Beach: Father and SonVisit St Petersburg/ClearwaterBy Andy Schrader

There’s no getting away from it. Anywhere you go in St Pete/Clearwater you’ll be surrounded by water. The peninsula where the cities lie is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Tampa Bay on the other. No matter your destination you’ll have to cross a bridge to get there. So look sharp to the left and right and you’ll probably find someone kiteboarding, windsurfing, fishing, or jet skiing.

Most of the big bridges feature amazing fishing landings. The largest is the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. Here you can drive your car far out onto the bridge and fish from your tailgate. That’s handy if you’re travelling with kids because your comfortable car seats (and snacks, and probably a 12v outlet for their portable gaming systems) can stay right there with you. You can fish from the St Petersburg (north) approach or the Bradenton (south) approach.

Another popular spot is Clearwater Beach’s 320-metre long Pier 60. Its bait shop offers supplies and advice on what’s biting. Other options include the Redington Beach Long Pier, downtown St Petersburg’s municipal pier, and the Gulf and Bay Piers at Fort De Soto Park. There’s nearly 1,000 kilometres of coastline on the peninsula so usually it’s just a matter of cruising along until you find the right spot. Most fishermen are gunning for Spanish mackerel, although Red Drum and Speckled Trout are also popular.

Tarpon is the state’s top game fish, in season from March to October. They’re called “Sideliners” by local fishermen because of their black side stripe. Arguably the most delicious fish in the Gulf, they have achieved a bit of a cult status because they’re so protected – you can neither buy them nor sell them, and don’t bother looking for them in a restaurant. May through July is the best time to fish for them but you’ll likely need a boat to reach the proper spots. Charter trips can be arranged through a variety of vendors in the area.

For the ultimate budget option, try shoreline fishing on the beaches. Your best chance is in the summer, particularly at dawn or dusk. Bring a spinning rod with a 12-pound test line plus some basic artificial lures like a top-water plug and gold spoon.

Award-winning beaches. It’s our claim to fame. The St Pete/Clearwater area is home to more than 56 kilometres of stunning white sand and sparkling blue waters. Did we mention our picture perfect sunsets? Or dog-friendly beaches?

One of the most pristine barrier islands is also one of the best kept secrets in our area: Caladesi Island State Park. Accessible by boat, or ferry (kayak if you’re really feeling adventurous) you can spend the day exploring nature trails, sunning on a stunning stretch of sand and kayaking the lush mangrove tunnels. The beach was named America’s Best in 2008 by Dr Stephen Leatherman, a well-regarded coastal geologist who ranks more than 650 beaches annually. Since then, many have learned what we already know…just how amazing this intimate island really is.

The Caladesi Connection transports visitors across the vast waters of the Gulf into this luscious paradise. Once on the island, you can dine at the quaint café, or bring your own cooler of goodies. The ferry departs daily from nearby Honeymoon Island State Park, which has a popular dog beach.

The sand on these beaches, and all others in the St Pete/Clearwater area, is made from quartz. Over thousands of years the quartz was atomized and brought south along ancient rivers that no longer exist. It’s different from the coarse, dark sand found on the Atlantic coast and in the Keys – that’s made from bits of shells and coral. This sand is softer, whiter, and more comfortable, because of its cloud-like feel and the fact that its thermal-energy retention is reduced. Translation: you can walk on it in summer.

WindsurfingVisit St Petersburg/ClearwaterWatersports
Kitesurfers and windsurfers congregate most often at the bright yellow Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which links the St Pete peninsula to the southern mainland. Howard Park by Tarpon Springs is also popular. Surfers will want to head to Sunset Beach – provided there’s an east wind and a good low pressure system off the coast. If you’re looking for some horsepower, parasailing and jet skis can be rented from a variety of vendors in the area.

You’ve got two options for boat tours: screaming or serene. Fans of the former will appreciate the dual twin-turbocharged engines of the 22-metre long Sea Screamer, billed as the world’s largest speed boat. The boat tops out at around 56 kph and leaves a giant “rooster tail” of spray behind it, so plan on getting wet. It leaves from Clearwater’s Municipal Marina. For something a whole lot quieter, rent an electric boat from the Electric Marina in downtown St. Petersburg. They’re as easy to drive as a golf cart, and since they lack a noisy engine you’ll be able to sneak up on that pelican (or dolphin) you’ve been eying. This is one super toy where the batteries are finally included.

KayakingVisit St Petersburg/ClearwaterKayakers can enjoy face-to-face encounters with wildlife. The lush mangrove kayak trails in Caladesi Island State Park are a good place to start a paddling adventure. Wood storks, bald eagles and the West Indian manatees are spotted along the kayaking trails in Weedon Island Preserve and the trail in Fort De Soto Park glides through mangroves, sea bass beds and oyster bars. Want something truly unique? Sign up for a KaYoga expedition: kayaking + yoga on a pristine beach.

Following a day out on the water, try the Starlite Dinner Cruise with locations in St Petersburg and Clearwater. Enjoy continental cuisine, live entertainment and the best views from the water. Lunch cruises are also available, although the sunset tour is definitely the most romantic.

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