Top Central West Florida Beach Destinations
From undeveloped barrier islands and one the most important birding sites in the state of Florida to beaches for dogs, children and the rest of the family, the central west coast offers a wealth of beach destinations.
Caladesi Island State Park
One of the few remaining large undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Caladesi Island State Park is only accessible by boat. The island is ideal for swimming, shelling, fishing, picnics, skin and scuba diving and nature study. The park also has a three-mile nature trail winding through the island’s interior. The park is open daily from 8 am to sunset. A ferry departs hourly from nearby Honeymoon Island. Docks are available on the island for private boats. A snack bar and shelters are also available.
Clearwater Beach is the most popular of all the area’s many beaches, especially with families. Clearwater Beach offers just about every water and beach activity imaginable. Pier 60 Park on Clearwater Beach features a family recreation complex on Clearwater’s expansive beach with covered playgrounds, fishing and concessions. The Sunsets at Pier 60 festival features music, entertainment and a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunset throughout the year from two hours before sunset until two hours after.
Fort de Soto Park
Recognized as one of the best beaches for dogs, Fort De Soto Park is a canine paradise. The park consists of 900 unspoiled acres, seven miles of beaches, two fishing piers, picnic and camping areas, a small history museum and 2,000-foot barrier-free nature trail for guests with disabilities. A concession stand, bathrooms and covered picnic shelters are available. The area also has a popular biking and skating trail as well as rental facilities for canoes, kayaks and bicycles.
Fort De Soto was an historic fort built during the Spanish-American War and is located on Mullet Key, the largest of the five islands which make up this unique area just north of Egmont Key.
Fred Howard Park Beach
This beautiful 155-acre paradise in northern Pinellas County on the western edge of Tarpon Springs is a popular swimming, sunbathing and fishing destination with ample wildlife viewing of everything from dolphins and manatees to nesting ospreys and eagles.
Honeymoon Island state park features sunbathing, shelling, swimming, fishing, picnic pavilions, bathhouses and a park concession building. Honeymoon also features two bird observation areas, a pet beach, two nature trails and one of the few remaining Florida virgin slash pine stands. These large trees serve as nesting sites for osprey and bald eagle. Honeymoon Island has more than 200 species of plants and several threatened and endangered species of shore birds.
Sand Key Park
This 14-mile long key is the longest of the barrier islands and contains the beach communities of Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Beach and Sand Key. This island has received a $22 million beach nourishment adding tons of powder- white sand from the area’s shipping channel to its beaches. Fishing is popular from several public piers. Madeira Beach features John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk, a quaint shopping district which overlooks ‘fish famous’ John’s Pass. The Village is home to a large commercial and charter fishing fleet. Art galleries, restaurants and boutiques are located in the area, and the boardwalk provides a scenic water view. It is the site of several festivals and special events. On the north tip of the island, Clearwater’s Sand Key Park has been ranked among the top beaches in the nation.
Named one of the most important birding sites in the state of Florida, this undeveloped barrier island is known for excellent shelling, sunbathing and bird watching opportunities. The Shell Key Preserve was developed to protect the island as a nesting site and yet continue to allow its use as a recreational destination. Numerous boats offer sightseeing packages that take guests to Shell Key’s recreation area for sunbathing and dolphin watching near the island. The conservation of the island’s preserve resulted in Audubon of Florida, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Audubon of Florida, local Audubon chapters and Pinellas County government creating the annual Florida Birding Festival. Held in October, it is one of the largest urban bird watching festivals in the United States.
St Pete Beach
Just minutes away from major central west Florida attractions, St Pete Beach, with its many public beaches, water sport opportunities and wide variety of accommodations, is one of the area’s most popular visitor destinations. It even has its own National Historic District located at the southern tip of St. Pete Beach in Pass-a-Grille complete with an history museum celebrating the origins of the community.
Known as the “Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida,” Treasure Island is one of the widest beaches in the area and plays host to several sporting activities including an annual kite-flying contest, and a sand sculpting contest. It has held the Guinness World Record for largest sand castle.