Getting to gay Sunset Beach from downtown St. Petersburg or Tampa
The most gay-popular beach in greater St. Petersburg, known by most locals at Sunset Beach, is located at the southern tip of Treasure Island, one of a string of barrier islands that extends along the Gulf of Mexico to the west of St. Petersburg.
From downtown St. Petersburg, it's about a 20- to 30-minute drive - just head west on Central Avenue and continue for 9 miles, through historic Kenwood and the Grand Central District (home to many of St. Petersburg's best gay bars, including Punky's and Queen's Head, crossing the Causeway to Treasure Island, and then turning south onto Gulf Boulevard (Hwy. 699).
Once you reach the 7-Eleven about a mile south of the junction with Hwy. 699 and Treasure Island Causeway/107th Ave., continue south about a mile along Gulf Boulevard until you reach the metered parking lot just north of the Mansions by the Sea condo tower. Here's a look at the drive from the 7-Eleven to the parking lot on Google maps.
If you've come from Bradenton or points south, take I-275 north over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, exit west at Hwy. 682 (or 54th Avenue), which is exit 17. Follow signs for St. Pete Beach, and once on St. Pete Beach (another barrier island), continue north on Gulf Boulevard (Hwy. 699) until you cross onto Treasure Island and see the 7-Eleven mentioned above. From Bradenton, the drive is about 45 minutes.
You can also find a helpful description of Sunset Beach as well as some additional information at the excellent visit St. Petersburg and Clearwater website.
The parking area with access to the gay section at Sunset Beach is called the Tern Parking Lot, and there are a number of metered spaces here. It can get a bit crowded on weekends, so consider trying to come early in the day if it's a busy time of the week.
Alternatively, you could take Uber or Lyft to the beach, although it's a bit of a drive from St. Petersburg proper. But from some of the hotels located around the beaches in the St. Pete region, a ride-share situation isn't too far or expensive. Hotels like the grand and historic Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach, the charming Sea Breeze Manor B&B overlooking Boca Ciega Bay in Gulfport, and the hip and stylish Postcard Inn on the Beach in St. Pete Beach are all excellent options if you're wanting relative proximity to the gay scene at Sunset Beach. Check out the St. Petersburg and beaches gay hotels guide for more details as well as photos of these properties.
Getting to the beach from the parking lot
From the Tern Parking Lot, if you walk to the left (south), you'll find the pretty Sunset Beach Scenic Boardwalk, which wends it's down along the beachfront. To get to the main stretch of sugary white sand, cross one of the several wooden crossover-boardwalks from the parking lot (the farther north, the closer to where most GLBT folks congregate).
Reaching the gay section of Sunset Beach
Once you walk over one of the wooden walkovers to the beach, look to your right (north) to find the area where most gays and lesbian congregate.
Grab a spot in the sand or up on the jetty
The section of Sunset Beach with the most prolific gay following lies to the north and extends for a few hundred feet or so to a short stone jetty, which juts into the Gulf of Mexico.