Located on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Fla., is an exciting place to soak in the Florida sun and enjoy a surprisingly diverse and extensive set of attractions. Unlike a lot of beach towns that offer little besides the beach and a few shops and restaurants, this peninsula town combines big-city amenities with white sandy beaches that often make the world’s best beaches list.
From Major League Baseball and a Grand Prix event to some of the best beaches in the world, St. Pete, as it is called by locals, has it. If you are looking for upscale resorts, great restaurants with a waterfront view, abundant watersports, deep sea fishing, boutique shopping or challenging golf, St. Pete and environs has those too. St. Pete also has some world-class museums, a notable jazz festival, theater, lively nightlife and great hotels.
With its year-round sunny days, proximity to a cruise port, major airports, trains and highways, St. Pete has become a popular destination for smart tourists looking for a good Florida experience.
Before you go
St. Petersburg and Clearwater can be reached by highway, rail, air and cruise ship.
• By air, the nearest major airports are St. Pete-Clearwater International (PIE) 12 miles from downtown and Tampa International (TPA) 22 miles.
• By train, Amtrak stops at Tampa Union Station, 24 miles away.
• By car, Interstate 275 runs though St. Pete and U.S. 19 runs along the coast. Florida Highway 60 connects them across a causeway.
• Cruise ships sail from Port Tampa Cruise Terminal, 25 miles.
For a short trip
• Downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront and restaurants.
• The beaches from Clearwater on the north to Pass-A-Grill and Tierra Verde on the south. Filled with great sand, hotels, condos and restaurants.
• A ferry ride across Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa and return. Great views.
For a longer trip
• Great museums: The Dali Museum, Chihuly Collection (glass), James (western art) and the Florida Holocaust Museum are particularly noteworthy.
• Clearwater, with great beaches, an aquarium, resorts and more restaurants.
• Tampa’s museums, Ybor City or the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.
• Baseball spring training (Yankees in Tampa, Phillies and Blue Jays in St. Pete), regular-season major league Tampa Bay Rays baseball or the NHL’s Lightning games, depending on the season.
• Gulfport, a kitschy and picturesque town on the bay, 6 miles from downtown.
• Tarpon Springs, a Greek-style seaport town 33 miles to the north.
• Busch Gardens in Tampa, 32 miles away and Orlando theme parks, about 100 miles from the beaches.
• Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, 40 miles (seasonal).
• Sunken Gardens
• A gorgeous drive south on I-275 over the Sunshine Skyway bridge to Bradenton and Sarasota’s cultural attractions.
• Deep-sea fishing.
• A dolphin-watching cruise.
• Golf courses galore. Nearby Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is the site of the PGA Valspar Open in March.
Destination at a glance
When to go: Florida is good to visit anytime. But high season – Christmas through Easter – has the best weather and the most crowds. Summers are popular, but humid and hot. April, May, October and November still have good weather and fewer crowds.
Where to stay: Upscale properties include the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel in St. Pete, the Don Cesar Hotel and the Tradewinds Island Resort at St. Pete Beach. Hundreds of other properties at a wide range of prices are available downtown and on the beaches.
Special travel interests: Museums, baseball and beaches.
Jeffrey Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Fla.