Beautiful and relaxing Clearwater Beach was recently named the number one beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor. The white sandy stretches on for miles and miles in this small beach town and the community is welcoming and charming. My family spends time here every year because of the serenity and peace it provides. The area is very clean and there are plenty of free public restrooms,coffee shops, snacks and amusement for children along the shore or paved path. There is even a Walgreens within walking distance from the hotels that line the shore. This is convenient for anyone who forgot to pack a certain item, needs extra diapers for the baby or wants to pack a picnic for the beach.
The playground is my 2-year-old daughter’s favorite place besides playing next to the ocean in ClearwaterBeach. She can play in the sand, swing, or play with other children on the very new jungle gym equipment perfectly centered at Pier 60. Every night at sunset, Pier60 turns into a festival on Clearwater Beach. This happens 364 days a year two hours before and after sunset (weather permitting). There are local artisans selling crafts and trinkets, people fishing from the pier above and great spots to glimpse the sunset as it goes down past the horizon. You can also see dozens of boats drifting at sea all focused toward the brilliant sunset trying to get perfect sunset photos before the horizon turns into dusk.
Our favorite place to stay is Dreamview Beachfront Hotel & Resort. It is the perfect place for a family or couple who want relaxation and not a party scene. The staff is very accommodating to children and they even leave community sand toys for the kids to play with next to the towel cabana and lounge chairs. There is also a cove built out of rocks keeping our slice of beach protected from some of the big waves which makes it seem safer and more secluded for young children. There they can wave to the pirate ships that pass by with tourists or collect seashells all afternoon as they splash in the waves. The food service is excellent and the friendly bartenders will take your order and bring you lunch poolside or oceanside along with a frozen tasty beverage. You will definitely feel a sense of calm and ease when staying here. It is affordable and offers ocean views from your balcony and the best ocean sounds to listen to at night from your bed with the door cracked open.
If you are looking for more of a party scene and “Sunday Funday” experience, then book a room or spend the day eating and drinking with friends at Shephard’s Beach Resort. This is the place to see and be seen and where spring breakers like to flock. This is also where to go for nightlife entertainment rotating between DJs and live bands right on the beach.
There are many excellent choices for dining on Clearwater Beach. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below. If you want a romantic dinner that is more upscale, dine at Sandpearl Resort inside Caretta’s. It is named for the loggerhead sea turtles that are found in the Gulf Shore. It is a beautiful hotel with a welcoming entrance that is pristine and a full service restaurant inside. You will be graced by their waitstaff and fish tanks along with white linen tablecloth service. You have a perfect view of the beach from anywhere you dine inside the restaurant while enjoying their fresh Clearwater cuisine. My favorite place is to go outside just before sunset and take the best pictures from their beautiful patio lined with tiki torches and firepits.
Another fabulous dining experience is at the Island Way Grill. It is a short drive from the beach but it still sits on water within the bay. Enjoy fresh seafood straight from their docks! The restaurant has lavish art and decor on the inside if you want a date night or business meeting setting. However, I choose to dine on the large patio that overlooks the water while I enjoy sushi or my husband feasts on up to three pounds of a Tomahawk Chop which is a long bone-in ribeye and one of the largest steak bones I’ve ever seen. Valet parking is available.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Frenchy’s as well for dining. They too catch their fish and serve it ready to eat the same day. Their laid back attitude and friendly waitresses and managers make you feel like you are a local. Their seared octopus with garlic drawn butter sprinkled with peppercorns and feta cheese is something that I dream of when landlocked in the Midwest along with their conch fritters and stuffed avocados. You will be full and still have food to take with you at this moderately-priced restaurant that serves up generous portions. They have five unique restaurants around and in Clearwater, but Frenchy’s is my favorite because it was the scene of one of my first dates with my husband. There is a quaintness and charm about the restaurant that is tucked back by fishing boats and some modest homes that makes it seem like a well-kept secret.
For a special treat after dinner head to Rita’s Italian Ice where they mix their famous homemade custard and Italian ice, cream ice or any concoction that you can dream up! You think you’ve had ice cream until you go to Rita’s. You can drive thru or order from their window and enjoy their patio seating that makes it feel like summer time anytime of the year. Cherry Italian ice mixed with chocolate chip cream ice is my family’s favorite. There are hundreds of flavors and mixes that you can order and always leave happy.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a great place to spend the afternoon with or without kids if you want a break from the beach. You will get to view the vastness of the world of marine life and rescue. They exist to help rescue marine animals and return them back to their natural habitat someday. Here you can visit the dolphins Hope and Winter. They were both rescued around the same age (only a few months old) and near the same site by Cape Canaveral, Florida. Hope was rescued 5 years and 1 day after Winter and has become Winter’s best friend.
Winter has a prosthetic tail because she was entangled in a crab trip line which cut off circulation to her tail flukes. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is where she was taken after she was rescued and overcoming all odds she survived and thrived in her new home. Winter and Hope are usually seen together and have inspired millions of adults and children all over the world who are learning to adapt with a prosthetic as well. There is even a movie that was made about Winter’s story, called “Dolphin Tale.” Part of the movie set is time capsuled at the aquarium where you can peer through the window and see what is on display.
For #adventures just outside of Clearwater Beach, my family likes to go to Tampa and Walt Disney World. Tampa is only 39 minutes from Clearwater and we try to always eat at the Oxford Exchange. The Oxford Exchange is a European-inspired building that features not only a restaurant but a bookstore with unique gifts, decor and a coffeehouse. It is always bustling with people anytime you visit. Don’t leave without ordering the #macaroons! Walt Disney World in Orlando is only an hour and 45 minutes from Clearwater, so this is another must-stop when we visit. The best times to go and avoid the lines is the month of January and September (after the holidays but before spring break, and when school starts). If you would like to read our tips and tricks and ways to save money at Disney, check out this blog post: