CLEARWATER BEACH WALK
The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa opened in February, the centerpiece of Beach Walk, a $30 million revitalization project along a half-mile pathway with shopping, dining and entertainment. The gorgeous red clay sidewalks and constant views of the Gulf of Mexico make it perfect for a stroll or skate. The Hyatt also brought 400 much-needed parking spaces with it, though they are pricey ($2.25 an hour for self parking or $18 for valet), but restaurants there do validate.
FRED HOWARD PARK
The beach at this Tarpon Springs state park reopened in December. It was closed almost two years ago so the county could replace two bridges along the causeway that provides access to the 155-acre park at 1700 Sunset Drive, off Florida Avenue. A popular destination for northern Pinellas and west Pasco sun worshippers, it's a haven for windsurfers, fisherman and kayak enthusiasts. It also has nine picnic shelters, two playgrounds, a ball field and green space.
NEW MADEIRA BEACH DRAWBRIDGE
Uh no, the huge new span near John's Pass Village that has been under construction nearly five years is not done yet, but it's getting close (maybe just a few more months?). It will have dual 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, 8-foot sidewalks on each side, a new bridge tender house and four observation decks, along with improved lighting, signs and pavement markings. If you go to John's Pass on Madeira Beach, you'll still find its touristy shops and restaurants, tied together with a boardwalk and fishing village. But bring a ton of change for parking meters, because a quarter only buys you 15 minutes.
An increasingly popular way to scoot around the water, paddleboards are like big surfboards, except you stand on the board and paddle with a long oar. It's great exercise, and there are even on-the-water fitness classes using them to work the trunk, hips and core. A "boot camp" class is offered at 9 a.m. Saturdays at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg and at the Clearwater Sailing Center, and more will be offered as the water warms up. Call (727) 902-4294 or go to www.standupfitnessinc.com, where they offer lessons, eco tours and fitness classes that cost $25 without a board, $10 with your own board. The Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure (9501 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park) sells paddleboards and offers lessons. Call (727) 576-4169 or go to www.billjacksons.com. Reno Beach Surf Shop at 1031 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg and Watermonkey at 1305 49th St. S in Gulfport offer rentals so you can try it for the day.