St. Pete Beach, which is close to St. Petersburg and has excellent sand, has both bustling and secluded sections to accommodate all types of beachgoers. St. Pete Beach is popular with both locals and tourists, with wide, sandy beaches and a plethora of amenities, lodging, and attractions — if not enough parking to accommodate everyone.
Though it’s all called St. Pete Beach, distinct offshoots called Upham Beach and Pass-a-Grille also fall under this beach’s umbrella.
The town of St. Pete Beach occupies all of the 6½-mile barrier island called Long Key on early navigation maps, and once was four separate areas: Belle Vista Beach, St. Petersburg Beach, Don CeSar Place and Pass-a-Grille Beach. These communities merged in 1957 to become the city of St. Petersburg Beach.
The town voted in 1994 to change its name to St. Pete Beach, in order to better distinguish itself as a separate municipality from nearby St. Petersburg. The city is sure to point out many people also erroneously refer to it as “St. Pete’s Beach.”
These days the island is broken up into Upham, St. Pete and Pass-a-Grille beaches, the latter retaining its historic name and taking up the entire end of the key south of the landmark Don CeSar resort. (We created an entirely separate profile about Pass-a-Grille here.)
Much of the town south of the Corey Avenue shopping district features condos and hotels beachside and businesses and smaller homes to the east of the main drag. The far northern end of the island, facing Treasure Island across Blind Pass, has no beachfront.
There’s no shortage of places to eat or shop, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a truly poor section of sand to stretch out on. As noted, the biggest complaint most people have when coming here is the traffic and lack of parking, but that only proves it’s a destination worth visiting.
This area was called Long Key for a reason, with 6½ miles of barrier island that’s now entirely developed. Close to ¾ of the island has a beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico, so there is ample beach access. There are 10 public beach walkways spread across the available metered parking areas.
You’re going to see a little bit of every kind of beachgoer here: Tourists, families, couples, high school kids, retirees, you name it. St. Pete Beach’s proximity to St. Petersburg has long made it a destination for people looking for a little R&R.;
This is some high-quality sand, too, soft and white. It’s wide enough to provide room for sunbathers and the odd volleyball game, and the sunsets are hard to beat. Any nifty shells get picked up pretty quickly, but the water is pretty consistently blue and clear on sunny days.
On summer weekends and holidays the entire strip can be packed cheek-to-jowl with blankets, umbrellas and cabanas full of visitors.
The beach stretches from roughly 70th Avenue to the southern end of the key, and is split into three sections: Upham Beach, St. Pete Beach and Pass-a-Grille Beach. There is no beach north of 70th Avenue because St. Pete Beach’s island overlaps with Treasure Island, separated by Blind Pass.
The city decided in 2017 to allow hotel guests to consume alcohol on the beach, but only at licensed resorts. Residents and visitors who are not registered hotel guests are NOT allowed to drink alcohol on the beach. All of Pass-a-Grille is off limits, too, except for drinks sold at the city’s concession stand. Check with your resort before marching off with that Mai-Tai.
Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach. There is a strip of sand channel-side in Pass-a-Grille that is called a dog beach, south of 3rd Avenue.
St. Pete Beach
The main beach proper takes up the center of the island, and is covered with resorts that stand shoulder to shoulder along Gulf Boulevard. When there isn’t a resort, there’s a restaurant. Where there’s no restaurant, there’s a tchotchke shop. You get the idea.
The main drag runs from roughly the Postcard Inn just south of 64th Avenue all the way down to the Don CeSar, which signals you’re entering Pass-a-Grille.
You’ll often see resort guests plodding along on the sidewalk right next to Gulf Boulevard. Be careful if you’re driving, or if you’re one of the plodders, because people have a tendency to end up in the street if they aren’t careful.
(Also, don’t bother to look for street parking on Gulf Boulevard, which is mostly four lanes, all of which seem to get narrower the longer you’re stuck in traffic.)
There’s lots to do at these resorts, mind you, from swimming in saltwater tanks to riding giant inflatables. If you park at the main lot in the center of it all, you’ll be surrounded by hundreds (if not thousands) of your newest and best friends.
Located on the northern tip of St. Pete Beach, Upham is easily overlooked because it’s not on the main drag of Gulf Boulevard, so it’s popular with the locals who don’t want to fight for parking and like to be close to the Corey Avenue shops.
It is one of the few surfing spots in the area, though the waves are mild compared to the east coast of Florida. This beach may be easier to get to, but there’s a catch. Because Upham has such a severe erosion problems, there are huge rock jetties and ugly artificial berms called geotubes to retain that precious sand put there in the last multi-million dollar beach renourishment. They are unsightly and make a walk on the beach a little tricky, but they have held in the sand.
You still can sink your toes into the sand, and this is a great place to spot some dolphins at sunset. There are restrooms, outdoor showers and three beach volleyball nets set up on the beach.
There’s a concession stand that offers a great breakfast, open 8 a.m. to sunset, though it will often close earlier during the week if business is slow. It also offers beer and wine, one of the few places you can have a drink right on the beach.
Pretty close to the center of Treasure Island, the City of St. Petersburg owns and maintains a portion of the beach. You can enter it at 11260 Gulf Blvd., where there’s a parking lot and a snack bar.
As you walk through the retro snack bar, you’ll find they sell all your beach needs right there, including towels, floats, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. In addition to the usual fare, the snack bar also offers sangria and mimosas. There’s a playground there for kids to enjoy, and volleyball nets are available.
The expanse of beach here is the widest of the island.
