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Exploring Tampa Bay? Here are some local favorites.

Where residents enjoy what the area has to offer.
Aerial drone image of the Anna Maria Island Beach pictured on Friday, April 16, 2021.
Aerial drone image of the Anna Maria Island Beach pictured on Friday, April 16, 2021. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jun. 3
Updated Jun. 3

The Tampa Bay area is filled with wonders like Weeki Wachee Springs, the new St. Pete Pier and more.

Not only that, beaches on the region’s gulf coast get national attention: St. Pete Beach was ranked 2020′s best beach in America and the fifth-best in the world by TripAdvisor while Dunedin’s Caladesi Island was placed on Dr. Beach’s top 10 annual list in May.

But with widespread recognition comes larger crowds. As much as Florida loves tourism dollars, residents may not particularly enjoy having visitors taking over. If you’re visiting the area, reporter Sue Carlton explains how to avoid common pitfalls many Tampa Bay tourists make that frustrate the people who live here.

So where do locals prefer to go? We asked readers via social media for the best beaches and places to escape. Here’s what they had to say — the ones who didn’t prefer to keep their favorites a secret.

Beaches

Siesta Key was one of the most common responses among Tampa Bay Times' Instagram followers.
Siesta Key was one of the most common responses among Tampa Bay Times' Instagram followers. [ Times archives (2011) ]
  • Siesta Key Beach — Mimi8711 via Instagram
  • Indian Rocks Beach, because it is quiet. — Siobhan Spear, Hudson
  • Clearwater Beach, “there’s something for everyone there.” — Jessie March, Dunedin
A drone's view of Fort DeSoto dog beach. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
A drone's view of Fort DeSoto dog beach. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  • Fort De Soto Park, “Florida’s biodiversity at its finest.” — @jamiesonplays via Instagram
  • Anna Maria Island for the blue water, but also Madeira Beach because the buildings block the north wind. — Jared Rowe, St. Petersburg
Related: Glad you’re here, Tampa Bay tourists. But might we help you visit like a local?

Beyond the sand

Patrons and a cat hang out at the bar at Mahuffer's Bar (a.k.a. Sloppy John's) in Indian Shores.
Patrons and a cat hang out at the bar at Mahuffer's Bar (a.k.a. Sloppy John's) in Indian Shores. [ Times archives (2011) ]
  • Mahuffer’s in Indian Shores, “it’s like being on a different planet.” — @cattorneyatpaw via Instagram
  • Weedon Island in St. Petersburg, “a little paradise that not many people know about.” — @juilet_benvessi03 via Instagram
  • The Getaway in St. Petersburg, for the “water, food, paddle boards, kayaks, boats and music.” — @7272morris via Instagram
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Bananas Records is located on 2887 22nd Ave N. in St. Petersburg.
Bananas Records is located on 2887 22nd Ave N. in St. Petersburg. [ Times archives (2019) ]
  • Bananas Records in St. Petersburg, “you can always find a good record.” @aplaceaface via Instagram
  • Lettuce Lake Park in Hillsborough County, “nice paved and unpaved paths, waterside boardwalk, and lots of trees and animals.” — @chris.temposki via Instagram
  • Pier at Ballast Point Park in Tampa — Mary White-Morales
  • Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, “it’s an oasis of calm and beauty tucked away in downtown.” — @frances.e.chan