A compact beach town that offers just enough restaurants, shops and sand to satisfy those looking for an out-of-the way Florida vacation.
- An ideal micro-destination that encompasses the Gulf Coast experience.
- Inexpensive dining and lodging options.
- In the middle of many other municipalities.
- You’ll have to venture out to find more things to do.
- Beware of fish hooks!
The northernmost enclave in the Redington trio, Redington Shores has a little something for everyone: A quality beach, places to eat, drink and shop, and even a lengthy a fishing pier jutting into the Gulf of Mexico.
Locals referred to the area first as Sand Island and then Hog Island until a developer set up thatched huts in 1939 and billed it as a destination for newlyweds. No one lives on the Gulf beach now, but Honeymoon Island currently enjoys its designation as a state park (there are some condo buildings before the entrance to the park). The island drew about 1.5 million visitors in the last year, making it a perennial favorite to top state park attendance lists.
With a bit more than 2,000 residents, there’s still a healthy amount of condo towers along the 10 or so blocks of Gulf Boulevard that comprise the town. Most of the houses are on the Intracoastal side of the island.
To the south are North Redington Beach and Redington Beach, which both also bear the name of Indiana developer Charles Redington. He bought the land on the barrier island in the 1930s; Redington Shores was incorporated in 1955.
There’s enough here for families, couples and retirees to enjoy. The town provides great beach access, and has managed to retain a small-town feel even with its lineup of towering residences. With some careful planning, visitors setting up camp wouldn’t have to venture beyond the town limits.
The two main airports in the area are Tampa International Airport (TPA) in Hillsborough County and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) in Pinellas County. Multiple carriers service TPA, while most flights to and from PIE are run by Allegiant. There are many ground transportation options at both airports.
Redington Shores is on State Road 699, known locally as Gulf Boulevard. The closest way to access the island from the mainland is to take the Tom Stuart Causeway (150th Avenue) from Seminole in Pinellas County, via Alternate U.S. Hwy 19, a.k.a. Seminole Boulevard. If you’re driving in from St. Petersburg, Alt 19 is Tyrone Boulevard.
You’ll likely need a rental car to get around if you plan on exploring. If you’re sticking close to the area you have some options. The Redingtons are all within relatively easy walking distance of each other, but busy Gulf Boulevard can be hectic — the sidewalks are right next to the road.
Uber and Lyft are available. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority operates its Suncoast Beach Trolley service along the length of Gulf Boulevard, with stops clearly marked. A schedule is here.
You can access the islands by taking Interstate 275 or U.S. Hwy 19 into Pinellas County, then heading west on a main artery.
Unlike the more insular Redington Beach or some other island communities, there’s ample parking in Redington Shores.
The island is slightly wider here than in other places, so both north- and southbound portions of Gulf Boulevard feature on-street parking. RVs and campers are restricted, as are delivery trucks, but passenger vehicles can park for up to 72 hours in some places.
There’s also a sizable beach access parking lot run by the county between 181st and 182nd avenues. Close to 200 parking spaces are monitored via electronic pay stations next to the public restrooms.
There are 21 free spaces set aside for business patrons and beachgoers in a gravel lot between 177th and 178th avenues. There are also spaces behind Constitution Park, but they are clearly marked as being for people using the park, so consider how much you fear a tow truck before stopping there.
Down the road, a large lot next to Del Bello Park looks like prime real estate, but it’s actually for Seabreeze Island Grill next door. You can take your chances there, but it fills up by 5 p.m. even on a slow day — and Seabreeze does tow if they catch you. Even so, it’s a mad dash across Gulf Boulevard and through a neighborhood to get to the beach approach on Beach Avenue from there.
All that’s to say, parking still can become hard to find on peak summer days, even in the snug lots wedged among businesses. Be prepared to circle for some time, and keep in mind that parking on neighborhood side streets also is restricted.
The beach at Redington Shores is wide open much of the time, with quality sand and plenty of room. There are ample, well-marked access points along Gulf Boulevard, and even more ways to get on the beach along the residential streets sandwiched between condos.
Of course, because those condos are vertical, that can mean a lot of people vying for umbrella space when the beach is really busy. Residential property ends at the dunes, however, and many properties have pools and other amenities that keep the people staying there off the sand a lot of the time.
There is no alcohol allowed here, and glass containers are similarly prohibited. You also can’t sleep on the beach overnight. Oh, and take your canopies and coolers with you, because the town will confiscate them if they’re still there in the morning.
