St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach – Which is Best for You?

Deciding between St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach? Both are popular beach towns located on the Florida Gulf Coast. This article will look at the differences between them to help you decide where to visit on your next vacation!

Tampa Bay has several gorgeous barrier islands that offer some of Florida’s prettiest beaches, most notably Clearwater Beach and St Pete Beach. Both have been ranked year over year for their award-winning beaches. In 2019, Clearwater Beach was #1 Beach in the US by TripAdvisor’s Best Beaches. Then in 2021, St Pete Beach was ranked #1 by TripAdvisor! Needless to say, they have a lot in common with their natural beauty.

When going on vacation, it can be difficult determining which area to spend most of your time. As a local, let me help break them down for you.

Map of St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach, Florida

If your vacation plans are largely centered around the resort and beach time, Clearwater would be the clear choice. Clearwater Beach has more to do within walking distance with easy accessibility on the promenade.

If you are looking to explore, St Pete Beach has better accessibility to Tampa and downtown St Petersburg. Clearwater Beach is further and also the roads tend to be more heavily trafficked than St Pete Beach (and is also closer to I-275).

The Gulf Coast actually comprises several communities each with its own personality. St Pete Beach is closer to several of the cute Florida beach towns such as Gulfport and Pass-a-Grille.

The southernmost point of St Pete Beach you’ll discover quaint Pass-a-Grille. It has eclectic vibes with Old Florida houses. The coral pink Don CeSar Hotel steals the show on the bridge as you cross the bridge on the Pinellas Bayway.

As you head north towards Clearwater Beach, you will drive through other attractive beach communities including Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, and Indian Rocks Beach.

St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach Summary

St Pete BeachClearwater Beach
Artsy & laid back Old Florida beach vibe
Buzzing, upscale but with a relaxed feel
5-star resort, boutique or local motels
Luxury resorts and well-known chain hotels
Busy, less crowded beaches
Busier, more crowded beaches
Little nightlife – mostly bars
Little nightlife – mostly bars
Less expensive
Tends to be slightly more expensive
Beaches are family-friendly
Beaches are family friendly with a lifeguard
(daytime hours)

Biking, parks, and museums nearby
Pier performers, music, aquarium
Drive to Tampa (28 miles)
Drive to Downtown Tampa (25 miles)

Drive to Downtown St Pete (9 miles)
Drive to Downtown St Pete (24 miles)

St Pete Beach is a relaxed, Old Florida beach town just a short drive from downtown St Petersburg, whereas Clearwater Beach is a more polished beach town located closer to Tampa.

Clearwater Beach is a popping beach town known for its shops, pier sunset performers, and fun vibe. It’s the more popular tourist hot spot of the two towns.

Clearwater Beach has a more upscale vibe than St Pete Beach. It’s home to a variety of wealthy residents including a few Hollywood icons. You’ll also find a wider scope of high-end resorts and delicious restaurants.

St Pete Beach has a range of excellent boutique hotels, motels, and short-term rentals, as well as beautiful 4 or 5-star accommodations. The most famous hotel is the stunning, Don CeSar Hotel.

St Pete Beach also has a more casual, Old Florida vibe – you’ll find motels with classic signage and restaurants that have been in business for decades. Many of the businesses are 1 or 2 stories, versus Clearwater Beach with multi-story buildings.

Read Next: A Local’s Guide: The 16 Best St Pete Beach Bars & Nightlife!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Bigger? St Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach

The Sand Pearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, FL has large balcony view of the white sandy beaches and pool.
The Sand Pearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, FL

By area, there are far more similarities than differences in the beaches. Both are gorgeous, but Clearwater Beach is shorter and wider with more sand dunes, whereas St Pete Beach is long and narrow.

Which Beach Is Better: St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach?

Crystal clear waters in St Pete Beach - Pass-a-Grille Beach. The water is clean and fresh without litter.  It's an ideal place to spend with the family.
Crystal clear waters in St Pete Beach – Pass-a-Grille Beach

Clearwater Beach provides a daytime lifeguard service along with other amenities, making it just a bit better than St. Pete Beach for families. Both locations have a long list of fantastic kids’ things to do in Tampa Bay!

If you are looking for a quiet, Old Florida beach, then you would prefer St Pete Beach and surrounding areas such as Pass-a-Grille. This picturesque beach town is just a few minutes drive from central St Pete Beach.

You will find more similarities than differences in both of these lovely places. Both beautiful beaches provide white sugar sand, plentiful sunlight, and stunning Gulf of Mexico views.

Which Is More Affordable?

Anywhere in or around the main touristy areas tends to be more pricey in both cities. In general, Clearwater Beach is relatively more pricey than St Pete Beach.

St Pete Beach has much more affordable motels, as well as restaurants and bars, which tend to be cheaper too. 

Activities in St Pete Beach

There are more non-beach activities closer to St Pete Beach compared with Clearwater Beach. However, if you are strictly looking at beach activities, both are very similar.

This area tends to be more residential with lots of homes and condos just off Gulf Blvd. Having said that, it is still a major tourist spot with lots of things to do in St Pete Beach!

Top Activities in St Pete Beach

You can also head out on a bike on the Pinellas Trail that connects with downtown St. Petersburg and as far north as Tarpon Springs. This 75-mile loop is a fun way to explore the connecting cities while getting some exercise.

Activities In Clearwater Beach

Untitled design10 St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach
Gorgeous views from Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach being more polished offers more of a resort destination feel. Pier 60 has sometimes been compared to Mallory Square in Key West.

Top Activities in Clearwater Beach:

  • Beachfront promenade for bicyclists, walkers, etc.
  • Tikki Boat Tours
  • Pirate Ship Rides
  • Pier 60 shopping, playground, and nightly festivals
  • Parasailing
  • Paddleboarding
  • The Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Where to Stay in St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach

Bright colorful, pink hotel on the beach with gorgeous gulf views and white sandy beaches.  Don CeSar Hotel in the ideal 5-star beach resort in St Pete Beach.
Don CeSar Hotel in St Pete Beach FL – Luxury 5-star Resort

Accommodation In St Pete Beach

St Pete Beach tends to have a wide range of upscale hotels to moderately priced and budget-friendly accommodations. Depending on your price range, each of these are excellent options and highly rated.

Best places to stay in St. Pete Beach:

Best places to stay in Clearwater Beach:

In St Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach, you’ll also find many hotels directly on the beach itself. These are great places to stay as you’ll get scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico right from your hotel balcony.

Weather in St Pete Beach & Clearwater Beach

St Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach - views from Clearwater Beach.  Sunset view from the beach.
St Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach – views from Clearwater Beach

In St Pete and Clearwater Beach, it is very rare when rain occurs for an entire day. But that doesn’t mean not to expect a shower or two! They just tend to pass by quickly.

In Florida, it may be raining where you are at and you will think you’re plans are over. Then drive a mile or so and it’s completely sunny with no signs of rain! It’s one of the strangest things, and one of the reasons I love this beautiful state.

Final Thoughts

Both St Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach are fantastic vacation destinations for all ages!  

I hope this article helped identify the main differences between St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach.

Read Next: 25 Exciting Things to Do in St Pete Beach, FL

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1 thought on “St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach – Which is Best for You?”

  1. This is a fantastic, well-explained guide to choosing your favorite beach! I guess St Peters Beach is more for my taste! I would like to spend some time there! Thanks for sharing this!

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