Before 1957, Pass-a-Grille was its own community, and has retained that name even as a neighborhood of St. Pete Beach. It’s name is said to have come from the Cuban fishermen who were known to grill their fish on the beach there, earning the nickname from boaters as they passed the grillers. It was recognized as a national historic district in 1989.
Pass–a–Grille has a unique vibe that’s quite distinct from the rest of St. Pete Beach. You can feel it once you get south of the Don CeSar — the scale is much smaller and the pace is much slower.
Because of the dramatic difference, and Pass–a–Grille’s reputation as being divergent from the rest of St. Pete Beach, we’ve created a separate entry for Pass–A–Grille and its attractions here.
This large resort brings out the big guns for family entertainment, from a huge pool to beach volleyball. Some rooms also feature kitchenettes for when you can’t handle one more shrimp basket.
POSTCARD INN ON THE BEACH
This mod revival motel has embraced its kitchy roots to become charming by keeping its Mad Men-era look with recent renovations. There’s a pool and restaurant on site, and a beach bar in the back.
BEACHCOMBER BEACH RESORT & HOTEL
For a party scene, this hotel is home to Jimmy B’s Beach Bar, with nightly live music and a sprawling deck overlooking the beach.
THE DON CESAR
Built in 1928, the historic pink palace has hosted presidents and celebrities. Even if you don’t stay there, you can book a massage in the spa or enjoy a luxe dinner or some jazz on the rooftop lounge.
Food & Drink
CHILL RESTAURANT AND BAR
Locals head to this Corey Avenue staple for the Sunday brunch, which is more often than not accompanied by live jazz to set a nice ambience. With an unlimited mimosa or endless Bloody Mary bar option, the buffet has a carving station, chilled shrimp and a number of vegetarian options.
Mastry’s Brewing Co.
This is a recent entry into the craft beer scene is located in an old auto mechanic’s garage at 7701 Blind Pass Road. With selections like a chocolate coffee porter and their wildly popular, gold–medal winning Hefeweizen, locals and visitors who consider themselves beer snobs find lots to come back for. The space is like a big front porch with board games and corn hole and chess in a dog–friendly patio.
BEVERLY’S LA CROISETTE
Another local favorite for breakfast or lunch, with pancakes, omelletes and solid burgers as staples in a cozy diner.
SANDRA’S GERMAN RESTAURANT
A cult–like following of German–food fans flock here regularly. Save room for homemade apple strudel.
LARRY’S OLD FASHIONED ICE CREAM PARLOR
A hot day at the beach often ends at this family-owned and operated fixture, which has been open since 1984. With the smell of freshly-made waffle cones and mini doughnuts, you have literally 100 different choices in ice cream, yogurt and gelato.
LA CASA DEL PANE
An authentic Italian bakery that has pastries and fresh bread baked daily, plus classic Italian-style pizzas, salads, pastries and the best coffee on St. Pete Beach. Try the sfogliatelle: Invented in a monastery in Salerno in the 1600s, it is a pastry that resembles stacked crisp leaves, filled with an orange-flavored ricotta.
That’s waterfront, not beachfront, as this eatery is north of Upham Beach. Its location directly on the sea wall gives the joint a great view of the water. Take note: This one serves typical casual fare, but takes cash only.
BOULEVARD BURGERS AND TAPHOUSE
doesn’t brew it’s own, it carries at least eight locally brewed and seasonal draft selections at all times.
JIMMY B’S BEACH BAR
The anchor of the long strip of beach bars known as the “Miracle Mile,” Jimmy B’s has three separate bar areas and indoor–outdoor seating, a band area with dance floor where you can dance to classic hits like it’s 1989. You can find beachy drinks with lurid names like the Wet Spot, offered in a 36–ounce size.
Tampa Bay is served by two airports. Tampa International Airport (TPA) St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) in Pinellas County. Multiple carriers service TPA, while most flights to and from PIE are run by Allegiant. There are many ground transportation options at both airports.
A rental car would be useful if you’re looking to explore, but you could easily spend your entire trip on or near St. Pete Beach, especially if you’re staying at a resort. Ride-sharing services are very useful here, but wait times can be long if there are no drivers nearby, or it’s exceptionally busy.
You can reach the island via three bridges — one from Treasure Island, one from South Pasadena called the Corey Causeway, and one from far southern St. Petersburg, a toll road called the Pinellas Bayway that’s accessible from Interstate 275. Those last two are drawbridges, which can lead to backups when someone wants to take their sailboat out for the day.
State Road 699 is the major thoroughfare for most of the island: Blind Pass Road is the main drag on the north end of the island, then kinks around Corey Avenue near the city hall building to Gulf Boulevard, which is the major artery in the south.
There are enough public transportation options to get to other attractions relatively easily, especially compared to some of the barrier Island communities more isolated from the mainland. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority offers three routes on the island along the main traffic arteries.
The Suncoast Beach Trolley runs north from Corey Avenue all the way to downtown Clearwater. A schedule and details are here.
The Central Avenue Trolley picks up the slack to the south, running a loop from Pass-A-Grille north to Corey Avenue, then across the Intracoastal Waterway to downtown St. Petersburg on the other side of the county. More information is here.
Another option is to call freebeachride.com, which runs as far north as Clearwater Beach. When they say free they mean it; just tip the driver upon arrival at your destination.
Finally, the Route 90 PSTA bus runs a loop from Corey Avenue to the Pinellas Bayway, then through southern and western St. Petersburg. Learn more here.