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

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By Erin
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Deciding between St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach? Both are popular beach towns located on the Florida Gulf Coast. This article will examine their differences 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 after year for their award-winning beaches.

St Pete Beach photo taken by Erin's Travel Tips from the Don Cesar
St Pete Beach

In 2019, Clearwater Beach was the #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 challenging to determine which area to spend most of your time in. As a local, let me help break them down for you.

If you’re looking for the short answer to Clearwater vs St Pete Beach my my first choice is St Pete Beach for laid-back beach vibes, historic sites, and more accessible access from the highway. Clearwater Beach is ideal for vacationers looking for more walkability to bars and restaurants and more beach observation with lifeguards on duty. Keep reading for more accurate and specific details to save you time.

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. My favorite beach near the heart of St Pete Beach is Upham Beach Park. It even has a secret garden nearby!

St Pete Beach is closer to several of the cute Florida beach towns such as Gulfport and Pass-a-Grille.

At 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 Differences

St Pete BeachClearwater Beach
Artsy & laid back Old Florida beach vibe
Buzzing, upscale but with a relaxed feel
5-star resort, boutique hotels, or local motels
Luxury resorts and well-known chain hotels
Busy, less crowded beaches
Busier, more crowded beaches and traffic
Little nightlife – mostly bars
Little nightlife – mostly bars
Less expensive
Tends to be slightly more expensive
Beaches are family-friendly and not as busy
Beaches are family friendly with a lifeguard
(daytime hours)

Biking, parks, and museums nearby
Pier performers, music, Clearwater Marine 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)

Read Next: 14 Best Hotels in St Pete Beach Florida + Expert Tips

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, whereas Clearwater Beach has multi-story buildings.

Common Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Bigger? St Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach

Erin walking in St Pete Beach along the sand dunes and water.
Pass-a-Grille, St Pete Beach

Clearwater Beach is part of the city of Clearwater. It’s known for its wide white sandy beaches like Siesta Key. On the other hand, St Pete Beach is a distinct municipality in Pinellas County. It’s slightly smaller and more contained than Clearwater but still boasts a significant beachfront.

If we’re looking strictly at the beach areas, Clearwater Beach might feel larger due to its broad and long stretches of sand. St Pete Beach is long and narrow but equally impressive in its own right.

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

St Pete Beach Sunset at Pass-a-Grille Beach
St Pete Beach Sunset

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 in Pinellas County. This 75-mile loop is a fun way to explore the connecting cities while getting some exercise on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Activities In Clearwater Beach

Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach sunset.  When deciding between St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach doesn't have a pier.
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 with its many things to do!

Top Activities in Clearwater Beach:

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.

🌴 Read Next: Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach: 9 Amazing Vacation Hotels

Weather in St Pete Beach & Clearwater Beach

St Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach - views from Clearwater Beach.  Sunset view from the beach, showing the weather in Clearwater 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.

⛵️ Read Next: 9 Highest Rated Tours in St Petersburg, FL

Final Thoughts: St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach

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

You have plenty of hotels, boat tours, museums, and fun things to do whether in St Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach. It truly depends on what style of vacation you prefer (and sometimes I prefer a little of everything!).

I hope this article helped identify the main differences between St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach, so you can make an informed decision.

Don’t forget to check out nearby things to do in Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, St Petersburg, and Tampa next!

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

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between St Petersburg and Clearwater?

When it comes to their beaches, you’ll find that Clearwater Beach is a more popular tourist destination than St Pete Beach. While both are consistently ranked among the top beaches in the US by TripAdvisor, Clearwater Beach tends to be the most popular for vacationers and has more chain hotels. St Pete Beach has a more laid-back local vibe.

Why is St Pete Beach the best?

Besides being ranked the #1 Beach in the US by TripAdvisor in 2021, it has a laid-back fun vibe and tends to be less expensive than Clearwater Beach. It is also easily accessible from I-275 for visitors from Tampa, Orlando, and Sarasota.

Is the water clear at St Pete Beach?

Yes, St Pete Beach water color is clear and depending on the time of year can appear in various shades of blue-green to turquoise water with beautiful soft white sandy beaches.

Can you see the sunset from St Pete Beach?

St Pete Beach Sunset

Yes, you will get the most amazing sunsets in St Pete Beach as well as Clearwater Beach. With a wide-open Gulf of Mexico view, you will see bright, vibrant sunsets without any obstruction. For a memorable evening, catch a St Pete Beach sunset in Pass-a-Grille with live music at Paradise Grille, and as local, Jim LeBlanc rings the nightly sunset bell.

How far is St Pete Beach from Clearwater Beach?

It is approximately 18 miles from St Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach. An average day will take you approximately 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the season.

Does St Pete Beach Florida have a boardwalk?

No, St Pete Beach does not have a boardwalk like Clearwater Beach. Madeira Beach, known as John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, has more than 100 shops, bars, and restaurants within a short drive of St Pete Beach.

What is the best month to visit St. Pete Beach?

St Pete Beach is known for beautiful weather most of the year. However, most vacationers prefer mild temperatures and to avoid hurricane season which runs from June to November. Optimal weather is usually January to April for the ideal subtropical weather. However, April into summer is becoming increasing popular especially as the crowded beaches become less busy.

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If so, I would love to hear about your Florida travel adventures! You can follow me on Instagram, and tag your images to @erinstraveltips and hashtag #erinstraveltips. I look forward to seeing you there!

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Authored By: Erin
Welcome to Erin’s Travel Tips, a Florida Travel Website. I specialize in unique family travel destinations, outdoor getaways in Florida and beyond! I’m a proud Floridian who loves a good cup of coffee, boating, and of course, traveling with my family to some of the most interesting places in the world.

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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