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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 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.