YOUR GUIDE TO VISITING BEN T. DAVIS BEACH IN TAMPA, FL.
Planning a visit to Ben T. Davis beach on Florida’s Tampa Bay? This guide has important information you need before visiting, like Ben T. Davis beach parking information, where to check water quality, places to eat nearby and more.
We’ve recently been visiting Ben T. Davis Beach, which we’ll pair with a stop at Whiskey Joe’s. The parking and access were much easier than Clearwater beach at peak times, making Ben T. Davis beach a nice option for those visiting the nearby area in Tampa.
Admittedly, Ben T. Davis beach isn’t the nicest beach in the Tampa area but it is an easy option depending on your location. While it doesn’t have the same perfect sand as Clearwater beach, it is lively and convenient making it worth a visit when you’re nearby.
Below you’ll find the information you need for your visit, like the cost of parking at Ben T. Davis beach, beach rules, places to eat and stay nearby, and frequently asked questions about the beach.
Table of Contents
Ben T. Davis Beach Location & Hours
Ben T. Davis beach is open from sunrise to sunset every day.
The beach is located at the Tampa end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, a bridge connecting Tampa to the Clearwater area.
Ben T. Davis beach is approximately an 8-minute drive from the Tampa airport and 30 minutes from Clearwater Beach.
Best features of Ben T. Davis Beach
My favorite part of the Ben T. Davis beach is its connection to the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail. The trail is a path all along the Courtney Campbell Causeway that ends at Ben T. Davis beach.
You can bike, walk or run the trail and end with some relaxation time on the beach. The trail is wide and stroller friendly too.
Ben T. Davis beach is also very close to the Tampa airport and downtown Tampa. This makes it an easy beach option for those staying nearby, especially those traveling in for work. While the beach is small compared to Clearwater beach, it is an easier option for those in Tampa.
On our last visit to Ben T. Davis beach, we went earlier in the morning and got to see workers cleaning up the trash on the beach prior to the weekend crowds getting there. It was nice to see the beach regularly maintained.
Finally, there is cheap parking at the beach, making it easier to visit.
Cons of Ben T. Davis Beach
There are some lowlights of Ben T. Davis beach to be aware of prior to your visit.
- Water quality: since it is on the Tampa Bay, water quality is sometimes an issue at the beach. I share more details on water quality and how to check the current status later in this article.
- Sand quality: Ben T. Davis beach doesn’t have the same beautiful sand as Clearwater beach. There is more debris in the sand, as pictured below.
- No life guard on duty: There is no life guard at Ben T. Davis beach so you swim at your own risk.
Ben T. Davis Beach Rules
These are the posted rules at Ben T. Davis beach, as seen in the photo above taken on my latest visit.
Ben T. Davis Beach Parking
The biggest question I had before I visited Ben T. Davis beach was about parking. I am pleased to report that parking at Ben T. Davis beach is easy, with many spots along the shore.
That said, you may have to walk a little bit from the parking lot to the sandy beach area. The parking lot is long, with single row of spots on each side.
At peak hours, it may be harder to find a spot because it is the only parking option for the beach and it can fill up.
When I visited, the parking lot got more congested immediately adjacent to the beach area, owing partly to people going to Whiskey Joe’s and parking by the beach. If you don’t mind a little walk, I’d recommend parking on the west side of Sharkey’s at busier times (such as weekends or happy hour/sunset times).
Cost of Ben T. Davis beach parking
Parking at Ben T. Davis beach cost $0.55/hour as of my latest visit in 2023.
If you are paying by app, costs may vary slightly. When I went to use the ParkMobile app to pay, the first hour costs $0.90 and additional hours cost $0.55.
Note that if you are looking for parking rates on the Tampa.gov websites, it is confusing. One page for the beach incorrectly lists the rate as $2.50/hour but if you visit the city page specifically about parking it shows the true $0.55 price.
How can you pay for parking at Ben T. Davis beach?
You can pay for parking at Ben T. Davis beach by meters or with a parking app.
The meters are located throughout the parking lot and they accept credit card.
You are also able to pay by app. There are signs located around the beach with instructions, as pictured below.
You can use the Passport, Paybyphone or ParkMobile parking apps. When paying by app, there may be a small service fee. For example, the ParkMobile app charges an extra $0.35 for the first hour.
What hours is parking enforced at Ben T. Davis beach?
Parking is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Ben T. Davis beach, according to posted signs. You must pay for parking at any time you visit during opening hours.
When is Ben T. Davis beach parking open?
Parking for Ben T. Davis beach is open from sunrise to sunset.
The city built steel gates on the parking lot in April 2016 to deter drag-racing on the Courtney Campbell Causeway at night (here’s an article about it from Tampa Bay Times). The beach was had been used as a meet point for street racers.
Is parking at Ben T. Davis beach free?
No, parking is not free at Ben T. Davis beach. All the parking near the beach is pay-for-parking by meter or app.
There is free parking further west on the Courtney Campbell Causeway trailer, but it is about a 30 minute walk away.
Ben T. Davis Beach water quality
Since Ben T. Davis beach is located on Tampa Bay instead of the Gulf of Mexico, it is more susceptible to water quality concerns and advisories.
The state makes available current water quality readings for beaches, and you can find Ben T. Davis beach’s latest water quality results here.
In the past, Ben T. Davis beach has had “swimming not recommended” health advisories because of enterococci bacteria (source: a recent Ben T. Davis beach health advisory).
The sand part of the beach is still open and safe during water quality advisories.
Checking for red tide warnings before going to the beach is also a good idea. You can find the latest Florida Red Tide warnings here.
Red tide is occasional algae blooms in the water that can be harmful to sea-life and humans. NOAA offers a good primer on red tide here.
Even if you avoid the water during red tide, beach trips during red tide can be unpleasant because of dead fish along the shore. Sometimes the beach will also have a smell, especially if there is a large amount of dead sea life.
Activities & Rentals at Ben T. Davis Beach
A beach store and cafe on Ben T. Davis beach called Sharkey’s rents kayak, paddleboard, bikes and beach accessories. They offer the following rentals:
You can check the Sharkey’s website for current hourly rates for rentals.
There is also a beach volleyball net up at the beach, which you can see in the picture below.
You’ll also find standard amenities like bathrooms, a small number of covered picnic tables, grills and a shower for rinsing off after your visit.
Where to eat near Ben T. Davis Beach
The is a cafe and a restaurant located at Ben T. Davis beach.
Sharkey’s offers a small cafe called @fruitincup located at Ben T. Davis beach. They sell fruit smoothies and cuban sandwiches.
Whiskey Joe‘s is a full service restaurant located just north of Ben T. Davis beach. They are open for lunch, happy hour and dinner. Whiskey Joe’s offers indoor dining and an extensive outdoor bar and beach area with food service.
Admittedly, our visit to Whiskey Joe’s did not have great service. However, the beach location and reasonably priced happy hour appetizers are enough to entice us back. There was so much beach space for our toddler and baby to play without disturbing others, and I could easily order food at the outside bar while juggling two kids.
In addition to Whiskey Joe’s and Sharkey’s, the Rusty Pelican is approximately a 15-minute walk from Ben T. Davis beach.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are dogs allowed at Ben T. Davis beach?
Yes, dogs are allowed at Ben T. Davis beach on leashes. The official rule signs posted at Ben T. Davis beach say that “pets must be leashed and cleaned up after.”
Is Ben T. Davis beach stroller friendly?
While the Courtney Campbell trail along Ben T. Davis beach is very stroller friendly, the sand part does not have an accessibility path to allow wheels to roll over the sand to get closer to the water.
How do Ben T. Davis beach vs. Clearwater beach compare?
Ben T. Davis beach is much smaller than Clearwater beach. It is also located on the Tampa Bay instead of the Gulf of Mexico. That means it is more susceptible to water quality issues.
Clearwater beach also offers many more activities and amenities like Pier 60 and many restaurants. With that, Clearwater beach is much busier than Ben T. Davis beach.
Ben T. Davis beach is a good option for avoiding the crowds at Clearwater beach. You are usually able to get cheaper, closer and easier parking at Ben T. Davis beach because of this.
Where to stay near Ben T. Davis beach
The closest hotels near Ben T. Davis beach are the following:
That said, I would not consider Ben T. Davis beach a “destination beach” and would not stay nearby unless I had other business in the area. It is an easy beach option if you are staying nearby the airport, but I would not plan a trip specifically to stay near Ben T. Davis beach.