Look at 13 photos of 7 Tampa Bay beaches where you can escape the crowds

As summer nears its end, our beaches are fuller than ever, often with shoulder-to-shoulder beach blankets. Not exactly the relaxing beach day in Tampa Bay you'd hoped for, right? That's OK, because if you're not averse to working a little, we have a few spots where you can escape the maddening, sunburned crowds. Take a look at these seven unsung pieces of sandy paradise, just big enough for one or two people to stretch out with a beach read or a small picnic.

Photos by Cathy Salustri http://www.cathysalustri.com

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 Shell Key 
Shell Key's a madhouse on the weekends — and often, during the week — but if you can wait until later in the day, the tour boats are done and the recreational boaters are, too.

Shell Key


Shell Key's a madhouse on the weekends — and often, during the week — but if you can wait until later in the day, the tour boats are done and the recreational boaters are, too.
Shell Key 
Sure, there'll be some sunset watchers on a boat, but if you kayak out to the island (we suggest crossing Bunce's Pass, not Pass-A-Grille channel), you can stop at a cluster of mangroves and — if you're lucky — find a starfish nursery.

Shell Key


Sure, there'll be some sunset watchers on a boat, but if you kayak out to the island (we suggest crossing Bunce's Pass, not Pass-A-Grille channel), you can stop at a cluster of mangroves and — if you're lucky — find a starfish nursery.
Shell Key 
Pro tip: If you're kayaking past sunset, pack a battery-powered light for the 'yak. Also, watch the tides — low tide back to the put in by Tampa Bay Watch can turn your paddle into a portage.

Shell Key


Pro tip: If you're kayaking past sunset, pack a battery-powered light for the 'yak. Also, watch the tides — low tide back to the put in by Tampa Bay Watch can turn your paddle into a portage.
Arrowhead Picnic Area at Fort DeSoto 
Arrowhead Picnic Area at Fort DeSoto. Take the self-guided nature trail (either way the arrow points), you'll happen upon a small but usually deserted bay beach.

Arrowhead Picnic Area at Fort DeSoto


Arrowhead Picnic Area at Fort DeSoto. Take the self-guided nature trail (either way the arrow points), you'll happen upon a small but usually deserted bay beach.
 Arrowhead Picnic Area North 
If you head to the northern parking lot at Arrowhead, park, go over the bridge and head east, you'll find pockets of beaches hidden between mangroves like there.

Arrowhead Picnic Area North


If you head to the northern parking lot at Arrowhead, park, go over the bridge and head east, you'll find pockets of beaches hidden between mangroves like there.

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At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future.