15 Best Things to Do in St. Pete Beach (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Part of the Gulf Beaches, St. Pete Beach is a sublime coastal escape on a barrier island. The city was incorporated in the 1950s and is actually made up of two former towns on Long Key.

That means you have two lively downtown areas to check out, with restaurants, shops, markets and annual festivals. 

Still, I’ve buried the lede about St. Pete Beach, because the biggest attraction is the shoreline. The beaches are astonishing, with miles of pure white sands and twinkling turquoise waters. 

There’s a choice of public access points between the upscale hotel resorts and condos to the north. At the southern end in Pass-a-Grille, there’s a village-like vibe and a natural beach, with little more than dunes.

1. St. Pete Beach

St. Pete BeachSource: Felix Mizioznikov / shutterstock
St. Pete Beach

At 4700 Gulf Blvd, the main municipal beach has a prime location, opposite the Dolphin Village Shopping Center. I reckon you could arrive here first thing and not leave until sunset. There’s a whole roster of shops and chain eateries a few steps away. 

And you could even book a tour with one of the charter companies at Dolphin Landings, by the shopping center.

As for the beach, this is a wide, dune-lined sweep of alluring white sand. As with most of the beaches on Long Key, the water is calm most days and safe for younger kids to play in. Amenities are low-key here, with little more than showers and restrooms.

2. Corey Avenue

There’s a couple of historic areas in St. Pete Beach where you’ll be free to park up and explore on foot. Long Key is never more than a few blocks wide, so these districts are easy to navigate, with fabulous views of the Gulf and the bay.

The northernmost is Corey Avenue, which has a weekly street market on Sundays, and an arts festival in June. I’ll talk about both later, but if you’re here to wander, I found the blocks between Gulf Drive and Boca Ciega Drive to be the most exciting.

There you’ve got a community of shops, bars and eateries, along with the single-screen Beach Theatre (1940).

3. Pass-a-Grille Historic District

As St. Pete Beach was formed from two distinct towns, there’s another worthwhile downtown area towards the south end of Long Key.

Home to the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, the Pass-a-Grille Historic District has all the signatures of a cute old Florida seaside town.

With adorable cottages and low-rise commercial buildings, this area seems a world away from the condos further north. There are boutiques, ice cream parlors, galleries, and one-off restaurants, cafes and bars. 

A lot of the commerce is on the brick-paved 8th Avenue, as little as three blocks long, from the Gulf to the Intracoastal Waterway. If you’re staying in this area, I’d even consider renting a golf cart or bicycle to get around.

4. Pass-a-Grille Beach

Something that gets me about St. Pete Beach is how much the scene varies as you travel along the island. For instance, the four miles of beach at Pass–a-Grille are completely devoid of shorefront development. 

That means you can head along Gulf Way, park up and choose from a long succession of beach access points. 

There are scenic walkovers crossing the dunes and depositing you at sublime sandy beaches. The dunes provide a nice buffer from the road, while the beach is on a shallow slope with lots of knee-high water for kids to enjoy.

The only interruption for four miles is the Paradise Grille, an iconic counter-serve restaurant next to Pass-a-Grille’s downtown area.

5. Upham Beach Park

The closest public beach to historic Corey Avenue is just a minute or two to the south. This is Upham Beach Park, where a piece of undeveloped shorefront is book-ended by hotels, condos, and resorts.

I found Upham Beach Park to be as beautiful as it was convenient. You’ve got the same sugar-white sands, clear emerald waters, and dreamy sunsets that everyone falls in love with.

Amenities are a little sparser here, but you’ve still got the Paradise Grill for bites and cold drinks, as well as picnic tables and restrooms.

6. Shell Key Preserve

Shell Key PreserveSource: jared422_80 / Flickr
Shell Key Preserve

Off the southern tip of Long Key lies Shell Key, an uninhabited, roadless paradise with sensitive ecosystems. Local companies offer tours of Shell Key, while there’s a shuttle making the crossing in a few minutes.

The island is the focus of a 1,800-acre preserve that also protects several neighboring mangrove islands on the bay side. 

Much of the island is reserved for wildlife, and this is a crucial nesting site for sea turtles, as well as numerous wading birds, including herons, egrets, and Wilson’s plovers.

The publicly accessible beach has some wonderful shelling, and I saw manatees, dolphins and stingrays in the shallows. Meanwhile, for something truly memorable, you have to organize a kayaking tour of the mangrove tunnels.

7. Corey Avenue Sunday Market

My time to drop by Corey Avenue is a Sunday, when there are up to 80 vendors along the street. The Sunday Market takes place from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, February through the last Sunday before Christmas.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get hold of locally grown fresh produce. There’s also fresh breads, raw honey, cheeses, houseplants, home decor, clothing, pet accessories, and candles.

Keep your lunch plans open, as you’ll find a range of food trucks and other prepared food vendors at the market. On my visit I saw pupusas, eggrolls, smoothies, jerk chicken,  ice cream, and more.

