Last Updated on March 31, 2024

Trying to decide whether or not to visit St Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach for your next Florida vacation?

It’s a tough decision, I get it.

As someone that travels to Florida’s Gulf Coast often, I’ve seen the very best of the state from all angles — and I’ll tell you, there’s a lot to see and discover.

So much in fact, that it’s impossible to experience it all in one trip.

However, the article below will provide detailed reviews, insider tips, and general guides to the differences between these two Gulf Coast gems to help you decide where to spend your next vacation!

Part of the greater Tampa Bay Area, both of these pristine barrier islands offer some of Florida’s prettiest white sand beaches.

In fact, in recent years, both have been named the best beaches in the U.S. 

Clearwater Beach was named the ‘#1 Beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor in 2019.

Most recently, TripAdvisor also ranked St. Pete Beach the ‘#1 Best Beach in the U.S. in 2021!

This may go without saying, but regardless of which beach you choose to visit, you’ll be sure to enjoy plenty of natural beauty.

So what are you waiting for?

Continue reading below to learn more about the best places to explore, eat, adventure in this St. Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach guide!

St. Pete Beach boasts a laid-back, Old Florida vibe.

Best Things To Do In St Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach is known for having one of the most luxurious 5-star resorts in Florida.

Don’t let this fool you, however. The area itself boasts a laid-back, Old Florida vibe.

This makes it a great place to enjoy nature and attractions at a more leisurely pace.

It’s known to have beaches with fewer crowds than Clearwater, is closer to downtown St. Petersburg, and is generally less expensive in terms of food and lodging.

It’s a great destination for families and is home to many parks, nature, and biking trails, and museums. 

In terms of beaches, one of the most popular places –  aside from central St. Pete Beach, is Pass-a-Grille.

This picturesque beach is just a few minutes’ drive from downtown with pristine white sand and warm waters.

At most beaches, popular activities include paddle boarding, biking, glass-bottom boat tour, and parasailing.

For the more adventurous, you can book a party boat cruise or a dolphin cruise.

For those who prefer to stay on land, be sure to check out the nearby Salvador Dalí Museum and the Sunken Gardens. 

The most famous attraction is Clearwater Beach for its pristine white sand and beautiful Florida sunsets.

Best Things To Do In Clearwater Beach

Known as a more upscale area with unique boutique hotels and beach resorts, if you’re looking for an upbeat and lively vacation, Clearwater Beach is the place for you.

First, the most famous attraction is Clearwater Beach for its pristine white sand and beautiful Florida sunsets.

This beach is known to be warm and sunny most of the year, is extremely clean, and is a great place to kick back and relax under a beach umbrella.

Water and other outdoor activities are also popular pastimes near Clearwater Beach.

You can take a helicopter ride over Tampa Bay, kayak in Caladesi Island State Park, or visit Pier 60 to check out the street performers and art vendors. 

Nearby, there are plenty of casual beachwear stores, and restaurants, as well as snack stands and seafood shacks.

A local favorite is without a doubt Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill. Here, you can enjoy a hearty meal of fresh local fish and cool off with a slice of Key Lime pie on a hot day.

The best part?  Clearwater Beach is less than 30 minutes from Tampa, so if urban adventure is more your style, the city is at your fingertips.

For solo travelers and couples, Clearwater Beach has an amazing nightlife scene with plenty of fun casual bars to quench your thirst.

A few favorite local haunts include Hogan’s Hangout and The Brown Boxer with a dog-friendly outdoor patio.

At St Pete Beach you can explore John's Pass Village & Boardwalk to shop, dine, or adventure.

Attractions Near St. Pete Beach

If you’re a beach bum, you’re in luck while visiting St. Pete Beach.

Other nearby (and less crowded) towns include Madeira Beach, Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, and Reddington Beach.

Being mostly residential towns, there’s still plenty to do, see, and eat in each of them.

If you’re a golfer, be sure to check out the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club in Gulfport, FL.

