I’m not Dr. Beach (who ranks best beaches). However, I do know whether the sand is great for my kids to play in and if the water is clear enough for them to jump into. As a traveling mommy, I’ve taken my little ones to some amazing beaches, from the Caribbean to the South of France to the Greek Islands. And yet, my kids love going to the beaches right here in Tampa Bay which are ranked among the best in the world.
Some local favorites are well-known. You’ve probably already been to Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach a million times, so I’ve come up with some spots that aren’t as popular. In fact, you must take a public ferry or private boat to get to some of these out-of-the-way destinations. That may sound like work, but these beach getaways will give parents a break from the traffic and well known crowded beaches this spring break.
Yes, the name gives it away. Your kids will find some amazing shells on this barrier island located in the mouth of Tampa Bay. My daughter found shells that I’ve never seen on any other local beach. The water is beautiful here, there are shallow areas for the kids to swim, and the sand is great for sandcastles. Sand dollars and starfish abound, but remember, if they are still alive, it’s against the law to take them. The preserve is also an important sanctuary for nesting and migrating birds so kids can bird watch. Dolphins like to play here too so keep an eye out for sightings. The best parenting advice for this beach getaway is to make sure to pack everything you need because this is truly an island getaway and there are no facilities. That means if you don’t have it you can’t buy it, so don’t forget snacks and food as well as your suntan lotion and beach gear because the shuttle doesn’t come back for two hours. On the plus side, this also means no big crowds or parties going on next to you while you’re trying to enjoy a beautiful day at the beach with your kids. The Shell Key Shuttle leaves Merry Pier at Pass-a-Grille on Southern St. Pete Beach. Check online for times and fees.
Caladesi’s white sand beaches were ranked America’s Best Beach in 2008. And even though it’s close to Honeymoon Island, Caladesi has a completely different feel to it. This is a great getaway for the kids and parents because it feels like you’re miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but unlike Shell Key, this spot has a snack bar with food and adult beverages for parents. Not only can the kids enjoy the beautiful sand and swim in the gulf water, but older kids can kayak through amazing mangrove trails. The only way you can get there is by boat or kayak from Honeymoon Island. A Ferry Service also departs from Honeymoon Island State Park that is free for children 5 and younger are free.
The beaches here are pristine because it’s primarily a wildlife refuge. You can collect shells on secluded beaches or snorkel in the clear blue water. When you’re done with the beach, check out the lighthouse that’s been there since 1858. Egmont Key is rich in history, and reading about it with the kids before visiting will give them a history lesson they can’t get in the classroom. When exploring the island’s trails, you’ll also see gopher tortoises and other wildlife. Egmont Key is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, southwest of Fort De Soto Beach. You can only get there by ferry or private boat. Both the Egmont Key ferry and the Dolphin Snorkeling Cruise depart from Fort De Soto Park. Keep in mind this is an island and there are no stores. So make sure to pack the kids bottled water, food, sunscreen and bug repellent. There are picnic tables to enjoy your lunch with the kiddos. So take a day this spring break to enjoy one of the best beaches you’ll find in Tampa Bay and get some true quality time with the kids.