​​​​​​​Toes in the Sand of St. Pete Beach, FL

St. Pete Beach is an under-the-radar destination for winter fun on the water.
Sara Hafften

Located just outside of St. Petersburg, Florida, the city of St. Pete Beach is a low-key haven with a friendly, small-town feel. There's plenty to see and do on the seven-mile barrier island for the aspiring beach bum, adventurer and everyone in between. Home to TripAdvisor’s 2021 #1 Beach in the U.S. (and #5 in the world), a ribbon of sugary white sand connects an amazing selection of locally owned seaside eats and treats, award-winning accommodations and aquatic activities for the whole family.

Lifeguard Tower on a Beach in St Petersburg FL
PHOTO: Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Award-Winning Beaches

There are three seaside strips that are essential to visit on your trip to the area. First, the eponymous St. Pete Beach is great for “toes in the sand” restaurants and bars, live music, firepits and water sports. If you are looking for hours of affordable family fun, look no further than Upham Beach Park. This is the northernmost stretch of sand in town where you’ll find parking, bathrooms, showers and a snack bar. Walk to the very north end of the beach to visit SecretGarden—a secluded spot perfect for watching the sunset. Finally, head south to Pass-a-GrilleBeach to enjoy old Florida charm with a local vibe. Rent a paddleboard, reel in fish from the Merry Pier, and enjoy a swim. Stick around for the nightly sunset celebration, when one lucky beachgoer gets to ring a bell the moment the sun sinks past the horizon.

Food at a Restaurant
PHOTO: Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Seaside Dining and More

For waterfront dining, check out Paradise Grill for breakfast; Willy’s Burgers and Booze for avast selection of comfort foods with a twist; Shrimpy’s Blues Bistro to indulge in New Orleans and Florida fusion fare; Woody’s Waterfront for simple Florida dining with dishes from the land and sea; and Bouy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill, where you can dock your boat before dining.

One of the most distinctive restaurants on St. Pete Beach is Rum Fish Restaurant and Bar, where you’ll find three aquariums that are home to local sea life. For a truly immersive experience, you can actually snorkel in a 33,500-gallon aquarium. Spinners Rooftop Grillehovers 12 floors above the beach. This elegant seafood restaurant features 360-degree views from its revolving dining room. For lunch, Fo’Cheezy Twisted Meltz—the brainchild of chef Robert Hesse from the TV show “Hell’s Kitchen”—offers artisan-style, gourmet grilled cheese. Finally, don’t let Mad Fish’s 1950s dining car exterior fool you. This “white tablecloth” restaurant is known for serving the freshest locally caught fish and finest aged steaks.

You can’t miss hitting up one (or almost all) of the beach bars. Some local favorites include The Toasted Monkey, Salty’s Tiki Bar, Postcard Inn Beach Bar & Snack Shack, Jimmy B’sBeach Bar, Bongo Beach Bar and Grille, and Rum Runners Bar and Grille. Nearly all of these locations have live music every day. If rooftop bars are more your vibe, visit The HurricaneSeafood Restaurant, Level 11 Rooftop Lounge at the Grand Plaza Hotel, and Hotel Zamora’srooftop for stunning Gulf Shore views.

Don CeSar Pink Palace in St Petes Beach FL
PHOTO: Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

The Don CeSar–“The Pink Palace”

Dramatically perched atop wind-swept dunes with expansive views in every direction, the fully renovated Don CeSar is considered the crown jewel of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Since 1928, this monument to glamour and leisure has welcomed luxury travelers and some of America’s most famous figures. The “Pink Palace,” as many locals call it, is also the perfect photo op to brighten up your Instagram feed. Step inside to visit AAA’s Four Diamond-rated Maritana Grille. The menu here is an ever-changing culinary wonder, with Mediterranean-inspired dishes using local, sustainably sourced produce and seafood.

Nightlife Bar in St Petes Beach FL
PHOTO: Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Recreation for the Beach Bum and Active Adventurer

Start by exploring St. Pete Beach’s two main drags: Corey Avenue, located several blocks east of the beach; and historic 8th Avenue in Pass-a-Grille Beach. Corey Avenue has a small collection of boutiques, cafés and bars, and a farmers market every Sunday. Pass-a-Grille’s downtown area has several galleries and beachwear shops.

If you’re looking for more adventurous activities, parasail with Suncoast Watersports, tour with TampaSpeed Boat Adventures, or night kayak with Sharkey’s Glass Bottom Kayak LED Illuminated Night Tours. You can also sign up for dolphin watching trips, island trips, half-or full-day fishing expeditions, sunset sails with Dolphin Landings Charter Boats, or visit StarLiteCruises in St. Pete Beach for yacht dining cruises and dolphin watching on a speedboat.

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