The best part is that you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the courses — the club offers tee times to the general public on certain days of the week!

Madeira Beach or “Mad Beach” is a personal favorite.

Here, you can explore John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk to shop, dine, or adventure.

This multi-level complex on the Intracoastal Waterway boasts more than 100 shops, restaurants, and water-related businesses.

It’s also home to the triple-decker dining boat Calypso Breeze, where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner on the water.

Every October, Mad Beach also hosts the John’s Pass Seafood Festival.

A bicycle decorated with corals and marine plants in Tarpon Springs Florida.

Attractions Near Clearwater Beach

Want to experience a taste of the Greek isles when visiting Clearwater Beach?

You’ll want to head to Tarpon Springs. Here, Greek flags fly freely and buildings are painted in iconic blue and white.

Explore the working waterfront along the Anclote River, or take to the water for a boat ride along the coast to learn about the area’s history of sponge-diving.

To end a great day trip, savor a traditional Greek meal at one of the town’s many excellent restaurants. A local favorite is Hellas Restaurant.

If you’re a fan of craft beer, you’ll want to visit Dunedin Brewery in the town of Dunedin, just north of Clearwater Beach.

This walkable town is also a great place to rent a bike to explore nearby nature trails, take a ferry ride to Caladesi Island, or take to the outdoors at Honeymoon Island State Park.

St. Pete Beach Pier during sunset and the view from Clearwater Beach

St. Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach: Which Beach Is Better For Couples?

Both beaches offer a different vibe for visiting couples, it really just depends on what you’re looking for.

Clearwater is more upbeat and lively, while St. Pete Beach is more laid back and relaxed.

Clearwater is more of a “party town” as it is closer to Tampa, while St. Pete Beach is less of a spring break destination and more of a relaxing getaway.

Overall, Clearwater would likely be a better vacation spot for younger couples looking for excitement, while St. Pete would be better for more mature couples looking to unwind.

St. Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach: Which Has Better Events?

The St. Pete Beach/Clearwater area has more than 20 unique communities, all offering something unique.

It’s impossible to say one town has better events than the other because there’s so much going on year-round!

For example, if you’re visiting in the fall, you can attend the Clearwater Jazz Holiday or Sanding Ovations, a popular sand-sculpting competition in Treasure Island.

If you’re visiting during the winter months, don’t miss out on The SHINE Mural Festival, the St. Petersburg Fine Art Festival, or the Tarpon Springs Epiphany Celebration to honor the area’s Greek heritage.

St. Pete beach is famous for its seafood restaurants while at Clearwater Beach, popular restaurants range from unfussy burger joints to upscale beachfront dining.

St. Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach: Which Has Better Food?

When it comes to the St. Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach food debate, it’s definitely a toss-up!

Being close to the beach, both areas feature some of the freshest saltwater seafood in the nation.

For example, some of the most popular restaurants in the St. Pete Beach area include Shells Seafood for seafood boils, Snapper’s Sea Grill for fresh fish, and Shrimpy’s Waterfront for Cajun food and great views. 

In Clearwater, popular restaurants range from unfussy burger joints to upscale beachfront dining establishments.

As mentioned above, one of the most popular meeting spots is Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill for grouper sandwiches.

Frenchy’s also has other locations with different vibes and different menus, but the same amazing quality and taste!

Other local favorites include the upscale Sea-Guini at the Opal Sands Resort and Caretta on the Gulf for luxurious New American Cuisine.

If seafood isn’t to your liking, Badfins Food & Brew is great for tacos and pub fare, and Cabanas Coastal Grill for their Braveheart Ribeye.

Regardless of where you plan to spend your vacation, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad place to eat in either St. Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach.

St. Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach: Which One Is Cheaper?

When comparing the prices of St. Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach, it depends on what types of activities you want to enjoy as well as the hotel you stay at.

In general, Clearwater Beach is more expensive.

Due to its laid-back vibe, St. Pete Beach offers more affordable lodging options in the form of motels and 2-3 star hotels versus Clearwater Beach.

