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Best State Parks near Clearwater / Tampa area

My wife and I are traveling to Clearwater Beach July 15th for business (we live in Jacksonville). We are interested in staying somewhere with a cool vib and going where the locals go.

Looking for a place near a State Park / Preserve where we can go to the beach and avoid the major crowds (I realize this is FL and that request is relative). Also, cast an artificial line a time or two from the shore and/or wade. We are leaning to go south towards Sarasota but are up to suggestions. I am going back and forth on whether to take my flats boat. Again, it's for business but we are just extending into the weekend.

Thanks in advance! I'll repay any good suggestions with some local insight for up here in Jacksonville if you want it.


  • Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 4,944 Moderator
    Closest nice State park near Clearwater would, IMHO, be Honeymoon Island. Caladisi Island SP is also a good spot, but available only by water. (there is a ferry that will take you there. The ferry dock is on the causeway to Honeymoon. My favorite spot, a little further than Caladisi and Honeymoon, but not as crowded is Ding Darling Natl Wildlife Refuge http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Map_of_J.N._%27Ding%27_Darling_National_Wildlife_Refuge.jpg&imgrefurl=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_J.N._%27Ding%27_Darling_National_Wildlife_Refuge.jpg&h=2350&w=3951&sz=1512&tbnid=J_9ueuGHFv-__M:&tbnh=90&tbnw=151&zoom=1&usg=__L13Qo4Gu_IJgj1faeBlyYTuam9A=&docid=96rwsNvuBPzZCM&sa=X&ei=C67PUe_zEoaH0QGX14HYDQ&ved=0CDwQ9QEwAg&dur=18
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,349 Captain
    Fort Desoto in St. Pete is one of the best.
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • Mackeral SnatcherMackeral Snatcher Posts: 11,441 AG
    CaptainBly wrote: »
    Fort Desoto in St. Pete is one of the best.

  • mikeykeymikeykey Posts: 93 Greenhorn
    Slight change in plans. I've actually been to ft. desoto last year and didn't even remember until now. It is an amazing place. The plan now is to stay one night (maybe two if I can convice the wife) primitivly camping on Shell Key. The question I have now is if I was to do this, how safe would my tent be during the day if we went off on my boat for an excursion to egmont for example during the day. At night we'd just beach the boat. I also read that it gets pretty busy there on weekends with party-goers beaching thier boats. Any issues with that you think? Any good nearby places to fish? what color artificial do they like down there? Any restaurants near there you can access from a boat? sooo o many questions.....lol
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,349 Captain
    You shouldn't have any issues. We camp there a couple times a year. The island is technically a dry zone by the way. But I know there are a few red solo cups being used. They do patrol it though. We got an $80 ticket a couple years ago but overall if you are cool about it, they look the other way.

    Your bigger issue with that little plan is heat. It would be miserable in a tent right now. They have chopped virtually all the trees down as well so very little cover. Lots of firewood but no getting out of the sun.

    Bugs could be an issue too.

    I doubt too many people are camping out there right now but I could be wrong on that.

    Good luck if that is what you end up doing. I would spend a few $$$ on a place with a/c....
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • mikeykeymikeykey Posts: 93 Greenhorn
    Thanks for the info Capt.

    I was looking at it via Google Maps and trying to get a feel for how much shade there was and it was hard to tell. Plus, if they are cutting trees down, the sat. view wouldn't show the most up-to-date view either.

    Any hotels with marinas near there? You have a great point about heat. If it is way too hot, it'd be the last camping trip I could convince my wife to go on.
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,349 Captain
    In that case, I would DEFINITELY not camp... With the rains we have been having and the heat, it would be miserable. There are virtually no trees at all any more. Some mangroves on the inside side but they aren't going to give you any shelter.

    It would be difficult I think finding a hotel this late for July 4th weekend. There was a holiday inn sunspree resort right by Oneill's but I think it changed names. I don't know if they have boat docks but I know you can get there via boat. But no clue about the hotel quality etc.... Oneill's Marine I know rents trailer spots. Contact Lisa Battle over there. http://www.oneillsmarina.com/ She is awesome and will hook you up, and not bad to look at either....

    Oneill's would be a good access point for anything you could do in a 19' boat. Leave your boat there and stay at a nearby hotel.
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
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