Cheap beach near Tampa?
April 18, 2009 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Decent (cough *CHEAP*) beach accommodations within a few hours' drive of Tampa, FL?

So! Thanks to all who convinced me that Jersey in May was a no-go. Now I'm calling on the Florida MeFites to help me decide ... where exactly to go in the Tampa area.

My friend and I have booked plane tix Tampa, FL, from May 21 to May (Thurs - Sun. Yes, I do realize that's Memorial Day weekend, but what can you do). We're going to rent a car and I'd like to know if there's a decent, lesser-known beach within a few hours' (preferably 3.5 or less) drive of TPA.

I know all the usual suspects -- Clearwater, St. Pete's, Treasure Island, Bradenton -- but I'm on a pretty tight budget, and am wondering if there's somewhere in the greater area that's even less well-known or where the locals go, and thus cheaper.

Criteria are:
- Drivable from TPA
- Supah cheap hotels available within walking distance of the beach (I'd love to spend $80 or less per night, but I've never been to this area so just tell me if that's insane)
- Safe for 2 women
- We don't need amusements or any kind of "scene" (esp., please God, not a frat-infested one) just a beach and a coupla low-key local restaurants. Or, eh, fast food's fine. The diet's over by then anyway.
- Can be small and non-paradisaical, doesn't have to have wonderful sand or natural wonders or whatnot.

What do you guys think? Any suggestions, or is this just a pipe dream on this budget? Thanks for your help!
posted by alleycat01 to Travel & Transportation around Tampa, FL (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Honeymoon Island is a beautiful state park that is about 45 min from Tampa. I think the beaches there are beautiful. I know there are hotels and motels around but I only ever visited there when I lived in Tampa, so I'm not sure what the details are. It might be something worth checking out.

I also found this information when I was giving a cursory glance to the lodging near Honeymoon Island. Seems a lot of state parks have cabin camping at them and that might be fun.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:04 AM on April 19, 2009

Best answer: Grew up in Tampa. When my parents wanted quiet and laid back, they always headed to St. Pete. I know you say you "already know" the usual suspects, but most people I know who think they "know" St. Petersburg haven't really explored it, they just think "that's where the old people go to die." Which is indisputably true, but there are a lot of old treasures buried around there. Like Haslam's Books or Smoked Fish at Ted Peter's.

I'd love to spend $80 or less per night, but I've never been to this area so just tell me if that's insane)

We always stayed at the Sands on Treasure Island. Must have slipped through your list of usual suspects. $70-$80 a night. It's like 1959 never ended.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:11 AM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Treasure Island. Stayed there all the time as a kid. Like so many places in Florida, there's a strip full of hotels. Surely you can find something in that area that fits your budget. Not far from Tampa either.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 8:45 AM on April 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. It's not that I didn't believe there could be inexpensive beachfront hotels at these places, but as someone not from the area, they're surprisingly hard to find on the internet (for me anyway). All my searches kept herding me back to $50 rooms near the airport or $125-250 rooms on the water. Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by alleycat01 at 8:59 AM on April 19, 2009

Thirding Treasure Island. The Sands is also a good recommendation. Also St. Pete Beach just to the south of TI. Some good values at small family run motels if you don't have to be right on the beach.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:27 AM on April 19, 2009

For example
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:31 AM on April 19, 2009

Nokomis/casey Key. about 1.5 hour south of tampa. Try the nokomis inn on US41 about a mile from the beach (a easy drive/walk). You won't get much of a price break as it is memorial weekend. there are several mom & pop motels on the beach but they could be already booked up for that weekend.
posted by patnok at 10:26 AM on April 19, 2009

Treasure island is a good area to stay hotelwise. Some of the places close by there are a bit more touristy, so things like food and gifts are a little more overpriced. Johns Pass is a good example of this.

Downtown St. Pete is a nice place to visit and easy to navigate from Treasure Island. All you would do is drive down Central Avenue (about 15 minutes). There are a ton of restaurants, local shops and museums to check out. Everything is pretty much centrally located, so if you park around Central avenue 2nd street, you should be able to walk to everything. Bangkok 9 is a good cheap place for thai food. Cha Cha Coconuts on the top of the Pier is a great place to have lunch and have a nice view of the town(usually you can see dolphins swimming in the bay from there)

Be sure to check out Fort DeSoto beach. It's about 10 minute drive from Treasure Island and is a natural beach (no hotels/buildings)park. They do have public bathrooms and for an added bonus, free parking. The best area of Fort DeSoto is the farthest south area. There is an island you can wade out to from here that is away from the mainland and has trees on it that help with shade.
posted by sharkhunt at 10:31 AM on April 19, 2009 Is one is on the beach & across from a public boat ramp. Talk about free entertainment! There are several others.
posted by patnok at 10:39 AM on April 19, 2009
posted by patnok at 10:42 AM on April 19, 2009

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