Food and beverages in St. Pete Beach are typically more affordable as well.

The average cost of a vacation in Clearwater Beach is around $301 per person daily.

Adversely,  the average daily cost for a St. Pete Beach vacation is around $163 per person daily.



Where To Stay In St. Pete Beach

Exterior view of the pink building of the Don CeSar Hotel i St. Pete Beach

⭐️ Rating 8.0/10 with over 800 reviews!

Lining the white sandy coastline of St. Pete Beach, this iconic 1920s hotel is so big that it’s on nautical charts as a guide for boaters.

Seriously. On more than 80 acres of land, it’s home to a luxury spa, upscale rooms & suites, two pools, multiple restaurants, & a full-scale gym.

Featuring contemporary ocean-inspired decor and colors, all rooms have flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, work desks, and Keurig coffee makers. 

Suites with upgraded amenities include balconies overlooking the beach, separate living areas with pull-out sofas, and full kitchenettes.

For on-site food and beverage options, there’s a sports bar, and a hip lobby lounge, and four restaurants, including a luxury seafood restaurant serving guests in giant aquariums. 

Additional complimentary amenities include free Wi-Fi, a local area shuttle, and access to fitness classes.


Book the The Don CeSar



Photo Credit- Expedia

Tropical vibe of the Hilton Garden Inn St. Pete Beach Hotel exterior

⭐️ Rating 8.7/10 with over 450 reviews!

This three-star relaxed, mid-range hotel offers front-row access to St. Pete Beach, an outdoor pool, a full gym, and a lively on-site restaurant, Coconut Charlie’s.

Due to its affordability, it’s one of the most booked properties in St. Pete Beach for families and couples.

Nearby popular attractions include the Salvador Dalí Museum (10 miles away), the Tropicana Field, and the neighboring city of St. Petersburg.

It’s also less than a 30-minute drive to St. Pete – Clearwater International Airport, and less than a 45-minute drive from Tampa International Airport.

Additional amenities include free WiFi, free parking, and daily housekeeping.

Go here for more places to stay in St Pete Beach.


Where To Stay In Clearwater Beach

Photo Credit- Expedia

Stunning outdoor pool of the Opal Sands Resorts in Clearwater Beach Florida

⭐️ Rating 8.9/10 with over 1695 reviews!

Overlooking Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, this modern, luxury property is within walking distance from downtown Clearwater’s top shops, restaurants, and attractions.

In fact, it’s less than two miles from the popular Pier 60 and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. 

Upscale amenities include a walk-in pool with pool-bar service, a full gym, and a luxe full-service spa.

For on site dining and beverage options, it has a beach cabana restaurant, Sandbar, and a chic Italian restaurant serving fresh seafood and pasta.

All rooms include balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, mini fridges, coffeemakers, and free Wifi.

Premium rooms include pull out sofas,  pull-out sofas, living rooms, with kitchenettes with plenty of space for family dining.


Book the Opal Sands Resort



Photo Credit- Expedia

Exterior view of the Club Wyndham Clearwater Beach Resort with the overlooking view of the beach and a big outdoor pool.

⭐️ Rating 9/10 with over 40 reviews!

One of the top-rated hotel properties in the area, this cozy beachfront resort features suite-style rooms, two on-site restaurants, a full gym, a full-service spa, and an outdoor pool.

Travelers who stay at this hotel praise it for its amazing location and close proximity to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Caladesi Island, and the Florida Botanical Gardens.

It’s also a 5-minute walk from Pier 60 Park and just 12 miles from St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport.

Suite-style rooms include one or two rooms, beach-facing balconies, full kitchens and separate living rooms, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and washer/dryer combos.

For more places to stay in Clearwater Beach, check out this post! 

Sunset skyline at St Pete Beach and Morning skyline of Clearwater Beach Florida

Clearwater Beach vs St. Pete Beach – FAQs

Which Beach Is Better Clearwater Or St. Pete?

