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Beach SPots: From a St. Pete Local

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

There is nothing like going outdoors to make one appreciate where they live. I spend a lot of time indoors watching Netflix and cuddling my orange tabby cat, so it can be easy for me to forget the beauty outside my front door.

I reside in St. Petersburg, FL about 20 to 30 minutes away from some world-renowned beaches. I have lived here for four years, and go to the beaches as often as possible. Living near the beach has both positives and negatives, which include everything from multi-colored sunsets and great food to obscene traffic and limited parking.

There are many beaches in my area, and each is a little different from the others.


Writing in the sand at Fort DeSoto North Beach.

One of my favorites is Pass-a-Grille Beach. It is generally much less populated than St. Pete Beach or Madeira Beach, and that makes it quite peaceful. I am of the opinion that one of the best kept secrets in Pinellas County is the tip of Pass-a-Grille Beach.  

“The Tip,” as locals refer to it, is at the south end of Pass-a-Grille Beach, and there resides a dock jutting into the Gulf of Mexico, resembling the head of a boat. In general, the area is frequently visited by fishmen trying to get the first catch of the day, but my favorite time to go there is around midnight. If you time it just right, you will get there when the Tip is devoid of people and you can lay on the path and stare at the stars. I like to think of it as the darkest bit of Pinellas County, dark enough to see the twinkling stars overhead which is difficult in cities filled with lights.

Coastal Living, a popular travel and leisure publication, describes Pass-A-Grille Beach as, “Located on the skinny southern end of an island just off St. Petersburg, Pass-A-Grille is only a block wide–edged on one side by a long, alluring Gulf beach, and on the other by Boca Ciega Bay.”

For more details about the Pass-A-Grille Beach happenings, visit http://visitpassagrille.com/.

Another beautiful beach in Pinellas County is Fort DeSoto. Fort DeSoto is a state park here in South St. Petersburg complete with nature trails, docks, a North and East Beach, historic fort circa the 1880s, and camping grounds. It is just far enough on the outskirts of the city that many people, referring most widely to college students like myself, are unaware that it even exists. It does cost $5 per car to enter the park, but it is worth the small fee.

According to the Pinellas County Parks webpage, “The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). These keys are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and scores of native plants.” (http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm)

My first visit to the beach here was mesmerizing; I’m talking utter and total peace. It is an busy area on the weekends, but on that Thursday evening, it felt like I was walking in a movie. The waves rolled quietly to the shoreline and splashed onto nearby rock formations that looked like forgotten pieces of history. The sun shone down on the clear shallows, and to be honest, I walked around with my mouth open in shock that no one I knew had ever mentioned the beach here.

Fort Desoto North Beach in the evening.

“My best advice for people new to visiting the park and beaches here is to bring a kayak or canoe, so you will be able to go on water adventures to see the mangroves. Also, sneakers and water are important for hiking the trails,” says Maryah Bilbao, a Tampa Bay native.

A popular location for beach-goers in Pinellas County is John’s Pass. Located near Madeira Beach, it is a cluster of shops and restaurants perfect for capturing the delight of one’s inner tourist. There is everything from souvenir shops, to ice cream and chocolate bars, to the boardwalk that leads one to the edge of Madeira Beach. One of my favorite places in John’s Pass is a tiny frozen custard shoppe, a staple to the block. It is a bright blue unit about halfway down the main path of the Pass, which serves old-school custard; a perfect treat after a day in the sun.

Madeira Beach itself is located at the end of John’s Pass Boardwalk. The walk opens up to bright white, powdered sand and a massive stretch of the shoreline. It is a wonderful place to watch the sky melt during sunset, and many frequent the area with their dogs and loved ones.

Madeira Beach at sunset, during Labor Day weekend.

“My favorite thing about Madeira Beach is the walkway into the ocean. It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Kelli Carmack, a senior at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “I took this photo of it a couple years ago and it’s still one of my favorite photos just because it truly captures the beauty of the beach.”


Kelli on Madeira Beach a few summers ago, photo courtesy of Kelli Carmack.


For information on events and happenings at John’s Pass, visit johnspassvillage.net.

St. Pete Beach was the first beach introduced to me when I came to Pinellas County four years ago. I remember being in awe of how pretty it was. There was limited parking that day, so my friends and I ended up in the lot of the Publix across the street, and walked over. The sand was so fine it felt like slightly grainy talcum powder between my toes. It was high tide, so the water came up the shore a bit higher than what I later experienced as typical. I had been accustomed to beaches on the east coast of Florida which were rampant with loose seaweed, but St. Pete Beach wasn’t and since the water was clear blue, I was pleasantly surprised.

The sun was bright in the cloudless sky, and as the years passed I ended up coming to St. Pete Beach most often due to its proximity to campus. I didn’t have a car for my first three years of being in Pinellas County, but the great thing was the Central Avenue Trolley will take one straight to the beach and it is free to students at my University.

For more information about the CAT and free PSTA trolley/bus services for USFSP students, visit www.psta.net/riding-psta/trolley-services and www.usfsp.edu/sustainability/transportation/.

Pinellas County is widely known for its beaches, and keep in mind the four discussed in this article are not the only ones. There are many, many more and each is more beautiful than the last, if that is even possible. That’s just this native Floridian girl’s opinion, though. For fact, go explore the Pinellas County coast, and see for yourself!




I am 22 years old, and a senior Mass Communications major at USFSP. I am a total foodie, and I love spending time with my cat, Tigger.
A Mass Communications Major with a passion for inspiring others.