Clearwater, Florida is our home for the winter and we’re getting out and trying to explore the area as much as possible. Pinellas County is home to towns like Clearwater, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, St. Petersburg and endless amounts of small beach towns. Located just southwest of the city of Tampa, locals consider themselves one of the hidden gems of Florida in terms of tourism but the word has gotten out.
House prices are skyrocketing, the small towns are growing, the resorts are growing taller and the crowds and traffic are expanding. So while the masses might be heading down to the tourist area of Clearwater Beach, where else can you go to get away from the crowds and get more of a local experience? One of the Pinellas county parks!
Pinellas Park # 1: Dunedin Causeway
Top of my list is Dunedin Causeway. This narrow strip of land is not only the route to get to Honeymoon Island which I’ll discuss later in my list, but a destination in it’s own. Though not necessarily a park, it attracts many different people for different reasons.
Locals flock to this area for anything from hanging out in their cars on the beach, launching boats and kayaks, fishing, flying kites, biking, running, walking and stargazing. Come back at nighttime and you’ll find tons of townie kids partying with their friends.
There seems to be endless parking on both sides of the causeway and plenty of people just set up chairs outside their cars and spend some time alone or with friends. On nice days you’ll find sun bathers, swimmers and beach exercise classes as well as a handful of hammocks hung up along the trees.
There’s just something so comfortable and laid back about this area that makes it my number 1 spot that we’ve explored so far. Whether I want to read a book in the brisk morning air or get a quick bicycle ride in at sunset, it doesn’t disappoint.
Pinellas Park # 2: Honeymoon Island
At the end of Dunedin Causeway you’ll find one of Florida’s many State Parks. Honeymoon Island State Park, is a small 385 acre island with a small entry fee and plenty to offer.
Many go for the beaches but the island offers trails for bicycles and walking, picnic areas, wildlife viewing and ferry access to a nearby island as well.
Our day on Honeymoon Island started by picking up “Pub Subs” from the Publix nearby and riding our bikes to the picnic area in the center of the island. We then decided to ride the Osprey Trail out to the tip of the island and explore one of the quiet beach coves. We then cycled back along the Pelican Cove Trail and back to the main beaches where we parked.
ProTip: I don’t recommend the Pelican Trail for bicycles because it was muddy, sandy and swarmed with mosquitos at points.
During our time at Honeymoon, we also saw a variety of wildlife including Osprey, snakes, large turtles and even an armadillo! The island is known for it’s rattlesnake population as well but we were lucky enough not to encounter any!
Pinellas Park # 3: Fred Howard Park
This Pinellas county park was one that my boyfriend was really excited to show me! He grew up going to Fred Howard Park pretty much every day in the summers as a kid with his friend. Not only does this park have a typical wooded park vibe with walking and bicycle trails, but it has an entire causeway to itself that leads out to an island beach area with parking and water sports!
When you enter, the wooded area has picnic areas, pavilions available for rent, several playgrounds and a large field for sports and physical activity. You may also see some unique animals in this park like eagles and gopher tortoises.
Out on the causeway, there is ample pull in parking on both sides of the road where people set up shop for the day, either on towels or with camping chairs. We saw plenty of people relaxing, reading, playing in the water, launching kayaks or stand up paddleboards or fishing.
Out on the beach area, for a small parking fee, you can stay for the day on the beautiful sandy beaches on all 4 sides of the island. With bathrooms being the only amenities available, I recommend you pack a lunch and stay a while. If you’re interested in water sports, there are rentals available for kayaks, SUP, wind surfing and kite surfing! The wind was just right the day we were there and there was tons of people out on the water making the best of it.
Pinellas Parks # 4, 5, & 6: Anclote Parks
A bit farther north from Fred Howard, you’ll find Anclote River Park and Anclote Gulf Park. Both of these Pinellas parks are located on the water but offer different experiences. Anclote River has a beach area, boat launch, playgrounds, public bathrooms and changing areas and a pavilion.
Gulf Park in contrast is a haven for fishermen. A long pier that stretches into the mouth of the Anclote River presents opportunities for fishermen to gather with friends, catch fish and look for manatees. This park also has a dog park and a trail for bird watchers.
Located 3 miles to the west of the coast of Tarpon Springs, Anclote Key Preserve State Park. Only accessible by private boat or ferry service, this state park remains underdeveloped and peaceful. Whether you’re looking for a beach day for the family, a historic lighthouse, bird watching, fishing, or primitive camping, Anclote Key Preserve will provide the perfect escape from the mainland feel.
Pinellas Parks # 7 & 8: Craig Park & Spring Bayou
Also located in Tarpon Springs, the Spring Bayou isn’t a large park but worth the visit nonetheless. Park and walk around the water on a beautiful day or bring kayaks and standup paddle boards and spend some time hanging out with the manatees in the water.
If you don’t plan on getting in the water, pack a picnic, play some tennis or just go for a stroll. This park is also known for the “cross diving” and Greek Orthodox Epiphany Celebration. Some of the houses area lucky enough to own private boat ramps in this water which are cool to look at as you stroll around.
A Billion Beaches
While this post was focusing on some of the off the beaten path Pinellas parks, the entire county is literally lined with beautiful parks and beaches up and down the coast. Clearwater Beach is definitely the most touristy but if you travel south a bit more along the stretch of land on the coast, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to park and spend a day on the water. Just keep an eye out for when the crowds thin out and you won’t be disappointed!
Have you explored this area of Florida before? I’d love to hear your recommendations. In case you missed it, my last post talked about our road trip down to Florida along the East Coast. Until next time…