8. Gulf Beaches Historical Museum

Gulf Beaches Historical MuseumSource: Gulf Beaches Historical Museum / Facebook
Gulf Beaches Historical Museum

In the historic Pass-a-Grille District, this museum is housed in a quaint old church from 1917. The Gulf Beaches Historical Museum is a treasure trove of information about the barrier islands of Pinellas County. 

I was especially impressed with the timeline, charting local history from the start of the 16th century to the present. 

On show are photographs, newspapers, ephemera, WWII items, and an entire display devoted to the iconic Don CeSar hotel (1928). Allow some time to browse the gift shop, which has local art, and a lot of vintage-style crafts.

9. Mastry’s Brewing Co.

In 2016 Mastry’s Brewing Co. became the first dedicated craft brewery in St. Pete Beach. Using local ingredients where possible, this brewery evolved from a brewpub at a family-owned restaurant, and has won several awards.

There’s a choice of half a dozen core beers that are available in any season. Among them are a Kölsch, a Czech Pilsner, an IPA, a Blonde Ale, a fruited Berliner Weisse, and my pick, which was the Honey Basil Ale.

There’s a permanent food truck outside, with deals on tacos on Tuesdays and wings on Wednesdays. Weekends mean live music, while there’s a popular trivia night on Thursdays.

10. Horan Park

This small-ish park has a fine setting looking north along the Intracoastal Waterway. On a normal day, Horan Park is an inviting waterside hangout. You’re close to Corey Avenue here, and there’s a number of picnic tables for lunch in the open-air, if it isn’t too hot.

But what really qualifies Horan Park for my list is the amount of events happening at this spot all year. I was in town during the October Concert Series, with shows on Friday evenings throughout the month.

This is also the place to gather for St. Pete Beach’s holiday celebrations, with a boat parade on the waterway and tree-lighting ceremony.

11. TradeWinds Resort

What may be the city’s premier resort takes up a significant amount of shorefront just north of the main public beach. 

TradeWinds is actually two connected resorts—Island Grand Beach Resort and Rumfish Beach Resort. When I wrote this article it was possible for outside visitors to purchase a day pass to use some of the amenities.

These include spectacular pools, a mini-golf course, the three-story High Tide Water Slide, and an awesome inflatable water park, floating in the calm Gulf waters. The latter includes swings, trampolines, slides and a host of fun obstacles.

12. The Secret Garden

Something special is waiting to be discovered, close to the northernmost breakwater in the Upham Beach. Here the residents of the Envoy Point condo work together to maintain a sensational little garden.

The easiest way to get there is to wander along the sand from Upham Beach Park. With palms overhead, and a beautiful array of shrubs, potted plants and flowers, The Secret Garden is a wonderful little oasis. 

There are benches and a little picnic area so you can idle here for a while. My favorite time to come is late in the day, when the sunset may be the most spectacular in St. Pete Beach.

13. Dolphin Racer

There’s no shortage of companies waiting to whisk you along the Intracoastal Waterway and out into the Gulf for nature experiences. One, Dolphin Racer, is berthed just across the Corey Causeway and offers exhilarating high-speed tours.

Riding on this speedboat I saw bottlenose dolphins body surfing just a few feet away. The vessel creates an unusually large wake that dolphins can’t resist playing in. 

In fact, you’re guaranteed to see dolphins surfing on every trip, and you’ll also get lots of interesting facts from the captain and first mate. The Dolphin Racer can seat up to 120 passengers and departs daily at 11:00 am.

14. Merry Pier

In the Pass-a-Grille Historic District, this inward facing dock is the springboard for a wide range of water-based experiences in St. Pete Beach.

For one thing, the Shell Key Shuttle departs from this point, while there’s a variety of charter companies based at Merry Pier for party boats or deep sea fishing trips.

At the head of the pier you’ll find a store for fishing supplies and rod rentals, while you can also purchase fresh fish and seafood, straight off the boat. Typically there’s snapper, shrimp, grouper, all ready to be cooked.

15. St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival

On the first weekend in June, Corey Avenue becomes a giant arts & crafts fair. A wide diversity of skilled makers from across the United States head to the city for this event.

The avenue becomes a shopping paradise, with one-of-a-kind paintings, jewelry, ceramics, woodwork, glass, and tons more.

To go with these crafts there’s also a Green Market where you can shop for handmade soaps, candles, plants, as well as specialty foods like sauces, dips, and oils.

The festival was celebrating its 30th anniversary when I compiled this list, and had upwards of 100 vendors.

15 Best Things to Do in St. Pete Beach (FL):

  • St. Pete Beach
  • Corey Avenue
  • Pass-a-Grille Historic District
  • Pass-a-Grille Beach
  • Upham Beach Park
  • Shell Key Preserve
  • Corey Avenue Sunday Market
  • Gulf Beaches Historical Museum
  • Mastry's Brewing Co.
  • Horan Park
  • TradeWinds Resort
  • The Secret Garden
  • Dolphin Racer
  • Merry Pier
  • St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival