Best Beaches

The Awesome Beaches of West Central Florida

John and I have been to a lot of great beaches since we started our Florida Journey and we thought we should do a one post recap of a few of our best West Central Florida beach adventures thus far. ( covering, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties) Now please don’t ask us to pick a favorite beach because that would be an impossible task. Each one has it’s own special qualities and like our children and grandchildren, no favorites, we love them all. But what we will do is make some recommendations on places to stay, where to get a great meal and some fun things to do, while visiting each of these great beaches.

Clearwater Beach – Pinellas County

This beach is one of the most popular with tourist and for good reason. Clearwater Beach has a large selection of places to stay, eat and play and all along a stretch of a happening white sandy beach. There are a multitude of boat tours, bars, places to shop, a pier and an aquarium, and all within a reasonable walking distance to wherever you choose to stay.

One of the most popular places to eat is Frenchy’s Rock Away Grill, it is a Clearwater Beach tradition and has a casual beach menu. There are a bunch of hotels to choose from but if you want one right on the white sandy Beach than the Hilton or Sand Pearl is your best bet. Click here to read our full post on our visit to Clearwater Beach

Of course no visit to Clearwater Beach is complete without visiting Hope and Winter at the Clearwater Beach Marine Aquarium.

Siesta Key – Sarasota County

Perhaps made even more famous by the reality TV show of the same name, Siesta Key continues to be voted one of Florida’s #1 beaches.

Pro – Beautiful white sand, Con – Lots of beautiful white sand making for a long walk from the car to the water. Pro – nearby Siesta Key Village with places to shop and lots of restaurant choices. Con – lots of restaurant choices making it difficult deciding where to eat!! Our pick? Siesta Key Oyster Bar. Best choice of place to stay? Vacation condo or home would be best in this area. See our full post on our day on Siesta Key.


Anna Maria Island – Manatee County

7 miles of beautiful Gulf coast beaches. No big hotel chains to block your view of the water. Laid back community living the dream of a care free salt life. Free trolley system taking you up and down the 7 miles of beach with stops at all the popular places.

A beach cottage would be the lodging of choice and as far as a great place to eat? well, we loved the Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Bridge Street Pier. For a more upscale dining experience then the choice would be The Beach House restaurant right on Bradenton Beach. If you love bird watching and perhaps a chance to see a manatee, or other marine or wildlife, then you have to do the nature walk at Leffis Key on the south end of Anna Maria Island. Click for our full post on Anna Maria Island.

Fort Desoto – Pinellas County

3 miles of family beach with an abundance of shaded picnic facilities and playgrounds. This beach has everything: bike trails, walking trails, nature trails, kayaking, canoeing and a boat ramp. Bike and kayak rentals are available within this 1,100 acre park. As an added bonus to your day at the beach here, is a tour of an old historic fort. There is even an RV campsite however, this campsite is so popular that it books up months and months in advance. Another fun adventure to include on your visit to Fort Desoto Beach is the ferry ride over to Egmont Key for a day of snorkeling and shelling.

No beach side hotels at Fort Desoto Beach as the entire beach area is public beach. Vacation condo rentals in Tierra Verde would be best choice for lodging. A waterfront restaurant Recommendation would be, Billy’s Stone Crab. Click here to read more about our adventure in Fort Desoto.


Venice Beach – Sarasota County

Venice Beach is probably best known for one of the best beaches to find sharks teeth but with it’s great fishing spots and the fact that it has a charming historic downtown area near by, it is rapidly becoming known as a family vacation destination.

Best place to eat? Our pick is Sharky’s at the Pier on Venice Beach. Not a lot of big hotel chains or resorts on Venice Beach so our pick for a perfect stay would be a vacation condo on the beach. Click title above to read the full post on our fun filled day at Venice Beach.

Honeymoon Island State Park

A perfect picnic friendly park that just happens to be surrounded by the beautiful and inviting Gulf of Mexico. This park has awesome playground facilities and a nature trail to add to the family fun.

This is a State Park so there is no lodging right on the beach, however the nearby charming Downtown District of Dunedin would be a perfect vacation stay. This quaint and very walking friendly downtown area is filled with shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors and offers much for a family to do during the evening hours of their beach vacation. Our choice for best place to stay is Best Western Plus Yacht Harbor Inn, on the water (but not a beach). For best place to have a great dinner? Sea Sea Riders on Main Street. Click here to read more about Honeymoon Island

Sand Key – Pinellas County

Across the bridge/pass from the more trendy Clearwater Beach, is the sometimes less crowded and much more relaxing, but just as beautiful, beach of Sand Key. Complete with nature trails and a dog park.

Stay of choice would be Sheraton Sand Key and for a great meal try the Sand Key location of the Columbia Restaurant , a tradition in the Tampa Bay area, as the original Columbia opened in the Ybor City Historic District of Tampa in 1919. Click here to read more about Sand Key.

We have had many great beach adventures and this is just a small sampling of the great beaches that await you in West Central Florida. To follow our journey and see more of Florida’s great beaches and other fun attractions then please subscribe to our website so we may send future posts to your email in box. To get into the Florida discussion, make new Florida loving friends, ask questions and follow our journey daily, then join our facebook group at:

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