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Monday, Jan 21, 2019
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Insider’s guide to Treasure Island: Sunshine Beach, Municipal Beach, Sunset Beach, plus where alcohol is allowed

The main stretch of sand between Sunshine and Sunset beaches, including the City of St. Petersburg’s Municipal Beach  is notable for being extremely wide. Walking to the shoreline can take more than five minutes in the middle of the main island. The sand itself is quite shelly, so if your feet are sensitive, keep those flip-flops on. The beach is loaded with sand dunes growing wispy sea oats, waxy sea grapes, cabbage palms and bright yellow dune sunflowers. The Gulf of Mexico along the barrier island is usually blue and green and fairly clear, depending on the time of year. It ranges from flat and glassy to slightly choppy, with moderate waves, making it perfect for paddleboarding, kayaking, boogie boarding and skimboarding. It also stays shallow for a long stretch, so you’re able to go out pretty far without the water getting too deep. Be aware that the shore is home to a wide variety of sea life, including stingrays, which like to lie on the bottom, often covered with sand. It’s wise to shuffle your feet when entering the water to warn the stingrays and avoid getting stung. Like any barrier island, beach erosion is a big problem here. The beaches frequently need to be renourished, so you may want to check the town’s website to see if there are any large amounts of sand being pumped onto the place you’d rather be sunbathing. Such projects are usually announced months in advance.

Here you’ll find everyone from families with kids frolicking in the water, to college kids on spring break blasting music and throwing a football, to couples having a picnic, to retirees collecting shells along the shore. Kids will shriek with delight for the chance to ride down a huge inflatable waterslide or to go airborne on a bungee trampoline that’s found on the beach directly in front of Gulf Front Park at 104th Avenue. Every Sunday evening at sunset, a large drum circle forms on the beach in this same area.  The Treasure Island Beach Trail is a paved walkway directly behind a mile of beachfront hotels. It’s wide enough that people can bike, skate or walk, and is the only area of the beach where dogs are permitted. A low wall runs along it, which makes for a nice to place to sit and people-watch or catch the live music from an outdoor hotel bar.There are public restrooms and showers at Sunset Beach Pavillion, 8000 W Gulf Blvd.; Gulf Front Park, 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard; and the City of St. Petersburg Municipal Beach Lot at 112th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard.

The city’s beach rules and regulations are available here.

Sunshine Beach

The northernmost beach goes on for about seven blocks, starting just south of the John’s Pass Bridge. The north end of the island features a concrete walkway dotted with benches along the rocky pass, leading to a jetty in the Gulf of Mexico.A few Australian Pines make for a shady stroll along the walkway, which is a prime spot for watching boats go to and fro through John’s Pass. The sand is softer and deeper here, but the expanse is much narrower, making it easier to schlep your gear out to the water. It’s a much less populated stretch of beach, more residential than commercial, so you’ll see more couples and retirees than families with small children or teenagers.

Municipal Beach

Pretty close to the center of Treasure Island, the City of St. Petersburg owns and maintains a portion of the beach. You can enter it at 11260 Gulf Blvd., where there’s a parking lot and a snack bar.

As you walk through the retro snack bar, you’ll find they sell all your beach needs right there, including towels, floats, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. In addition to the usual fare, the snack bar also offers sangria and mimosas. There’s a playground there for kids to enjoy, and volleyball nets are available.The expanse of beach here is the widest of the island.

Sunset Beach

The beach at the southern end of Treasure Island starts after the intersection of Gulf Boulevard and 1st Street Southeast, making a right turn from the main drag to become West Gulf Boulevard (Gulf Boulevard crosses Blind Pass to St. Pete Beach and becomes Blind Pass Road). Sunset Beach is mostly between two rocky jetties, and the expanse of sand narrows significantly, so much so that on crowded days it can be hard to stake a claim. Because of the jetties, when winds are high, the waves swell and it’s not uncommon to see surfers. A boardwalk is a lovely stroll providing great photo-ops of the beach.  Sunset Beach is also largely residential, making the area practically its own island on an island. Its inhabitants tend to be of the “island-life” mentality and accept guests of all lifestyles, making it popular with the LGBTQ community.

Alcohol on the beach

A relative novelty in most parts of the state, the city of Treasure Island permits consumption of alcoholic beverages on the beach for people 21 and older. There’s also no restriction on how far you have to be from the water. There are a few points to keep in mind, though.

Containers can never be glass, and you can’t bring a keg out on the sand. No dogs are allowed and the beach is closed between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. But wait, there’s more, and it’s kind of complicated: Alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the beach between the 8500 block and the 9900 block (the northern end of Sunset Beach, roughly from Sunset Chateau to the Island Inn) between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays plus Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, as well as from the first weekend every February to the last weekend in September.

In the middle of all that is the area around Caddy’s on the Beach, a popular party spot where the beach is open to revelers who like to imbibe.

To make sense of all that, the city provides a map of the area, although you practically need a minor in cartography to be able to decipher it. When in doubt, ask a local — or any nearby law enforcement.

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