It depends on who you ask, but it’s safe to say that both are absolutely incredible.

However, deciding on which one to visit is entirely up to you and your interests as a traveler.

If your interests include relaxing at an upscale resort, lounging on the beach, and eating at amazing beachside restaurants, Clearwater is for you.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to explore and experience urban adventure, St. Pete Beach is closer to Tampa and downtown St Petersburg.

Is The Water Clear In St. Pete Beach?

The water clarity ultimately depends on the time of year.

On sunnier days, the water can appear in different shades of bright blue and even Emerald green.

During hurricane season or on overcast days, it can take on a darker blue hue.

On the days where the weather is sunnier, the water appears more clear. However, water visibility still isn’t 100 percent even in the most shallow areas.

It is still a great place for water activities and wildlife viewing!

Why Is Clearwater Beach So Popular?

There are numerous reasons why Clearwater Beach is so popular among both Floridians and visitors alike.

For starters, its white sand beaches and Emerald-green waters make it a must-see.

Add in beautiful sunsets, an amazing pier for fishing, and wildlife viewing, and it’s a prime vacation spot. 

There are als0 many beach activities you can enjoy on Clearwater Beach. These include swimming, boating, fishing from the pier, kayaking, and supping.

The beach is also within walking or driving distance to downtown Clearwater with the best hotels, restaurants, and popular sights.

How Far Apart Are Clearwater And St. Pete?

From Clearwater to St. Pete, it takes 36 minutes (or 18.9 miles) to drive the route via Gulf Blvd.

It is a 35 minute drive (or 19.4 miles) via the FL-699 South route.

Finally, it’s a 36 minute drive (or 20.1 miles) via the US-19 ALT S and FL-699 S route. 

Does St. Pete Beach Have Blue Water?

The water at St. Pete Beach is from the Gulf of Mexico. While the water isn’t completely transparent, it’s certainly stunning!

A bright turquoise blue on a sunny day, the water is clean, warm, and great for water sports like paddle-boarding, wind-surfing, renting jet skis, and swimming.

It’s also one of the best places to view wildlife including dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, and birds.

In fact, St. Pete was named the ‘#1 Best Beach in the United States’ by Trip Advisor in 2021.

It’s safe to say that there’s more to love about it than just the water visibility!

Is Clearwater Beach One Of The Best Beaches?

Named the ‘Best Beach in the Country’ in 2019 by Trip Advisor, its powdery quartz sand makes it easy to see why.

Originally displaced particles of rock from the Appalachian Mountains (which is pretty amazing), the sand isn’t the only awe-inspiring factor about this beach.

It’s also a popular spot to pop down a lawn chair to relax and unwind, soak up some sun, or partake in supping, windsurfing, or beach volleyball.

While it’s currently fallen in the rankings for “best beach in the country,” it’s no less beautiful, boasting some of the best sunsets in the state.


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Booking a last-minute trip to St Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach?  

If so, we have you covered.  Here are some top recommended tours and hotels!

Top Tours in St Pete Beach

Stunning St. Pete Beach Helicopter Tour (30-minute helicopter tour)

Dolphin Racer Speedboat Adventure (Opportunities to see dolphins and other marine animals)

Top Tours in Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Encounters with Dolphin Tours (Boat And Snorkeling Tour)

Calypso Queen Buffet Cruise (Lunch Or Dinner Cruise Around Miami)

Half-Day Private Boating Tour (Customized Half-Day Boat Tour)

Top Hotels In St Pete Beach

Treasure Island Beach Resort (Beautiful Beach View And Amenities)

Sunset Beach Suites – (Best Budget Hotel Near Madeira Beach)

Top Hotels In Clearwater Beach

Belleair Beach Resort Motel – (Best Budget Accommodation)

Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa – (Top-Rated Beach Nearby Hotel)

 Looking To Get Around In St Pete Beach Or Clearwater Beach

Check out rental car rates here! 🚗




Travel Resources


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