If I'm doing a beach vacation, I want to stay on the beach! There are many inexpensive and privately owned motels/hotels on the beach in the Clearwater Beach/ St. Petersburg area. Most of them are not advertised on Travelocity or Expedia. I doubt if many travel agents know about them.
I found out about them by sending away for information through the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce. That's a good thing to do when planning on visiting any area. Most Chamber of Commerce and visitor's bureau's will send you free information.
Many of these privately owned establishments are run by people that had gone to that area for vacation and decided to stay there! A lot of them are from England and Germany. I don't know why that is.
The one thing that you need to be aware of is that most of these places charge $10 a night for an extra person. All the rates quoted are for 2 people. They do consider children to be "extra people."
Many of these motels/hotels have rooms with kitchens or kitchenettes, so you can buy some food to prepare in your room and save some money. The "big" grocery chain in this area is called, "Publix." I've found these stores not to be that big. At least not the ones close to the beach towns.
In 2006, my family and I stayed at a hotel called, "The Gulf Towers," on Indian Rocks Beach. I was able to get a room with a balcony facing the beach for $600 for 7 days! That was with 2 adults and one child.
The Gulf Towers was all right. At the time, It was a 2 maybe 2 and a half star hotel. The room where we stayed in was clean. They had daily maid service, a kitchenette, a pool, and a private beach. There were no lifeguards there. However, they had a major renovation a few years back. On their website, it looks like they've really upgraded the hotel!
The hallways were in need of new paint and maybe new carpet too. They had a laundry room with one washer and one dryer! This is something else that you need to ask before booking. Just because they say they have a laundry doesn't mean that they have a lot of machines in the laundry room!
The Gulf Towers is directly across the street from a seafood restaurant called, "Crabby Bills." They have a few locations in that area. There is one in St. Pete (Beach). The locals just call it St. Pete now.
In 2008, my family and I stayed at, "The Alden" on St. Pete. This is a very nice hotel. It was reasonably priced. They do not charge for an extra person. We had a full kitchen, a bedroom, a separate living room and a full bathroom. We also had a balcony that overlooked the pool.
This hotel has it's own beach. There are lifeguards on the beach there. It also had a beach bar, a play ground, hot tub, 2 pools, a laundry room with about 7 or 8 washing machines and dryers, BBQ grills, ping pong, and a volley ball court. They did not have a restaurant, but there are many restaurants in the area. This hotel is geared towards families.
There are a lot of nice hotels in this area. The Don Cesar Beach Resort was just a 5 minute walk down the beach.