In the Tampa Bay area in Florida, spring break seems to last for six months and the beach is inescapable, so you might as well find a nice patch of sand. Tons of people cram into Clearwater Beach, where commercialization worsens and parking is the most horrible thing ever, but there are some less crowded spots where a girl can actually relax.
St. Pete Beach
Named after Tampa’s twin city, St. Petersburg, it feels laid-back like old Florida with lots of breathing room. It’s easily accessible by car, the sand is smooth, the water’s turquoise, and you can grab a decent bite at Caddy’s. St. Pete the city is a lovely, down-tempo alternative to Tampa, so while you’re in the neighborhood, take a walk downtown or drop by the 100-year-old Sunken Gardens, especially if orchids are in season.
Caladesi Island State Park
The park requires a drive north to Honeymoon Island, then a ferry to Caladesi Island ($14 round trip). Caladesi is dripping with Spanish moss and its three-mile trail takes you through mangroves, palm trees, prickly pear cacti, sun-bleached earth, and a pristine beach. You may find yourself nearly alone there, so savor the moment if you’ve been trying to escape the rowdier spring breakers. There’s a burger shack, a small store, and restrooms on the island when you disembark.
Egmont Key State Park
This state park is another secluded beauty. Drive south to Fort De Soto Park, then catch the ferry to Egmont Key ($20 round trip). Egmont is also a National Wildlife Refuge, so look out for dolphins and gopher tortoises. The island’s lighthouse dates back to 1858 and as you explore, you’ll notice some decaying navy ruins before you arrive at one of the most serene beaches Florida has to offer. Just don’t completely lose track of time and miss the last ferry back to the mainland. There are no restrooms, concessions, or other amenities on this island, so pack a picnic, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
How would you rate these beaches if you have visited?