Is Clearwater Beach worth visiting?
Ideally situated on the Gulf of Mexico and with a seemingly endless supply of sun, a mild and temperate climate, world-renowned beaches, wide-ranging recreational and cultural activities and events, as well as nature-based attractions, Clearwater is one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations.
Often cited as the best beach in the United States, Clearwater Beach offers fun for families, couples and party types on Spring Break with events, watersports and luxe resorts. That celebrated sugar sand is also worth the visit. Its proximity to St Petersburg, Tampa, Sarasota and Orlando make it an ideal “base” for daily excursions.
Visitors won’t have any problems finding the right place to sleep, eat or shop.
With over 7,000 rooms and 400 restaurants to fit every lifestyle and budget, Clearwater provides visitors with a number of options.
In addition, the greater Clearwater area is known as the “Retail Center” for Florida’s west coast due to its abundance of specialty, high-end boutiques, beach-town surf shops, major shopping complexes, flea markets and outlet malls.
More than anything else, Clearwater is best known for its magnificent Gulf beaches, some of which have been recognized internationally for their overall “beach health,” including sand and water quality, as well as for safety and their vast array of recreational offerings.
This is the Gulf beach that shows up in all the travel brochures. The sand is powdery and soft, just like the advertisements say. The Gulf of Mexico is turquoise, and yes, clear enough to see your feet as you wade in.
Many of the Clearwater area’s beaches have also received the Blue Wave Clean Beach designation from the Clean Beaches Council acknowledging that a beach is a safe, healthy and clean place to visit. Area beaches that have received the Blue Wave Clean Beach certification include Caladesi Island, Clearwater Beach, Fort DeSoto Park, Fred Howard Park, Honeymoon Island, Sand Key Park, St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island.
Beach access really isn’t an issue, because the beach runs right up to the property lines. There are no dunes to speak of, so getting on the sand on just about any given block is easy.
The beach welcomes families, with full-time lifeguards patrolling a stretch near the pier and kid-friendly activities along the shore, which means lots of opportunities for tykes to spill their snacks and draw aggressive flocks of seagulls.
Hotels and resorts, many of which sport umbrellas and beach chair rentals, line the sand as far as the eye can see. Consider this another warning to stay clear if you’re looking for a serene solo beach day. There are, however, quieter options among the sections of beach.
Clearwater Beach is one of the most popular of all the area beaches due to its family-friendly environment and offerings. Visitors will want to check out Pier 60 with its recreational complex and Sunsets at Pier 60, a daily festival featuring music, entertainment and Gulf sunsets. Clearwater Beach has consistently been ranked among the top beaches in the country by readers of USAToday.com, Condé Nast Traveler magazine, Tampa Bay Magazine and Florida Sports magazine.
Travelers are increasingly seeking out attractions and places that help them reconnect to the natural environment, and the Clearwater and Tampa Bay areas do not disappoint. From native alligators and crocodiles to manatees and loggerhead sea turtles, and all manner of seabirds and native plants, Florida is home to some of the most interesting flora and fauna on the planet.
The crowds thin out slightly on North Beach, which has some of the major resorts but then thins out to a more residential feel.
This part of town is everything north of the causeway, fronting Mandalay Avenue. Because it’s up the street from Pier 60, the crowds largely consist of resort guests and people who park at Mandalay Park, which is across the street from the Clearwater city pool.
There are vendors on the beach that will rent just about anything, from beach chairs to Jet Skis. There are several BouYah Watersports stands ready to render services up here.
North of Bay Esplanade, the traffic thins as you get deeper into the neighborhood. Many of the houses here are up for grabs on rental sites, but keep in mind many people do live here year-’round.
Continue north past the Carlouel Yacht Club if you’re trying to hoof it to Caladesi Island (more on that below)
This is the heart of Clearwater Beach, right where the roundabout meets the sand. The area around it is not necessarily what we’d call a party beach, but it’s definitely lively.
On its busiest days, traffic is at a standstill and the sidewalks are shoulder to shoulder. But even then, moving off the main drag even a half-block means the crowds thin out considerably.
Pier 60 juts out 1,080 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, and serves as a fishing pier, meeting landmark, busker haven and all around gathering place. Pier 60 Park features a visitor’s center, a pavilion and serves as the focal point for big events, including the annual Sugar Sand Festival and Sunset Cinema, when the town shows movies outdoors on weekends.
The pier itself has a bait and tackle shop with equipment rentals (there’s a daily fishing fee, with longer passes available), snack bar, restrooms and often more vendors than you can shake a debit card at. There’s a $1 charge to walk to the end.
From December through February the pier is open 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week. From March through November those hours are in effect Sunday through Wednesday, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the pier is open 24 hours.
There’s a nightly celebration, Sunsets at Pier 60, that lasts from two hours before sunset until two hours afterward. You’ll find giant inflatable bounce houses, artists, magic shows, dance troupes, bizarre photo ops and street performers of just about every stripe.
Leave Pier 60 Park and you’ll hit Beach Walk, a wide promenade for foot and bike traffic leading south.
Bicyclists and rollerbladers take advantage of the pavers, but it can be loaded with pedestrians, too. This path to the lower half of the barrier island and the resorts beyond.
The beach here also maintains a busy vibe, thanks to all the hotel guests and parking possibilities along the way. Really, this is the place to be if you want to shamble right from the water into a burger joint.
Beach Walk leads past Fifth Street to the Magnuson Hotel and the city parking lot across the street. There are plenty of restaurants and shops along Gulfview Boulevard, but the beach ends at a large jetty at Clearwater Pass.
There are smaller spits of beach behind the businesses along the pass, leading to the causeway. Clearwater Point, on the other side of the bridge, has a semi-private beach behind the stacks of condos there.
The Clearwater Marina is home to the largest fishing fleet on the west coast of Florida with both party and charter boats available. Across the street, Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60, open 24 hours a day (except Christmas), offers a full service bait house with gear rental and sales, live bait, snacks and beverages. In addition to fishing, boats berthed at the Clearwater Marina offer a myriad of activities including sightseeing, sailing, “hands on” marine life adventures, parasailing and more.
The Clearwater area is a golfer’s paradise with eight golf courses in Clearwater alone. The Clearwater area boasts some of the country’s best facilities for tennis, indoor swimming and beach volleyball, and is home to all manner of racing competitions throughout the year, including regattas, triathlons, marathons, canoe/kayak races, bicycle and road races.
Clearwater is “lots more than the best beach”. In fact, more and more visitors are discovering “old Florida’s” heritage and a burgeoning cultural hot spot. West central Florida’s links to its diverse past, including its Native American heritage, strategic position in the Spanish-American War, key involvement in the early development of the railroad system and the early settlers and “cracker” cowboys is well represented by a host of educational attractions and interactive experiences. At the same time, the area is enriched by a variety of world-class museums and performing arts institutions that celebrate contemporary artistic achievement.
A wide variety of special events throughout the year complement visitors’ experiences. From events that celebrate the arts, culture and gastronomy, to indoor and outdoor entertainment and sporting activities, Clearwater always provides its guests with something fun and interesting to do.