Clearwater Beach turtle showerThere are 35 miles of beaches in Pinellas County starting the south with Fort DeSoto state park running up through Clearwater Beach and also including Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island beaches in Dunedin and up to Fred Howard Park beach in Tarpon Springs.

Clearwater Beach, the best known and most visited, was called the #1 City Beach on the Gulf of Mexico by Dr. Beach (Dr. Stephen Leatherman, Director of the International Hurricane Centre at Florida International university) and on his site he says this about Clearwater Beach and Sand Key:

“Clearwater’s exceptionally wide beaches are a haven for sports enthusiasts; several major beach volleyball championships are held here each year. Clearwater Beach is a favorite for family vacations, and the commercial district of the beach can be explored by boarding the free Jolly Trolley. There are no sand dunes so that the view from the road causes the illusion that the Gulf at high tide is as high as the land. All I can say is better head inland for the hills (because there are none here) or one of the nearby sturdy high-rises if a hurricane is brewing.

There is a complete range of water activities, and swimming is great in the calm, clear waters of Clearwater Beach. Pier 60 is quite long in order to span the wide beach and reach deep water for fishermen, but it is also great for girl and boy watching. Clearwater offers the visitor a wide variety of accommodations from historic to modern hotels and motels as well as good but very reasonably priced restaurants. The local seafood is highly recommended, especially shrimp and stone crabs when in season. Clearwater is a beehive of activity and rated the Best City Beach in the Gulf. To the south of Clearwater Beach is Sand Key Park, a natural oasis among the skyscrapers that dominate this shoreline.”

2 other popular beaches are found in north Dunedin. Honeymoon Island State Park beach is at the end of the Dunedin Causeway and Caladesi Island State Park beach is accessed by either a ferry from Honeymoon Island or canoe or jetskis. Caladesi Island’s beach was #2 on Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Best Beaches in the United States in 2006 and 2007 and reached the #1 spot in 2008. Here’s what Dr. Beach had to say about this beach:

“Caladesi Island State Park, just to the north of Clearwater Beach, is one of the Top 10 beaches in the country. The waters are nearly placid, being protected by Honeymoon Island to the north. The white sand is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to take a dip in the sparkling clear water. Wooden boardwalks take you across the sand dunes and past the palm trees so that you can explore some of the inland trails or get a bite to eat at the snack bar on this offshore island which is only reachable by boat. Caladesi is a real getaway beach; it is the closest beach as the crow flies from Tampa, but few residents here have ever heard of it. This means that the beach is never crowded like the city beaches of Clearwater or St. Pete.

The pedestrian ferry ride to Caladesi is also great fun; no cars are allowed on the island. The shorter boat ride leaves from Honeymoon Island, but I prefer the longer trip via Clearwater because of the good chance of spotting dolphins which frequent these waters. It is illegal to feed dolphins because the food may not be part of their diet, and it is important not to train these marine mammals to become beggars who are dependent on people for food. It is wonderful to watch them frolicking in the water, sometimes even performing aerial acrobatics to the delight of the ferry passengers. Old salts often pilot these ferries, and it is great fun to hear their sea stories.”

Fort DeSoto State Park beach was voted #1 in the U.S. in 2005 by Dr. Beach and here’s what he says about this park and beach on his site:

“Just north of the entrance to Tampa Bay is Fort Desoto Park. This beach, which frequently appears in my Top 10 Best Beaches list, is set in a natural wilderness, but still close to all the amenities of nearby St. Petersburg Beach. Residents of the metropolis of Tampa and St. Petersburg often go here to escape the hustle and bustle of urban living. This Pinellas County park is spread over five islands and encompasses about 900 acres. There is a range of beaches from which to choose, but avoid inlets and channels because of the danger of strong currents and deep holes. The park is known for its birding, but it is also a great area for camping, biking, and fishing. It is fun to explore the park relics, including gun emplacements and ammunition rooms, of old Fort Desoto on Mullet Key; this fortification was declared obsolete before any shots were fired in combat. This area also affords you an awesome view of the Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay.”

Gulf Blvd is the road you take for about 20 miles that goes all the way from Clearwater Beach at the north end to St. Petersburg beach at the south end. Fort DeSoto’s beach is not part of this long strip of beaches that include (from north to south):

beachesClearwater Beach and Sand Key

Belleair Beach

Indian Rocks Beach

Indian Shores

Redington Shores

North Redington Beach

Redington Beach

Madeira Beach

Treasure Island (where you’ll find John’s Pass – another fun area to check out)

St. Pete Beach