VIBE: Relaxed, Family Friendly
Sand Key Park, 1060 Gulf Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33767
Updated November 30, 2022. Crowds can be a problem on many Gulf beaches. Even worse, you may have trouble finding parking or have to pay big money for a spot. Not at Sand Key Park! Just 5 dollars will give you a full day of sun and sea.
Sand Key Park was not affected by hurricanes in 2022. It is a TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice award winner for 2022. As soon as you arrive at this beach in Clearwater and walk across the white sand, you will be swept away by the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, you have to schlep your chairs, umbrella and gear quite far but it's worth it. Usually the Gulf is pretty calm, but when we visited it was windy and wavy - such fun!
Sand Key Park has everything for a family outing, a large event, or just the two of you. It's been a few years since we visited the Clearwater beaches and we were so glad we returned. The drive into Clearwater before noon was easier than we thought. We parked our pickup truck in the spacious lot and made our way across the large expanse of white sand to the beachfront. We were not disappointed!
Gulf Beach Sand
Up close this Gulf beach sand resembles the sugar sand of Siesta Key. However, this sand is VERY shelly. It looks beautiful and white but there are a lot of shells mixed in. So many in fact, that you have to be careful when entering the water. We almost cut our feet on some sharp shells! However, after wading a few feet in, the shells gave way to incredible silky, soft sand. It was so dreamy we wanted to wade out in the Gulf of Mexico forever. Kids and adults alike were enjoying the rare Florida west coast beach waves in Clearwater.
Sand Key Beach Water
The Gulf of Mexico is known for its blue and clear water and Sand Key Beach does not disappoint. Once in the water the soft, salty waves were like caresses (how poetic). Sand Key Park has an exposed sandbar that makes surfing here great, especially in the winter. The waves are consistent but generally smaller than the Atlantic Ocean (although it can be calm too). It is perfect for adults and kids.
Sand Key Park has surf
Sand Key Park in Florida can be a suitable location for beginner and intermediate surfers. The beach often has small to moderate waves, which can provide a good opportunity for surfing. If you or your kids want to try surfing, this beach would be an excellent choice for that.
Normally you can see right down to your feet in Clearwater beach water but during this visit the weather was windy. The waves mixed everything up. There was a bit of debris including seaweed and other vegetation floating around so it was murky. It reminded us of the Florida Keys water...not a bad thing.
Sand Key Beach Parking and Amenities
Unlike the main Clearwater Beach area, parking is not a problem at Sand Key Park - there are lots of spaces and it costs only $5 for the entire day. Just use your credit card (Visa or Mastercard) at the parking meter and unload your truck. It is a bit of a hike out to the beachfront, like Siesta Key, so make sure you stop at the bathroom facility before you start out...a welcome sight after driving across Florida's I-4! Showers are available here too for those sandy feet. Sand Key Park is so pretty you won't mind the small journey down to the Gulf water. Some clever people (unlike us) had wagons with fat tires to traverse the sand with their gear on board.
When you are entering Sand Key Park, you will drive by kids playground equipment and shelters with BBQ grills. This is a perfect spot for a family gathering or beach wedding. There is also a dog park although we didn't see it. Miss Fancy Pants, our greyhound, may have to come with us next time. We also spotted more BBQ grills over by the inlet. This is an accessible beach. There are beach wheelchairs available.
If need a snack, you can visit the Sand Key Beach Grill located halfway to the beachfront in a little trailer. Burgers and ice cream are some of the items available. It really is the perfect place to relax, ride a bike, walk or play in the Gulf of Mexico away from the crowds of Clearwater Beach.
Sand Key Beach Activities
Any visitor to Clearwater Beach will likely notice the red pirate ship when you exit the causeway and make your way around the traffic circle towards the beach...it's legendary! Fort Myers Beach has one too, by the way. If you are feeling spirited why not give it a try, otherwise you can do it the lazy way (almost as fun) by watching it sail past the beach. While we relaxed we enjoyed many of the things to do in Clearwater Beach...being done by others. Parasailing, windsurfing, kite flying, wave runners and fishing charters are a few of the activities we observed from under our beach umbrella. And best of all, when it was time for an ice cream, only minimal activity was required to reach the Sand Key Beach Grill.
Look Out! This Could Happen...
There's not much to complain about when visiting Clearwater Beach except...the traffic and crowds! As we drove (crawled) by the main beach it seemed that everybody and his brother (and maybe his mother) was lined up on the Gulf of Mexico beach. That's why we recommend skipping the main beach, it's crowds and parking woes and heading on over to Sand Key Park. For a mere $5 parking fee (did we mention it was only $5!) you can spend the whole day on a less crowded beach that's just as beautiful...maybe more so, in our humble opinion. In Clearwater if you can't find parking, it will cost you $20-$30 to park for the day. Forget about it! Choose Sand Key Beach instead and you can thank us later.
Trucks At This Beach
This black Jeep Wrangler is a great vehicle. Rolling on those XF Off Road wheels made our heads turn (think The Exorcist) from that beautiful Sand Key beach and put this Jeep at the center of our attention. The gloss black with red milled accent and red dots wheels made a classy, sophisticated statement. Plus adding those big Nitto Ridge Grappler tires to this four-wheeler turned up the dial to a more bold, aggressive, and intimidating look. This may have been a spectacular day at a great beach, but this Jeep was just as much the attention grabber. As it drove by in the Sand Key parking lot it displayed rugged elegance while screaming, "cha-ching!"
What We Really Think About Sand Key Beach
Now rated a top beach by TripAdvisor for 2022, we will surely be back to Sand Key Park. But NEVER during the snow bird season (December to April). Traffic getting in was not bad (before noon) but getting out at the end of the day was a nightmare on I-275. The Florida Department of Transportation is adding a new lane in each direction to I-275 near I-4, but will not complete this until 2026. Our recommendation is to find accommodation on the beach or nearby to prevent traffic frustrations. A lot of folks love the Gulf beach sunsets (including us) so why not park your truck at the hotel of your choice, watch the sun go down and relax...that's what a Florida beach road trip should be about!
Sand Key Beach Hotels
Sheraton Sand Key Resort
Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
Barefoot Bay Resort & Marina
Holiday Inn & Suites Clearwater Beach
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Sand Key Beach Restaurants
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.