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Secret beaches in Tampa Bay, FL

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It’s easy to see where Sunset Beach gets its name. | @leandro_mg1

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Most of the year, as Tampa Bay locals, we’re sharing our coveted beaches with spring breakers, summer vacationers, and other visitors yearning for a dip in our crystal clear waters. Which begs the question: where can I enjoy the beach without the crowds? So, we’ve rounded up 10 secret beaches, or beaches with minimal activity, no matter your interests, and all within an hour or so of downtown Tampa.

Mobbly Beach Park, 807 Shore Dr. E., Oldsmar

Drive time: ~35 minutes

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Parking: $5 per day

Pro tips: This beach offers a more active setting, perfect for visitors looking to canoe, exercise, or play with their pup. Bonus: there are also restrooms.

Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde

Drive time: ~45 minutes

Hours: 7 a.m.-Sunset

Parking: $5 per day

Pro tips: If you aren’t in the mood to lay out, Fort De Soto Park offers a guide to the property’s historic fort, as well as free admission to the Quartermaster Museum, among dozens of other activities.

Purple skies during a sunset at Indian Rocks Beach | Photo by the TBAYtoday team

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Purple skies during a sunset at Indian Rocks Beach | Photo by the TBAYtoday team

Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Rocks Beach

Drive time: ~55 minutes

Hours: 24 hours/day

Parking: Limited free public parking

Pro tips: Indian Rocks Beach has 25+ public beach accesses/parks. After you enjoy some surf + sand, hop on your bike and cycle to the nearby nature preserve, which is touted as the No. 1 activity on TripAdvisor.

Upham Beach Park, 67th Ave. to 71st Ave., St. Pete Beach

Drive time: ~45 minutes

Hours: 24 hours/day

Parking: $1.25/hour (metered) or $5.00/day from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Pro tips: Enjoy the perks of St. Pete Beach, without the hustle and bustle of its usual crowd, making it the perfect spot for dolphins to make an appearance.

Robert K. Rees Memorial Park, 3503 Green Key Rd., New Port Richey

Drive time: ~75 minutes

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Cost: Unknown

Pro tips: Visitors to this hidden spot can enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the beach right around sunset, either from their blanket or under a large, covered pavilion complete with picnic tables.

Caladesi Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin

Drive time: ~60 minutes

Hours: 8 a.m.-sundown

Cost: Varies depending on how you arrive to the island

Pro tips: The only way to get to this untouched slice of paradise is via boat – whether your own or the public ferry, so be sure to plan accordingly.

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A breathtaking sunset at Sunset Beach | Photo by Calan Ree

Sunset Beach, West Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island

A breathtaking sunset at Sunset Beach | Photo by Calan ReeDrive time: ~50 minutes

Hours: 24 hours/day

Parking: $2.75/hour

Pro tips: The .5 mile boardwalk is a great place for fishing or strolling or head a mile north to Gulf Front Park (10400 Gulf Blvd.) for an ADA beach access mat called a MobiMat, made out of recycled materials and the first of its kind in the county.

Sand Key Park, 1060 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater

Drive time: ~60 minutes

Hours: 7 a.m.-dusk

Parking: $5/day

Pro tips: Does half of your crew want to chill at the beach and the other play at the park? You’re in luck — Sand Key has both.

Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin

Drive time: ~60 minutes

Hours: 8 a.m.-sundown

Cost: $8/vehicle, per day

Pro tips: Perfect for nature lovers, Honeymoon Island offers one of the last remaining virgin slash pine forests, accessible via a three-mile trail.

Shell Key Preserve, 2187 Oceanview Dr., Tierra Verde

Drive time: ~45 minutes

Hours: 24 hours/day

Cost: $30/adult (for ferry access)

Pro tips: This 1,828-acre preserve is an important local sanctuary for birds. Humans must take a private boat or public shuttle to access the area.

Did we miss your favorite “secret beach?” Tell us the details, and we’ll try to keep it to ourselves.