St Petersburg and Clearwater are a pair of coastal Florida cities with fantastic beaches and parks to explore. Found on a peninsula just west of Tampa Bay, you’ll not only discover nature trails and long stretches of sand in the area, but also a lively culinary, arts and nightlife scene. 

    Within a day, you could dip your toes in the Gulf of Mexico, delve into the surreal world of Salvador Dali, then ponder the meaning of life, art and the Florida sunshine as you sip and savour some local craft brews. If you’re wondering what to see and do in St Pete’s and Clearwater, here are a few suggestions to get you started:


    Fort De Soto Park

    Explore the beaches and trails of this former military outpost

    • History
    • Budget

    Encompassing 5 interconnected islands over 1,100 acres, Fort De Soto state park offers plenty for fresh-air lovers to enjoy including white-sand beaches, fishing piers, nature trails, kayaking and windsurfing. 

    Built in 1900 during the Spanish-American War, the fort was abandoned in 1923 then opened as a state park 40 years later. Though never tested in military battle, the fort’s armaments including two 6-inch Armstrong rapid-fire rifled guns are still there to see. There's a parking fee of about $5 but otherwise Fort De Soto is free to enter. Kayak, canoe and bicycle rentals are available from shops in the park. 

    Location: 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, Florida, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to dusk

    Phone: +1 727 582 2267


    Dali Museum

    There’s much more than melting clocks to see

    • Couples
    • History
    • Photo

    Celebrating the great 20th-century surrealist artist Salvador Dali, the museum is set in an architecturally stunning building of spiral staircases and a huge glass dome called The Enigma. More than 2,000 oil paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, sketches and other works on display help you wrap your head around Dali’s wildly creative mind. 

    Included with the entry ticket of about $24 is an audio tour that explains his life and works in greater depth. Make time to visit the surrounding Avant-garden, set on the Tampa Bay waterfront with fascinating themed areas including its labyrinth, grotto and mathematical garden.

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    Location: One Dali Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm (Thursdays open till 8 pm)

    Phone: +1 727 823 3767


    Weedon Island Preserve

    Discover nature and local history in tranquil surrounds

    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Found just 10 minutes away from downtown St. Petersburg, Weedon Island Preserve is a refuge for birds and wildlife with mangrove islands, bays and lagoons to explore. Look for great blue herons and snowy egrets as you paddle around on a kayak or join a guided hike on trails around the 3,200 acres of pristine wilderness. 

    Take the west boardwalk trail to the observation tower for a bird's eye view over Tampa Bay. The preserve also offers free guided birding tours once a month, and there's a cultural centre with a wealth of local information including the archaeological discoveries of people who dwelled here in prehistoric times. 

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    Location: 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St Petersburg, Florida, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am till 15 minutes before sunset (closing times posted at the entrance)

    Phone: +1 727 453 6500


    photo by jesseasmith (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Florida Botanical Gardens

    Where landscaped gardens meet natural habitats

    • Couples
    • Photo
    • Budget

    With free entry and 120 acres to explore, the Florida Botanical Gardens are ideal for nature lovers and families travelling on a budget. The cultivated gardens are arranged by theme from palms to butterfly gardens to the wedding garden to herbs and vegetables. Mosaic benches and murals add even more colour and beauty to the scenic setting. 

    Look for tree frogs and tortoises as you walk along the trails in the restored natural areas. If you’re visiting from late November till the end of December, don’t miss the dazzling holiday display when the gardens are adorned with more than 1 million LED lights. 

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    Location: 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, Florida, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am until sunset

    Phone: +1 727 582 2100


    photo by Global Reactions (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Clearwater Beach

    A picture-postcard spot to soak up the Florida sun

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Budget

    Found just 4 km over the causeway from downtown Clearwater, Clearwater Beach is a glorious stretch of fine white sand and clear water. Get orientated on a walk along the beachfront promenade then fuel up at the many cafes, bars and restaurants nearby. Gaze across the Gulf of Mexico while relaxing in the shade of a rental beach umbrella. Kids will love exploring the children’s play areas when they’re not busy building castles on the sand. Catch a beach trolley around Clearwater Beach and beyond to places like Indian Rocks Beach and Madeira Beach, with fares of less than $3 and day passes available.


    Pier 60

    Buskers, birds and blazing skies

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Shoppers
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Each day as the afternoon melts into the golden hour, Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach comes alive. Vendors of art, jewellery, T-shirts and bric-a-brac of all sorts set up a festive market along the pier’s length. Street performers and magicians vie for attention while seagulls and pelicans circle overhead. 

    Wander halfway up the pier for free or pay a $1 fee to go further and watch the fishing action at the pier’s end. Be sure to linger on to catch the main attraction in the evening: fiery sunsets over the sea. 


    Craft Beer Trail

    Find out why they call it the ‘Gulp Coast’

    • Nightlife

    Start with a tasting session at St. Pete Brewing Co in the downtown Central Arts District, then try a 'milk bone stout' at the dog-friendly Pinellas Ale Works (also known as PAW). Head north to Clearwater to find the movie-themed Grindhaus Brew Lab, where beer aficionados sip from beakers while watching cult-classic films, then enjoy a beachside brew at Clearwater Social Brewing Co

    These are just a few of the 35 or so quirky craft beer spots found along this tipsy tasting trail. If you’d rather not drive, then join a Thirsty Pelican brewery tour or a Tampa Bay Food Tour, which offers a three-hour "beer and bites" trip.


    The Sundial

    Make room for the delicious local eats, too

    • Food
    • Shoppers

    The Sundial is a shopper's haven with boutique and brand-name stores to explore, just a short walk away from the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg. Modern with a quaint touch, the shops are arranged around an open courtyard with the three-storey sundial sculpture forming a striking centrepiece.

    If you need a break from shopping, go for a hairstyle makeover or massage treatment at one of the spas and beauty salons. Or you could easily spend hours grazing on the tasty grilled meats, salads, sandwiches, chocolates, freshly baked desserts and more at the Locale Market spread over 2 floors. 

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    Location: 153 2nd Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm; Sunday from midday to 8 pm (Locale Market opens at 8 am daily and closes at 10 pm on Friday and Saturday)

    Phone: +1 727 800 3201


    photo by Lindsayrkc (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Central Ave's bars and clubs

    Dine, drink and dance the night away

    • Couples
    • Nightlife
    • Group

    Central Avenue’s 200 block in downtown St Petersburg is the place to quench your thirst for fun and boozy delights after dark. Watch the Flamenco dancers at Ché basement lounge before liquid courage gets you out on the dance floor. Check out the open mic night at Hideaway Cafe or live jazz at Ruby's Elixir

    Five Bucks Drinkery serves up big beers and burgers at budget prices, while Crowley’s Downtown Irish tavern is a lively spot to watch sozzled passers-by from a street-side table. The first Friday of each month gets extra festive with a free live-music block party starting at 5:30pm on Central Ave between 2nd and 3rd streets. 

    photo by Beyond My Ken (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Lana Willocks | Contributing Writer

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