.

Clearwater Beach

Voted the number one beach in the United States by TripAdvisor in 2016, 2018, and 2019, Clearwater Beach offers the perfect blend of pristine nature, good hotels, and excellent cuisine. Clearwater seems to have been blessed with every advantage, with its crystal-clear warm waters and powdery-soft white sand. Even better, this perfection exists in the heart of a city that boasts excellent amenities and numerous museums and attractions. So much in just one place!

If you like being around people, stop on the Beach Walk and revel in beachfront restaurants like Frenchy’s and rooftop bars like Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest. Awnings and beach chairs are available for rent and there are also boats, kitesurfing, and paddleboarding. Afternoons and evenings sparkle, especially in the vicinity of pier 60, where sunsets are practically a cult phenomenon.

The city is full of luxury shops and excellent restaurants, and it also hosts the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to the famous dolphin, Winter, who inspired the “Dolphin’s Tale” movies. Even though Winter died a year ago, you can still see her influence on the conservation of animals in the wild; the Aquarium is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of imperiled marine creatures, who are treated and then released back into the ocean.

If so much bustle makes you yearn for a peaceful day on an uncongested beach, walk northward along the shore. A little over half a mile takes you to beaches that are just as beautiful but far less crowded.


This charming island could not have been better named. Honeymoon Island is a state park that offers the pleasures of nearly four miles of soft white sand beaches and gentle crystalline waters encircled by greenery, including a virgin pine forest.

Aside from stretching out on the sand to dream, Honeymoon offers visitors the chance to head out on the three miles of trails for a photo safari. The rewards might include sightings of ospreys, horned owls, tortoises, raccoons, and armadillos.

The Rotary Centennial Nature Center helps educate visitors about the park’s history and natural resources. You can rent bicycles at the South Beach pavilion, and Café Honeymoon has kayaks for expeditions to Pelican Cove, a channel of water running between the forest and a sand spit that offers an unforgettable panorama. If your tastes run to quieter days, you can rent chairs and umbrellas and simply relax on the beach in anticipation of the sunset.

Caladesi Island

Caladesi can be reached via a short walk from the beach at the far north end of Clearwater Beach or a ferry ride from Honeymoon. Caladesi sits in second place on the 2022 list of the best beaches in the U.S., which is compiled by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, the well-known director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. He is known as Dr. Beach for his annual ranking of beaches based on fifty rating criteria. This is not the first time that Caladesi Island has been high on the list; it was also in the top 10 in 2016, 2019, and 2021, and it was voted the sixth best beach in Florida in USA Today in 2015. No wonder: the beach is quiet and peaceful, the sand is soft, and the perfectly transparent water is warm year-round.

If you’d rather be completely alone, just retreat a bit farther from the port after you get off the ferry. You’ll soon find your personal paradise. Another way to enjoy the island is to kayak through the channels in the mangrove swamps, where you can spot a wide variety of birds, especially the famed blue herons. Kayaks, chairs, and umbrellas can be rented at park facilities, where bathrooms and showers are also on hand.

Treasure Island

Less wild and much more urban, Treasure Island is home to some three miles of glistening sand complemented by a full spectrum of lodging, ranging from deluxe resorts to quirky hotels and small inns.

Popular beach bars with live music give the island a party vibe. Well-known spots include Ricky T’s, Floppy Joe’s, and Ka’Tiki. On Sundays at dusk, don’t miss the drum circle accompanied by tireless dancing.

St. Pete Beach

The epitome of the region’s combination of exuberant beaches and bustling cities may well be St. Pete Beach, with its incomparable sunsets. In 2021, TripAdvisor named it the number one beach in the United States for its perfect blend of lush nature and tourist services.

Activity centers around the new St. Pete pier, with 26 acres of gardens, parks, and urban amenities to enjoy. St. Pete is home to a prosperous arts community and world-renowned museums, such as the Dalí Museum, which has the largest collection of works by the renowned surrealist outside of Spain; the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center; the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art; and the newest, the Museum of the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Other must-sees include the Sunken Gardens. More than a century old, the gardens feature some of the region’s oldest tropical plants.

The city is also known for its colorful urban murals that have attracted international attention, as does the city’s Art Walk. Held on the second Saturday of every month, the event features more than 40 studios and galleries in the center of St. Pete.

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