Water parks, hiking trails, museums and more

A complete guide to summer recreation on land and water

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ANCLOTE KEY, three miles off the north coast of Tarpon Springs (727-469-5942). A 19th-century lighthouse stands on the southern end of this island preserve, which is accessible only by private boat, great for outdoor enthusiasts who prefer to visit the area's less-traveled beaches. Fishing and camping are allowed, and picnic pavilions and grills are located near the camping area at the north end of the island. Open 8 a.m.-sundown.

BELLEAIR BEACH, Causeway and Gulf boulevards, between Clearwater and Indian Rocks beaches (727-595-4747). The area boasts 2 miles of sand with several beach access areas, a boat ramp and a municipal marina.

BEN T. DAVIS BEACH, 7650 Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa (813-282-2909). This narrow beach is ideal for those who like to keep their car nearby (or for those who like to tan on the hood), and don't mind the swift-moving traffic on the nearby causeway. It's also quite the scene for jet skiers. Parking isn't usually a problem, and dogs are allowed.

BEER CAN BEACH, Davis Islands Seaplane Basin (Severn and Martinique avenues). Beer Can Beach (really no more than a tiny cove) is especially popular with dog owners. It's not gorgeous, but the easy-to-access area offers breathtaking views of the sunset. There are no restrooms, parking is limited, but it's hardly ever crowded.

BEER CAN ISLAND, located at the end of North Shore Road, Longboat Key. This small, uninhabited island — which can supposedly be reached on foot at low tide and can definitely be reached by boat via Longboat pass — has 2,000 feet of primitive coastline and is a favorite spot for fishing, sunning and partying.

BLIND PASS, one mile north of the Charlotte County line on Manasota Key Road, Manasota Key. One of the most isolated beaches on the Key, Blind Pass boasts 2,900 feet of Gulf beach, as well as a nature trail with dunes and wildflowers. There are no lifeguards, but there are restrooms and parking is free.

BROHARD PARK, Harbor Drive S., located on the Venice airport property at the southernmost tip of Venice. The 67-acre beach has a 740-foot fishing pier with bait and snack shops, and public restrooms. The wetland area draws bird watchers from all over. Lifeguards on duty; leashed dogs welcome.

CALADESI ISLAND, accessed by ferry boats from Honeymoon Island State Park, One Causeway Blvd., Dunedin (727-469-5918). Beginning at 10 a.m., an hourly, 70-passenger ferry ride makes the trip to Caladesi Island in 20 minutes (no roads or bridges link it to the mainland). The roundtrip ride is $9 for adults and $5.50 for children (free for kids under 4); boaters pay a $4 docking fee per day ($9.35 with electric hook-up), and $20 per slip per night. Snorkelers favor the barrier island's gulfside waters, which boast more than 2 miles of beach; the Bay side features mangroves, slash pine forests and maritime hammocks. A 3-mile nature trail winds through the island's interior. Concessions, restrooms, picnic areas, changing rooms and showers are available.

CASPERSON BEACH, Harbor Drive, south of Venice Airport. Two-thirds of the beachfront has been left untouched, making it a favorite for shell seekers and amorous couples. Amenities include restrooms, a 1,100-foot boardwalk, picnic area and a lovely nature trail. No lifeguards on duty.

CLEARWATER BEACH, take Memorial Causeway across Clearwater Harbor to beaches (727-562-4800). This beach has two sections — the northern part at Palm Pavilion and the main beach at the Holiday Inn/Surfside. This is the hot spot for spring break crowds and other hormone-fixated types; families like it for the shallow water and gentle surf. Beach umbrellas and chairs can be rented, and Clearwater's Pier 60 Park Pavilion boasts a spacious playground and a snack bar. Metered parking is $1 per hour during the week and $1.25 per hour Sat.-Sun.; lot parking by Pier 60 is $1.50 per hour; and cashier-operated lots are $1.50 an hour during the week, $2 Sat.-Sun.

CORTEZ BEACH, between Fifth and 13th streets off Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach. There's only 140 feet of beach here, but it's nevertheless a favorite among boaters and beachcombers alike. There's even a concession stand and showers in the public restrooms.

EGMONT KEY, 4905 34th Street S., St. Petersburg. Accessible by boat only, this small wildlife refuge is located between Anna Maria Island and St. Pete Beach. Part of the island's north and south ends are closed to the public, but the open areas feature secluded, pristine beaches good for swimming, fishing and picnicking. Egmont also boasts a working lighthouse originally constructed in 1858, as well as the ruins of Fort Dade. For ferry information, call the state park headquarters at 727-893-2627.

FORT DE SOTO BEACH, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde (727-582-2267). The undeveloped local beaches at this park are some of our favorites. Serene, raw and rarely crowded, Fort De Soto's five interconnected islands offer forested areas with picnic tables. The 1,136-acre park has a 238-site family campground, two piers, floating docks for boat access, canoe and kayak rentals, a 6.8-mile recreational trail and pavilions with grills. Grill reservations are available. Parking is free, but tolls cost 85 cents.

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