Best 3 ways to experience the waters around St. Pete Beach
The star of a visit to St. Pete Beach is, of course, the beach itself. Perhaps the best beach in all of Florida, you’ll love the way its sugar white sand feels between your toes! But the water that laps the beach is just as pristine. That’s why no family vacation to St. Pete is complete without getting out on the water. One of these three recommended water excursions is likely to be perfect for your family.
1/Coastal Kayak Charters
If you’ve never been kayaking, let a trip with Coastal Kayak Charters be your maiden voyage! Kayaking is a fantastic way for families to engage with nature. Guides Doug and Ross are experts at making novices feel comfortable on the water. They’re also knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife that you’ll see: dolphins, sting rays, sea turtles, manatees, and a host of seabirds.
KidTripster Tip: You’ll have a cooler on board, so feel free to bring drinks and snacks, plus towels for impromptu swimming.
Coastal Kayak offers three kayaking experiences:
Canal tour: This tour is a 1-1/2-hour paddle through the protected canals of Little McPherson and McPherson Bayou. The shortest of all Coastal Kayak’s trips, it’s ideal for young families. Children (ages 3-14) paddle in tandem kayaks with adults. (If your child has previous kayaking experience, Doug and Ross may let them paddle solo.) On this tour, you’ll have a good chance for an up-close encounter with the canal’s resident dolphins. I recommend taking the canal tour just before sunset. Cost: $42/person.
Boat-based tour: On this 3-hour tour, you'll ride a pontoon boat to Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge and then drop your kayaks in the water, where you’ll have an amazing opportunity to see a vast array of marine and bird life. Because this trip is a little longer, it’s best suited to kids, ages 5 and up. Cost: $58/person.
Shell Key tour: If you’ve got adventure-loving teenagers, opt for the Shell Key tour. On this 4-hour trip, you’ll paddle through Shell Key Preserve over seagrass beds and around mangrove islands on your way to an uninhabited barrier island. There your kids can swim and hunt for shells along this unspoiled beach. Cost: $65/person.
2/Dolphin Landings Charter Boat
If you and your family want to experience the water without the physical exertion of kayaking, hop aboard a Dolphin Landings cruise. Again, you’ll be treated to spectacular wildlife and may even find yourself surrounded by a pod of dolphins! The company offers several public cruises of varying lengths, so pick the one that best fits your child’s attention span. (While children can go on the Sunset Sail, it’s more geared toward adults.)
If you have the time, I recommend the Egmont Key trip. The waters around the key are perfect for snorkeling.
KidTripster Tip: There are free waters and drinks on these cruises, plus complimentary use of snorkeling gear. BYOB is allowed.
3/Shell Key Shuttle
If you have younger children and need more flexibility, Shell Key Shuttle is for you. With three departure and three return trips each day, you set the agenda. Plus, it’s only a 10-minute trip! On Shell Key, you’ll enjoy superb shelling, sunbathing, and swimming, plus bird and dolphin watching. I collect shells, and this island is a treasure trove of sand dollars, especially on the far west side where curious rays swim at your ankles. You can literally come home with buckets full. Cost: Youth (12 & under) $12.50; Adults $25.
KidTripster Tip: Beach umbrellas, snorkeling gear, and a mesh shelling bag are provided, but you’ll need to bring your own beach chairs and cooler. Ask for a shell guide on the way to the island. And be forewarned, there are no bathroom facilities, so you may need to get creative.
KidTripster Tip: You can use the Free Beach Ride app to order a taxi to any of these launch points. Really, it’s free; you just tip your driver!
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah is an avid shell collector which may have something to do with her name. She’s collected shells from all over the world and displays them proudly in her Oregon home.