People don’t come to Gulfport for the beach. They come for the characters, the eclectic art scene and the food. The Old Florida vibe of the restaurants and shops in this community hidden away on Boca Ciega Bay makes it worth a day trip from nearby beach towns.
Between downtown St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach, it’s a city that beats to its own drum, with a lively main street of bars, restaurants and local music, and a waterfront historic casino that still hosts weekly dance classes.
Incorporated in 1910 after a series of name changes (Disston City, Bonifacio, Veteran City), Gulfport offers an offbeat day trip or fun one-night stay for the foodie or outdoor adventurer who is cool with a “no frills” attitude.
The vibe isn’t quite as quiet as Cedar Key, and it’s not as lively as the Florida Keys, but Gulfport is as downright funky as both places.
Cruise through the brick-lined neighborhood streets and you’ll see “Keep Gulfport Weird” signs dangling from neon-colored mailboxes in front of charming Old Florida-style homes with wrap-around front porches. And watch out for the locals who cruise by on pirate-themed golf carts or motorcycles on Shore Boulevard on their way to karaoke at O’Maddy’s Pub.
- A dog friendly town.
- Home to some of the region’s best restaurants and an eclectic art scene.
- Laid back, casual lifestyle. No frills!
Boca Ciega Bay Beach
Gulfport does have a public beach area on Boca Ciega Bay, which offers impressive views of the neighboring Tierra Verde neighborhood and the historic “Pink Palace,” the Don CeSar resort on St. Pete Beach. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset.
But the beach is small and pales in comparison to its better-known neighbors, like Pass-A-Grille and St. Pete Beach. Since Gulfport’s beach is on the bay and not the Gulf of Mexico, the water can be murky and the shoreline is often stuffed with seaweed.
Gulfport’s beach has suffered in recent years because of the city of St. Petersburg’s failing sewage system. Sewage has been pumped into Boca Ciega Bay, and while the water has been deemed safe to wade in, it’s really not recommended.
The beach is just steps off Shore Boulevard, which hosts a slew of restaurants and bars. The beach area hosts several local volleyball leagues and tournaments. Local yoga classes are sometimes take place in the mornings, too.
There is a public fishing pier at the east end of the beach which is popular with the locals. Sea trout, snook, amberjack and Spanish mackerel are the local catch.
Things to Do
Clam Bayou Nature Preserve
Fun Unlimited boat rentals
Pontoon and deck boat rentals are available at the Gulfport Municipal Marina. You can reserve jet ski tours and charter boats here, too. (Mariner’s Cove Marina is primarily for locals to store their personal watercraft.)
Gulfport Casino Ballroom
This walkway allows visitors to walk more than 500 feet into Boca Ciega Bay, and is free to use. Fishing and cast-netting from the pier is encouraged with an available fish-cleaning table.
Food & Drink
O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille
Manatees on the Bay
This fun, lively tavern offers weekly bar games, like trivia, and is a hot spot for locals who play in the nearby volleyball leagues. As advertised, the rooftop bar here does indeed overlook the bay.
The Gulfport Beach Bazaar
Reef Dog Gifts & Grooming
If you’re a pet person, there are plenty of goodies here to bring home to your fur pal. There’s also a DIY dog wash on site.
Tampa International Airport (TPA) is the main airport hub for the region over the Howard Frankland Bridge in Hillsborough County. All major airline carriers fly in and out of this regional and growing hub.
St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is physically closer to Gulfport in Pinellas County, but offers a select range of flights, mostly by discount airline Allegiant Air. That said, it’s a small and quick airport to navigate.
Gulfport is easy to get to via car from all major metro areas in Tampa Bay. It’s at the southern end of Pinellas County, but is less than a 15-minute drive from downtown St. Petersburg or St. Pete Beach. It’s a 40-minute drive from Clearwater Beach.
Beach Boulevard is the main road that leads into the city off 22nd Avenue South. Most of the city’s businesses are located on Beach Boulevard, which dead-ends into the town’s historic casino. Some waterfront restaurants extend out on Shore Boulevard, too.