Here are 8 things to love about Clearwater, Florida, a desirable Gulf Coast beach destination. With spacious, walkable beaches and an array of traditional beach vacation attractions, there are many reasons to love this beautiful address.
Feast on the freshest seafood, build sand castles, learn about marine life, and enjoy activities such as shelling, boating, kayaking, swimming, and paddleboarding. Clearwater consistently earns national accolades and awards, making it a top choice for beach enthusiasts.
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1. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Discover the wonders of marine life and immerse yourself in a captivating educational experience at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Dive into the world of dolphin care, rehabilitation, and conservation, as you encounter Winter and Hope, the beloved stars of the Dolphin Tale movie. This remarkable facility offers an array of engaging attractions that will captivate both adults and children.
While it saddens me to share that Winter the Dolphin passed away in November 2021 due to an intestinal issue, her legacy lives on through the dedicated caregivers, devoted fans, and the people of Florida.
Having explored this enchanting destination on multiple occasions, I can assure you that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is unwavering in its commitment to the well-being and release of sick and injured marine animals, including dolphins and sea turtles.
Prepare for a truly interactive experience by bringing a sheet of paper to play with Hope through the glass. Witness her playful nature as she eagerly follows the whimsical movements of your paper.
Pro Tip: Ninety-minute boat tours are available at CMA for an ecotourism cruise around the estuary. You can collect shells from a local island to bring home as souvenirs.
Tickets will run you $35.95 for adults and $26.95 for children under 12 (2 and under are free). Discounts are available for active duty military, teachers, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs. Parking will run you $10.
Pro Tip: Save money on your Clearwater vacation by purchasing the Tampa Bay CityPASS. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is one of the offerings on the ticket. Save 53% on admission to Clearwater Marine Aquarium and four other stellar attractions, such as Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium.
2. The Clearwater Florida Beaches
Clearwater is the epitome of classic American beaches. As you cruise along South Gulfview Blvd., you’ll find yourself just steps away from the sparkling water. Take a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk and sink your toes into the silky white sand, which feels like walking on powdered sugar. The breathtaking contrast of the clear blue water against the pristine beaches is truly mesmerizing.
To make the most of your visit, it’s best to arrive early during the busy season, as Clearwater beaches can get quite crowded. But don’t worry, there are plenty of options for grabbing a bite to eat and quenching your thirst.
You can also enjoy some fun in the sun with inflatables and be entertained all day long, making it a perfect destination for a beach-filled adventure.
3. Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
One of the must-eat restaurants in Clearwater is Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, a colorful and festival beach eatery with friendly service and tasty food. There are six locations, but this one is the biggest and faces the Gulf of Mexico.
Frenchy’s has a wide variety of delicious items, but the grouper sandwiches are the favorite. You can have them grilled, fried, buffalo, Caribbean, Cajun, or as a grouper Reuben.
And if you need appetizer suggestions, try my favorite item, Frenchy’s Garlic Crab Fries. OMG, they are sensational! The onion straws, beach crab Rangoons, and tuna nachos are other great starters.
If you’d like more places on the Gulf Coast to eat fried or grilled grouper sandwiches, our friend Charles has several to choose from on this list.
Pro Tip: Plan your dining time around the stellar Gulf Coast sunsets.
4. Pier 60
Looking for a great spot to fish and enjoy some recreation? Look no further than Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach! This 1,080-ft pier is located right where all the beach action begins. With covered pavilions and 10 acres of beach property, it’s the perfect place to spend the day.
At Pier 60, you’ll find everything you need for a successful fishing trip. There is a shop stocked with bait, t-shirts, souvenirs, snacks, and drinks, so you’ll never go hungry or thirsty. Plus, the fishing opportunities are endless – you can catch snook, redfish, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, and more.
For a small fee of just $10 for adults and $8 for seniors, you can fish off the pier all day long. And if you’re a night owl, don’t worry – night fishing is a popular activity here, too.
Besides epic fishing, Pier 60 is the place to be at night (sunset) for nightly street performers and artisans and a playground area for kids that is great fun. The evening festivities run from 6 to 9 PM. There are restrooms on the property; this is also a perfect place to park for your beach day if you can land a space.
5. Primo Luxury Hotels
While you may not be looking for a luxury hotel on your Florida beach vacation, there are several to choose from at Clearwater Beach. I’m not passing up the opportunity to stay at a stylish and savvy property that is steps from the beach, and the price is reasonable during the off-shoulder season.
Discover the exquisite Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa, situated near Pier 60. Offering 287 spacious rooms, you can indulge in the breathtaking views of the Gulf Coast from your own balcony. Experience pure relaxation at the beautiful heated outdoor and kids pool located on the 8th floor.
Treat yourself to a delightful dining experience at SHOR American Seafood Grill.
But the perks don’t end there! Enjoy the convenience of a 24-hour gym, complimentary Wi-Fi, laundry access on each floor, and in-room safes. And be sure not to miss the Tropico Rooftop Cantina for a fantastic time.
Three more luxury properties to consider in Clearwater are Opal Sands, Sandpearl Resort, and the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa.
6. Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise
Experience a sensational adventure on the sparkling waters of Clearwater with Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise! Perfect for both adults and children, this themed cruise promises an unforgettable time.
Immerse yourself in the world of pirates aboard the Pirate’s Ransom, with tickets priced at $44 for adults and $37 for kids during the two-hour daytime cruises. For a touch of magic, opt for the champagne evening cruises priced at $48 for adults.
During the summer months, there are plenty of opportunities to embark on this thrilling adventure. Enjoy two daytime cruises daily (except on Sundays and Mondays) and two evening cruises.
While the main focus of the cruise is dolphin spotting, be prepared to be whisked away by exciting pirate antics. Expect face painting, thrilling water gun fights, fascinating stories, delightful dancing, and, of course, an epic treasure hunt. Cruises are available from March 13th to September 9th
7. A Dolphin Hunt
I’ve never been to Clearwater Beach and not seen an abundance of dolphins. You can watch them frolicking from the shoreline or dig deeper with a boat trip that takes you via professional to chase them and capture wonderful vacation pictures. You can also find the hand-painted artsy ones, over 140 in total, that make up the Dolphin Trail in the St. Pete-Clearwater area.
Each dolphin was created by a local and is fun to seek out and get selfies with. A few of my favorites include Linger at Honeymoon Island State Park, Skipper at Tropicana Field (where the Tampa Bay Rays play), and Marina at Bon Appétit Restaurant in Dunedin.
Pro Tip: If you share your selfie on social media, use #clearwaterdolphins and your photo may end up on the tourism website.
8. Clearwater’s Sugar Sand Festival
Experience the ultimate sand art competition at Clearwater’s Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival! Be amazed by the talents of world-renowned sand artists as they create incredible themed sculptures over 17 epic days. In 2016, the festival went all out with a music-themed showcase featuring iconic legends like KISS, Prince, and Bob Marley.
Get ready for a blast from the past in 2023, as the festival takes on a nostalgic theme. And mark your calendars for 2024, because from March 29th to April 24th, the festival will be back with even more mind-blowing sand creations.
But that’s not all! The festival offers a plethora of other exciting activities to enjoy. Gather around for breathtaking fireworks displays, groove to live music performances, and even try your hand at sand-sculpting classes. With a variety of amusements to explore, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival promises an unforgettable experience for all.
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