The four miles of beach at St. Pete Beach are largely taken over by beachside resort motels, although there’s ample public beach access on almost every block. Sadly, the “access” consists mainly of a sandy walkway between the road and the sand; it’s up to you to figure out where to park if you’re not staying nearby.
St. Pete Beach Access Park (4700 Gulf Blvd.) has 240 parking spaces as well as restroom and shower facilities; the slightly smaller Upham Beach (6700 Beach Plaza) has 189 parking spots and facilities. Keeping in mind that weekend and holiday crowds from the entire area pour into these spots in droves, neither of these two options is ideal for those seeking personal space.
Slightly farther south of St. Pete Beach and past the iconic pink Don CeSar Resort is Pass-A-Grille, a tiny beach community blessed with some of the most beautiful sunsets on the gulf. Ample metered parking ($1.25 per hour, $8 per day, free after 8 p.m.) is available along almost 20 blocks of Gulf Way. Clean white sand and calm gulf waters make this a popular spot during all day long. There are public restrooms and shower facilities at 10th Avenue.
The seven miles of beach at Fort De Soto Park (3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, 7 a.m.–sunset daily, free) are only part of what brings visitors. This well-equipped county park also has a 238-site camping area, fishing piers, picnic shelters, a running and walking trail, a canoe trail, floating docks for launching boats, and 20 (!) public restroom buildings. All those amenities might make it sound like you’ll be elbow-to-elbow with other people, but thankfully that’s not the case. All those sights are spread out over 900 acres, and even the most crowded beaches manage to be pleasantly pastoral, if not private. The soft powdery sand hides an abundance of seashells.