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Clearwater Beach in running for USA Today’s best Florida Beach

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Clearwater Beach is raking in the votes for Best Florida Beach by USA Tody’s 10-best list series. As of right now, it’s the top-ranked beach in the Tampa Bay area.

Out of 20 beaches, Clearwater is joined in the vote by its neighbor to the north, Caladesi Island State Park, at number 6. Pass-a-Grille Beach sits at number 5 and Fort de Soto is at number 8.

The only beach currently beating Clearwater is Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola.

Voting continues through this week on USA Today’s 10 best website. The winners will be announced March 18 on that same website. Users can also subscribe to email updates.

The voting page contains a brief description for each beach. USA Today makes mention of Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60, the $30 million Beach Walk renovation, volleyball and “artisan vendors.” They describe the beach as “roomy and cushy” and “urban.”

The site notes that Caladesi Island has a reputation for “plush white sands and unspoiled demeanor.” The island is accessible only by boat unless the tide is low enough to take a walk over from Clearwater Beach. A ferry from Honeymoon Island in Dunedin is also available to take beach-goers to the island oasis.

Pass-a-Grille is located just south of St. Pete Beach. Its rock jetty at the southern most part of the beach is a welcoming attraction for fisherman and manatees. Visitors have been known to spot the giant sea cows from shore. USA Today makes mention of the stretch of shops and art galleries along the beach’s main drag. The photo of the beach shows a common Pass-a-Grille sight, a man driving a motorized parachute.

Fort de Soto makes the list based on its wide array of amenities, not just its two white-sand beaches. The park also boasts a dog beach where four-legged friends can go for a swim with their owners. Also mentioned is the fishing pier, the century-old fort from the Spanish-American War, and recreational activities including hiking, kayaking, boat trips and camping.

The next closest beach to make the list is Siesta Beach on Siesta Key near Sarasota.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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