With a wide selection of beautiful white sand beaches and quiet nature preserves to choose amongst, there are an abundance of scenic destinations to enjoy throughout Tampa Bay. The Tampa metropolitan area includes some of the most popular beach destinations in the country, most notably Clearwater and St. Pete. Little known gems in Pinellas County including Indian Rocks and Redington Shores offer a more relaxed setting.
As the area is heavily commercialized and suburban in nature, a lot of driving is entailed no matter where you go. I have narrowed down a list of what I believe to be are the most scenic places in Tampa Bay. Thus, you can save some precious driving time while still enjoying the most breathtaking sights in the metro.
This 4.5 mile long sidewalk is billed as “the world’s longest continuous sidewalk.” While this ranking is debated by some, there is no doubt that this is one of the most gorgeous streets in Tampa. Along this bustling path, you will see every type of fitness buff out enjoying the tropical ambiance and sunny skies. Joggers, rollerblades, walkers, and bikers all congregate here every weekend to get in a great workout.
Views of the Bay, stately mansions, and tropical palms make this the most picturesque place in the Bay to get in a lengthy workout. Start your ride/walk at Ballast Point Park to take advantage of the free parking and incredible city view!
This outstanding beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida. With 4 miles of pristine white sand beaches, plus beautiful nature trails, and great birdwatching opportunities, it’s not hard to see why. Hikers will want to check out the Osprey trail, which takes you through one of the state’s last remaining virgin slash pine forest. Snorkeling, collecting seashells, surfing, and swimming also draw big crowds. What’s more -you can take a ferry over to Cadalesi Island, a known hotspot for shelling and snorkeling.
Honeymoon is one beach where you will want to stay to watch the sunset. Out of all the Florida beaches, Honeymoon is known as the premier sunset destination. After a full tiresome day at the beach, head over to charming Downtown Dunedin for an evening of boutique shopping and dining.
Boca Ciega Millennium Park
This little known Pinellas County park is truly a beautiful oasis for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The park is located along the Great Florida Birding trail and is home to wading birds, birds of prey, upland birds, and water fowl. For water lovers, a 35 foot tall observation tower looks out upon beautiful Boca Ciega Bay.
The best part of all is that this park is under visited so you can enjoy the natural setting all to yourself. Fantastic water views aside, a long boardwalk trail takes you past numerous native plant life including pine flatwoods, salt marsh, and mangrove swamp.
Indian Rocks beach
Indian Rocks remains enjoyably laid-back thanks in part to a lack of tourist congestion and commercialization. Most tourists head over to Clearwater and St Pete beaches which offer more amenities such as close access to restaurants, extravagant beach resorts, and annual events. Although limited in terms of amenities, Indian Rocks is a great choice for anyone who prefers a low-key day at the beach.
The lack of commercialization is what makes this beach one of the most gorgeous on the Gulf Coast. The sand is not as smooth as the more popular beaches, however, the lack of heavy traffic and business give it a tranquil “Old Florida” vibe. This beach is so pristine and natural – one of the few untouched gems in Florida. It’s also one of the best beaches for wildlife sightings. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, manatees, and birds of all kinds.
John Chestnut Park
Out of all the parks in the Bay metro area, John Chestnut is the one I find myself coming back to again and again. This small quiet park offers nothing more than a simply boardwalk trail and a few short nature trails. However, it is one of the shadiest and most lush parks – a must in Florida’s intense climate. John Chesnut is a beautiful protected area of uninterrupted nature in an area that is becoming increasingly commercialized.
The boardwalk trail takes you across a cypress swamp in what feels like a step into a Jurassic jungle. The views of Lake Tarpon are gorgeous. It’s also one of the top places in Pinellas to see a gator, especially during the active rainy season. The deer population is quite high here, and thus, you are bound to see so many around sunrise/sunset. A pretty cool experience to see deer up close right in the middle of a bustling metro.