Of special note is Redington Shores’ location about halfway between the length of Pinellas County’s beaches. Everything feels relatively close here. And on Independence Day, it’s a great place to watch fireworks displays up and down the coast, provided you don’t need to drive anywhere afterward.
REDINGTON LONG PIER
A throwback feature along the beach is the aptly named Redington Long Pier, a ramshackle wooden pier that stretches 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. Pinellas County’s beaches once were dotted with them, but the Long Pier is the only survivor (not counting the smaller, private pier at La Contessa in Redington Beach).
The Long Pier is a good place for fishing or to take a stroll, but it’s not exactly cheap. There’s a parking lot providing direct access to the pier, but you have to pay at the bait house. It’s $5 if you’re fishing, or $15 for all-day beach access. It closes around sundown much of the year, but is open late in the summer.
The bait house also sells bait, of course, and offers rod and reel rentals. If you just want to take a walk, that’ll cost you, too. Rates are posted at the counter, but it’s at least $5 to even set foot past the bait house.
Keep in mind that the pier isn’t in the best of shape. It’s been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for neglecting repairs, and has in the past blocked portions deemed unsafe. Plenty of people use the pier, but exercise caution.
Finally, watch out for stray hooks and lures, whether you’re on the pier or under it. During my last visit, I somehow managed to catch a fish hook in my heel, despite not being near any anglers.
WHERE TO STAY
This reasonably priced condo hotel is just off the water, but the wi-fi is free and small- to medium-sized dogs are welcome.
A budget-minded option that recalls the mom-and-pop motels that once lined the barrier islands. It’s a bit off the beach and is clearly lived-in, but if you want to save your money and not cross Gulf Boulevard, it’s worth considering.
LIGHTHOUSE POINTE CONDOS
Units in this midrise condo tower are often available on vacation rental websites. There’s a pool off the beach, and the gulfside balconies boast impressive views.
A traditional-style property backing right up to the beach, with 40 guest rooms and a pool right off the sand. It’s what you’re probably picturing when you think “beach hotel.”
THINGS TO DO
Despite what I’ll forever refer to as “The Fish hook Incident,” Long Pier does feature unforgettable sunsets and a nice stroll out into the gulf. No fishing license is required out on the pier, so if you’re looking to kill a day with a popular pastime, head on out and try catching the odd kingfish or sheepshead.
This bird rescue center is in Indian Shores to the north of Redington Shores, but the beachfront outside the sanctuary is technically Redington Shores territory. The avian hospital treats all manner of injuries and issues, and the grounds offer plenty of chances to see and interact with shorebirds like pelicans, cormorants, cranes, herons and more. Most of the birds will be released back into the wild once they’re better, but some end up as permanent exhibits because of disabilities.
WATERSPORTS AND FITNESS
This little store offers any kind of beach or boulevard need you might have: Swimsuits, flip-flops, skimboards, surfboards, you name it. They’ll also rent paddleboards, kayaks and bicycles to you, in case you want to leave the town limits without a car.
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
A massively popular seafood joint with waterfront seating next to Del Bello Park, well-known for its fish specials, raw bar and cheap margaritas. There are also steaks and such, but let’s just be honest about your desire to get conch fritters and hogfish, ‘K? The early bird specials mean the parking lot fills up in the late afternoon and can stay that way until closing time.
The secret here is to eat family style, just so you can try as many things as possible. The kitchen will accommodate reasonable substitution requests, but be warned: If you order your dish “Thai hot,” keep the coconut milk at hand.
There is hot food at this fun and aptly named bar and grill, but many of the people dropping in are looking for a cold one (kids are allowed). The interior, decorated in tropical cafeteria chic, is consistently packed. The last time I was here, a lounging retiree was stretched out directly on the front steps. She must have been resting up for the nightly karaoke.
Don’t let the bright blue exterior and oddball name fool you into thinking this eatery is some middling beachside diner. The family-run restaurant offers all manner of tropically inspired dishes, with myriad cuts of meat and fish served up with guava, plantains and so forth. A good place for a meal with all the relatives in one place.
A clothing shop featuring beachy pieces to round out your wardrobe. It’s next door to the Broke N Bored Grill.
All-natural herbs, spices, teas and tinctures make this one of the more unique businesses in Redington Shores. The shop operates a mail-order business, too, in case you decide to do your shopping later.
Skip the restaurant food and try cooking up the catch of the day at this seafood market. Local favorites like grouper and stone crab are available in season, but there’s a wide selection at the counter (including the house-made fish spread). There’s a dock out back should you really want to avoid the car traffic.