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Fred Howard Park: Hidden Gem of Florida’s Gulf Coast

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Fred H. Howard Park Beach

Fred H. Howard Park Beach

While tourists flock to the highly popular and well-known beaches of Clearwater and St. Petersburg, locals know all too well that one of Florida’s finest and lesser known beaches lies just to the north in Tarpon Springs. Howard Park is one of our favorite beach destinations on Florida’s west coast where visitors can frolic in the surf, relax in the coarse white sand, kayak, hike, fish, picnic, or witness the daily setting of the sun. It definitely has something for everyone.

You can fish off the causeway or find a spot on the north side of the island

You can fish off the causeway or find a spot on the north side of the island

Getting There

Howard Park is located in Tarpon Springs, which is just 20 miles north of Clearwater and about 30 miles to the northwest of Tampa. The park is accessible from either route 19 or alternate 19. If using a navigational system simply enter Howard Park or 1700 Sunset Drive, which is the address for the park entrance.

The beach portion of the park is easily accessed by the mile-long causeway that provides a scenic panorama of the Gulf of Mexico. Both the beach and the causeway are man-made, having opened to the public in 1966. The park really is two parks in one where visitors can enjoy the beauty of the beach area, and then visit the very shady trails, playground, ball fields, and picnic areas on the mainland. Just looking at the aerial view of the park in the video below will give you a sense of how unique it is.

What Makes Howard Park so Unique?

One of the things that separates Howard Park from other beaches is that this is a very quiet and serene place. There are no restaurants, t-shirt shops, bars, etc. here that make some other popular beaches in Florida so touristy and over-commercialized. This is just a wonderful place to relax on the beach, walk, hike, kayak, or watch the kids play in the playground. It’s clean, well-maintained, and not far from the Greek Village of Tarpon Springs, famous for its sponge industry and a great place to taste some wonderful Greek food. From Howard Park, you are only about 10 minutes by car to the sponge docks.

Sand bar makes a great spot for a little solitude or soccer

Sand bar makes a great spot for a little solitude or soccer

What to Expect on Your Visit?

As you enter the park you will snake your way through the 78 acres of picnic areas, playgrounds, and ball fields. There is also a kayak launch area where you can paddle your way through the ½ mile trail of mangroves out to the gulf. With plenty of parking as well as bathroom facilities, this is the perfect area to bring the kids after spending some time out at the beach. The park is well maintained and very shaded, which makes it the ideal location for that sultry summer walk, hike, or picnic.

Clean, well-kept pavilions

Clean, well-kept pavilions

If you are interested in the birds and animals that inhabit the park and surrounding area you will enjoy looking for osprey, bald eagle, dolphins, and even the occasional manatee. The park is a haven for shorebirds and you’ll be certain to see ibis, egrets, heron, sandpipers, and most of the other birds common throughout Florida’s coastal regions.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

As you leave the canopy of the park and head out onto the causeway you will notice that many visitors stake out a little piece of paradise along the side of the road. Visitors with small boats, wave runners, and kayaks will use this area to launch and this is also a great place to fish. The causeway is about a mile long and often packed with joggers, walkers, and bikers going to and from the beach area.

The Howard Park Causeway

The Howard Park Causeway

As you approach the beach island you will first enter the parking area, which is adequate but fills up quickly on summer weekends. They do charge $5 to park so make sure you get your ticket from one of the kiosks. An annual parking pass is available for $75 should you reside in the area and make frequent visits to the park.

The main beach area stretches the full length of the west, gulf facing side of the island. The east facing side of the island seems to be the area for water sports although there is plenty of beach space here to watch the action out on the water. Lifeguards are on duty from March through September from 9 am until 5 pm. There are restrooms and two outside showers as well as kayak, paddleboard, and cruiser bike rental vendors. Please note that they do not allow pets out onto the main beach area but there is a small pet beach area within the park.

Howard Park Beach parking

Howard Park Beach parking

Outdoor showers

Outdoor showers

While the beach area is not huge, there is usually plenty of space to find yourself a quiet corner to enjoy the surf, sand, and scenery. If you need a quick break from the beach you can walk the perimeter of the island which will give you great views of the gulf and a chance to see some of the kiteboarders and windsurfers who frequent the park. While well-known to the locals, visitors from outside the area often have never heard of Howard Park or overlook it in favor of the well-known and very crowded beaches of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. We’ve been to most of the beaches in this area of Florida’s west coast, and while they are all beautiful in their own right, Howard Park Beach is still our favorite beach destination.

That looks like fun.

That looks like fun.

Kiteboarding at Howard Park Beach

Park Amenities Summary:

  • 2 Playgrounds
  • 9 Picnic pavilions with grills
  • Baseball field
  • 6 restroom facilities
  • Kayak and canoe launch area
  • Kayak and canoe trail
  • Kayak, paddleboard, and bike rental
  • 2 outdoor showers at the beach
  • Hiking trails
  • Beach area
  • Fishing
Rental toys for the adventurous

Rental toys for the adventurous

Park Visitor Information:

  • Open daily.
  • Lifeguard on duty March until September.
  • $5 fee to park. An annual pass is available for $75.
  • Address: 1700 Sunset Dr, Tarpon Spring, FL
Howard Park Beach Lifeguard Station

Howard Park Beach Lifeguard Station

If your travels take you to the west-central coast of Florida and you’re looking for a nice beach area with plenty of park amenities then consider spending some time at Howard Park Beach. This hidden gem has everything necessary to make your day at the beach a memorable experience.

© 2021 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2021:

Thank you, Linda. We enjoy Howard Park when we can and it never disappoints. It is an interesting design, which adds to its appeal.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 06, 2021:

The park looks lovely. It sounds like it has an interesting design. I’d love to visit it. Thank you for sharing the information and the beautiful photos, Bill.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 02, 2021:

Thank you, Peggy. It’s really only about 10 minutes from the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. A great place for either the beach, a hike, picnic, or some adventurous water sports. If you are into birding this is a great place for it. A Happy New Year to you.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 02, 2021:

We have traveled through Tarpon Springs but never knew about Fred Howard Park. Thanks for showcasing this beauty. I can fully understand why locals would like to get an annual pass to be able to use it more frequently at less cost. Your photography is beautiful as usual. I loved the blue heron photo.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 02, 2021:

Thanks, Bill. We are here out of necessity and just trying to make the best of it while staying safe. While I don’t like the heat, the weather here at the moment does beat the weather up north. A Happy New Year to you

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 02, 2021:

Sorry I'm late!

I'm not a big traveler, and usually I have no desire to travel to a tropical area, but this winter is wet, and I'm about ready to get the heck out of Dodge, to anywhere with sunshine for more than ten minutes. :) Happy New Year, my friend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 02, 2021:

Thank you, Flourish. We haven’t really been able to do much traveling with the virus still out of control here. Howard Park is a place we have frequented many times, pre-Covid, on trips to this area to visit family. It’s a great place to unwind and enjoy one of Florida’s nicer beaches.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 02, 2021:

The photo of the blue heron was especially beautiful. I'm jealous of anyone who has the opportunity to travel right now, especially to such a fabulous outdoor area with warmth and nature. This seems like exactly the place I'd like to be!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 01, 2021:

Thank you, Pam. It’s a very unique place and we try to get there whenever we are visiting in the area. It’s one of our favorite beaches, very quiet and low key.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 01, 2021:

I wish I had found your article earlier, but I think Fred Howard Park looks like a terrific place to visit. Your descriptions and your pictures are very good, and I live on the east coast of FL. Thanks for this article as we may get to visit that area, Bill.