North Redington Beach
Like Indian Rocks, nearby North Redington Beach (located just 6 miles down the Gulf) is a desirable beach destination for anyone seeking to avoid rowdy crowds. As the town is more residential in tone, there is not much business in sight. And thus, tourists tend to skip right over this one. Nevertheless, it’s still easy to access restaurants and shopping in nearby beach towns. So, enjoy a hassle free day at the beach and then take a simple drive down the Gulf to enjoy great dining and shopping.
Out of all the beaches, North Redington is by far the best choice for a long relaxing beach walk. The sand is super soft and smooth. Lots of shorebirds and dolphins to watch along the walk. Get out here early in the morning to avoid the intense afternoon heat and enjoy the tranquil ambiance of one of the Gulf’s more relaxing beaches.
Lake Seminole Park
This suburban park in quiet Largo offers a peaceful setting for a nice day out in nature. As one of the shadiest parks in Pinellas, this park is the best place to escape the sun, even during the harshest months. If you want to get in a great workout without feeling totally annihilated by the heat and sunshine, Lake Seminole Park is the perfect place to do so.
A beautiful 2 mile long tree-lined biking/walking path winds its way around the park. The course is super scenic with lots of leafy trees proving a picture perfect setting. Lake Seminole is a beautiful destination for jet skiing, water skiing, and boating. Most importantly, the park is a dedicated wildlife sanctuary. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators, tortoises, and bald eagles.
Weedon Island Preserve
The most scenic preserve in St. Petersburg offers a tranquil change of pace from the noisy beaches. A variety of quiet nature trails will allow you to decompress and enjoy the more natural side of Florida. Weedon is a perfect place to grab your binoculars and check out the variety of bird species which call Florida home.
As soon as you enter the park, you will immediately reap the benefits of nature. This park is very secluded – a far cry from the congested beaches of St. Pete. Boardwalk trails pass over mangrove forests with views of salt water ponds. Best of all is the observation tower which affords a magnificent view of the Bay area. Weedon is also a fabulous destination for animal lovers. While on the trails, be on the lookout for armadillos and gopher tortoises.
This quiet narrow beach is located on the less busy side of St. Pete. As all the tourists head to famous St. Pete Municipal Beach, you can take the less traveled alternative route and spend a lazy day at gorgeous Pass-A-Grille. This beach has won many awards due to its’ laidback, old time “Old Florida vibe.”
Near the beach is a charming historical village where you can browse boutique shops, eat at mom and pop shops, enjoy an ice cream cone, and browse small art galleries.
Eureka Springs Park
Eureka was once the sight of a botanical garden, and thus, this park is much more lush than most. Although there is a small fee to get in, it’s worth it for the tropical ambiance. Quite small at just 31 acres, although the preserve is jam packed with much beauty. Also on-site is a seasonal rose garden, a boardwalk which winds through a forest of maples and cypress, and a greenhouse.
The most famous beach in Florida lives up to its’ reputation of best beach town. For the smoothest sand, the clearest water, the best restaurants, and the best entertainment, there really is no other choice. The smooth powder white sand here is made almost entirely of quartz and is cool to the touch. Toss your flip flops off and enjoy the feeling of “beach snow” beneath your toes.
Beach walk is another option for those who prefer to stay clean out of the sand. Lots of options for water sports and parasailing too for the more active beach goers. Cruises are yet another option. Best of all, there is a great nightly sunset celebration featuring free movies, music, and various vendors. After working up a sweat, there are a number of great places to eat right near the beach including local breakfast joints, coffeehouses, and smoothie shops.
Riverwalk is a 2.5 mile long urban path which connects many sights of interest in downtown Tampa. This is the best place to take in great views of the skyline. The most popular attractions along the route include The Florida Aquarium, Curtis Hixon Park, and The Tampa Museum of Art. You will also want to stop by Columbia – Florida’s oldest restaurant. They serve the best Cuban/Spanish food in the area. Try the Veggie Paella!
John S. Taylor Park
This is another scenic bike trail in the Tampa area. The multi purpose path, while short at just under 2 miles, is particularly scenic as it circles around a lake. Great place to get in a great workout in a picturesque (and mostly shady) setting! This park is also known for its’ disc golf course.