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Kid-friendly beach days

A reader e-mailed tbt*'s Whoa, Momma! parenting blog (blogs.tampabay.com/moms): Can you recommend a kid-friendly beach in Tampa Bay? She came to the right place. The Whoa, Momma! team haunts the beaches as much as possible. Here are some child-friendly beaches and tips on how to minimize discomfort and sand. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne wynne@tampabay.com

Pinellas

We love Pass-a-Grille, because you can park near the bathrooms and city playground and it's not a long haul from the car to the beach. Bring lots of quarters.

Fort De Soto is a world-class beach, but with little ones it's easier to use the closer East Beach (turn left at the park entrance) instead of the beautiful but more remote North Beach. Don't forget to stop at the fort, where kids can climb on a real cannon.

Gulfport is a bay beach instead of a Gulf beach, which means the shelling isn't so good, and there's lots of seaweed. But for little ones, it's nice because the wave action is less violent and there's a great playground right on the beach. There are lots of good restaurants nearby, too.

Clearwater Beach has it all. Bathhouses, concessions, lifeguards, picnic areas and playgrounds. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also a nice stop while you're in the area.

Hillsborough

Just because there isn't a gulf coastline in Hillsborough doesn't mean there are no sandy spots. The non-beach beaches in the Tampa area include Davis Islands Sea Plane Basin and Ben T. Davis Beach (the Tampa side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway). But the mack daddy water scene is Picnic Island. If you don't mind driving past gritty industrial buildings at the south end of Commerce Street in Port Tampa, you'll find a long swimming beach, fishing pier, playgrounds and picnic shelters galore.

Pasco

Pasco County's Gulf waters are kind of shallow for swimming, but many enjoy Robert K. Rees Memorial Park, formerly known as Green Key, in New Port Richey; and Hudson Beach, though they seem to have more than their share of warnings about bacterial counts for swimming there. The Anclote River Park in Holiday offers a beach, picnic area, a playground and restrooms.

Keep an eye out for the re-opening of Fred Howard Park off Tarpon Springs this fall, a popular destination for Pasco County and north Pinellas residents.

— Weigh in with your thoughts on favorite beaches at our parenting blog Whoa, Momma! at blogs.tampabay.com/moms.

A mom's tips for hitting the beach

How to prepare: Put the sunscreen on at home so it has a chance to absorb and you don't have to wrestle wiggling ones on the beach. I pack spray-on sunscreen for touch ups, because it's much easier to hit a moving target with those.

What to pack: In my huge beach bag I have a bedsheet to sit on (it's easier than a blanket to shake out later), towels, hats, sunscreen and lots of quarters for parking meters and toll booths. I bring chairs and sometimes an umbrella, but I don't bother lugging too much stuff unless we are staying all day. I keep beach toys in a net bag; it's really a coach's bag for soccer balls I found in the sporting goods aisle. They're easy to carry and you can run the whole bag under the shower to wash off sand. And most important for little ones, pack a set of dry clothes and keep it in your car. When you leave the beach, shower off and change. This cuts down on sand in the car, and they will no doubt conk out on the drive home, so you can just put them to bed.

When to go: Plan beach trips around the naptime. I prefer leaving early so we can be on the beach by 10 a.m., staying through lunch, showering and changing and then driving home for a nice long afternoon nap. The other option I like is going later in the afternoon and having a sunset picnic (bring bug spray). It's not as hot out, and the beach isn't as crowded.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Kid-friendly beach days 04/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 3:11pm]

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