You don’t have to travel far for a getaway when we have some of the world’s best beaches right in our backyard. Sandwiched between Clearwater Beach to the north and St. Pete Beach to the south, Indian Shores offers miles of coastline, spectacular sunsets, abundant wildlife, and local dining. See the best of this Gulf Coast destination with our Itinerary for the Perfect Weekend.
Like Longboat Key, Indian Shores is primarily residential. You won’t find huge hotels and resorts here. Rather, the coastline is a mix of cozy beach cabins, vacation rentals, and condos.
If you plan to stay a few nights, check out local vacation rentals like The New Indian Shores Hotel, which offers condo rentals with amenities like two communal oceanfront pools. For my recent trip, my family and I booked an oceanfront vacation home through TurnKey. It was so nice to have all the comforts of home with the option to cook meals instead of having dinner in the restaurant each night. Also, we didn’t have to bring any beach gear as our rental had beach chairs, umbrellas, toys and even a beach cart.
For a longer stay, consult Sarah’s Seaside (7 night minimum) on the nearby Indian Rocks beach. This beachfront property is home to several adorable cottages ranging from 1 to 3 bedrooms.
You are at the beach, so the first thing to do is soak up the sun! Because Indian Shores is so residential, the beach is much more low-key than the larger and more popular nearby beaches like Clearwater Beach.
The beach is also wonderful for morning strolls and at sunset. As you walk around, you may come across demarcated areas protecting colonies of black skimmers, which typically nest on Indian shores and Indian Rocks Beach. These shorebirds are fun to watch as they scour the water with their beaks open to catch fish. Keep an eye out for other wildlife including manatees, dolphins, and schools of stingrays, which I all spotted during my stay.
Want a change of scenery? Head north to Sand Key Beach and Indian Rocks Beach, or travel south to Madeira Beach, home to the bustling John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk.
No beach vacation is complete without at least a round of mini-golf. Enjoy a fun rendezvous on this 18-hole, pirate-themed course, which is surprisingly difficult. If you are lucky enough to knock a hole out, you can roll a dice after completing the course. If the number you roll matches the hole you rolled the hole in one shot, you will win a free round. You can also buy beer and wine on site.
For a sunset cruise with a twist, head to nearby Madeira Beach, where you can join a private sunset cruise with Florida Tiki Tours. These floating tikis can accommodate groups of 4 or 6 people maximum. All tours are private, and you are permitted to bring your own alcohol on board to sip during the 90-minute cruise. Keep your eyes on the dolphins! Pricing starts at $ 149.99 for daytime tours and $ 169.99 for sunset.
If you want to learn more about the local wildlife, and birds in particular, visit the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, a beachfront wildlife rehabilitation center. Admission is free! The small 3-acre facility is home to an assortment of resident birds, such as an observation tower, education center, and more.
You’ll feel like you’re in a secret garden while sipping your morning coffee at this local cafe. Lush plants surround the outdoor patio, where mismatched iron tables and chairs invite you to stay for a while. Choose from a handful of signature lattes to pair with fresh pastries (muffins are delicious!) Or a breakfast sandwich on fresh ciabatta bread.
For a casual lunch, head to Indian Rocks Beach at this quick and casual taco restaurant. Brightly colored tables and chairs give the space a cheerful atmosphere. Stock up on house specials like grouper tacos (topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, citrus chili sauce and cilantro sour cream), Mexican street corn, and specialty burritos. Or build your own tacos, burritos, and bowls. We also gobbled up an order of fried Mexican street corn, corn fritters topped with cotija cheese and cilantro.
Margaritas come in an assortment of unique flavors including Blood Orange, Thai Basil & Pepper, Hibiscus, Bloody Maria and more.
Dinner at this local restaurant was by far the best meal we had on our trip. The adorable back patio has a secluded feel, with twinkling lights, umbrellas, and plants surrounding the space. Surf tables enhance the beach vibe. Jim, the owner, put so much passion and care into this labor of love which is evident in the attentive and friendly service, the beautifully prepared food and the welcoming atmosphere.
We started with fried green tomatoes and an order of drunken shrimp to share, and I ordered the special strawberry grouper with black beans, rice, and plantains for a starter. The dessert options are equally delicious, including the unmissable tres leches cake. There were no remains in sight! As an added bonus, there are many menu options that can be adapted to be vegan and vegetarian.
It’s a popular spot, so call ahead to make a reservation, especially if you want to sit outside.
A stop for homemade ice cream is a must on any beach trip. Located a short drive from Gulf Blvd in Indian Shores, Haze is a family-owned ice cream shop serving dozens of homemade flavors. There is also an impressive selection of dairy free and vegan flavors made with coconut milk. I loved the cookie monster, but be warned – it will make your mouth blue!
Note: This article originally appeared on our sister publication, Tampa Bay Date Night Guide
All photos from Stéphanie Patterson