Updated: February 16, 2023. Florida's climate, natural beauty, and world-renowned beaches make it a top vacation destination. The west coast of Florida, which borders the Gulf of Mexico, boasts stunning white sand beaches and clear emerald water. Out of all the gorgeous options, we've narrowed down our top three favorite west coast Florida beaches and the reasons why we love them.
Where is the clearest water in Florida?
Discovering the clearest water in Florida is a challenge as the majority of the beaches on the west coast of Florida boast crystal clear and pristine waters. These Gulf coast beaches are a perfect getaway for those seeking to escape their daily routines, thanks to the warm weather and breathtaking natural surroundings. We've compiled a list of the top 3 beaches that capture the essence of beach living, and we keep revisiting them year after year.
Here's why these Gulf coast beaches make the list:
North Beach Fort De Soto Park
Fort De Soto Park is not only a beach destination, it's a historical site as well. Located near St. Pete Beach, the park has 5 islands and 1,136 acres bordering the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. It's not only a great place for families, but it's also perfect for a beach wedding or camping adventure. There's a dog beach too. To get to the park, you will have to use some toll routes but the daily parking fee is only $5 (in 2022). What a deal to enjoy 3 miles of white, sandy beach!
Looking for a paradise that caters to everyone, whether they walk on two legs or four? Look no further than Fort De Soto Park! With picnic areas, trails, fishing, playgrounds, and a beach dog park, this place has something for everyone. Even history buffs can get their fix by checking out the old cannons at the fort, and there's a museum for those who prefer to learn without getting sand in their shoes. And don't worry about getting hungry - the concession area has ice cream and burgers to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
Exercise in Fort De Soto Park
Want to get some exercise? Rent a bike, kayak, or canoe and explore the park's many offerings. With so much to do, you might just want to spend the entire day here. And if you're feeling lazy, no worries - just kick back and relax in the warm tidal pools or go shelling on North Beach. Who knows, you might even find a sand dollar or two to show off to your friends back home!
Almost every Florida west coast beach will provide you with a stunning experience of a sunset. Fort De Soto North Beach is special because it may be less crowded. After a day of wandering through mangroves or taking a ferry ride to Egmont Key State Park, you will be ready to relax. The sunsets here are spectacular so get your camera ready. For more information about Fort De Soto Park click here.
Sand Key Park: a hidden Gulf Beach gem
Peaceful and pleasant describe this park near Clearwater Beach. If you want to escape the crazy crowds at the main Clearwater Beach, then Sand Key Park is for you. Just pay the cheap beach parking fee of $5 and spend the entire day relaxing. Like Siesta Key, it is a long walk to the beachfront so make sure you gather all your beach gear. No gear? Don't worry you can rent an umbrella and beach chairs. Once you reach the shore, you'll appreciate the emerald water and white sand. There's plenty of space on this beach for everyone.
Views are great in every direction at Sand Key Park which is why it makes the list. You can walk over to Clearwater Pass and watch the famous pirate ship go by. You will likely see dolphins feeding and jumping out of the water. Manatees are often spotted and they may come up close to you. If you want something to eat there is a food truck right on the beach. Otherwise, you can sit under one of the shady pavilions away from the beach. There are restrooms and changing areas near the parking lot. Sand Key Park also offers some small waves. It has an exposed sandbar which makes it good for surfing.
If you love Sand Key Park as much as we do, you might want to stay a few days in the area. Close by hotels include the Belleair Beach Resort Motel or Sheraton Sand Key Resort. It's always easier to access the beach when you stay right there. Driving around Clearwater Beach can take a long time due to traffic delays. We've been visiting the area for 30 years and traffic is getting worse. Why not stay and dine right there? It's five o'clock somewhere so enjoy!
Siesta Key Beach: a slice of paradise
Looking for a beach that will make you forget you're in Florida and transport you to the Caribbean? Look no further than Siesta Key Beach! This place has it all - beautiful surroundings, ample parking (just make sure to get there before the parking lot fills up or you'll be circling for awhile), and even a free beach trolley that'll take you where you need to go. With playgrounds, group gathering spots, and beach volleyball courts, you'll have so much fun you might forget to even get in the water. But don't miss out on the icing on the beach cake - the white sand and crystal clear water that make Siesta Key Beach truly unforgettable.
Siesta Key Beach has a concession stand in the pavilion that even offers a breakfast menu for sunrise beach visitors. The bagel breakfast sandwich comes highly recommended. They also have frozen sangria (yes!) and snacks. There is something for everyone: classic american food, wings, hummus and salads. A small souvenir shop is available too. Although Siesta Key will be more crowded than Sand Key Park or Fort De Soto Beach, you may enjoy the fun vibe of this busy and famous Florida beach destination.
Siesta Key beach is famous for its white, quartz sand. The sand is soft and cool even in the mid-day sun. It doesn't stick to your feet which makes it perfect for walking. Showers near the parking lot will let you wash the salt off at the end of your beach day. The Siesta Key Beach sand is so famous they have a Master Sand Sculpting Competition featuring 24 talented sand carvers. You can even vote on your favorite sand sculpture or take sandcastle lessons at this event. This sugary sand is perfect for building sandcastles.
Florida's west coast is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, and we highly recommend Siesta Key Beach, Fort De Soto Park, and Sand Key Beach for your next vacation or day trip. Don't miss the breathtaking sunsets at these 3 beaches! Of course, everyone has their own preferences, but we hope our top picks will inspire you to explore all that Florida has to offer. With its warm weather, crystal-clear waters, and abundance of activities, Florida's west coast is truly a paradise for beach lovers.
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.