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Clearwater and Beaches
The city of Clearwater, and the smaller neighboring towns of Clearwater Beach, Largo, Dunedin, and Safety Harbor, have a beach town vibe and a feeling that summer never ends. The main reason for your family to travel here? Mile-after-mile of fabulous beaches with warm sunshine, soft sand and clear waters in brilliant shades of blue and green, shorebirds gliding overhead. At the end of the day, shake the sand out, gather up your stuff, as the sun gently slips over the edge of the ocean.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium – The exhibits here are purposely set at kids’ eye-level, so they can get the best views of stingrays, sea turtles, otters, dolphins and sharks. The most famous resident is “Winter,” the dolphin who swims with a prosthetic tail. At the Stingray Beach touch tank, kids can feel the silky backs of six Southern Stingrays. Kids 7 or older can participate in dolphin encounter programs.
|Make advance reservations for the popular Sea Life Safari Eco-Tour, a guided boat trip to a shell island. Guides pass around sea critters to examine during the two-hour trip.
|Clearwater Beach –
|Clearwater Beach Marina – From the Clearwater municipal marina, pick up dolphin watch and sightseeing cruises during the day, as well as dinner cruises at night. You can choose your vessel, from modern yachts and casual fishing boats, to paddlewheelers and pirate ships, including Little Toot, Calypso Queen and StarLite Cruises.
|Captain Memo's Original Pirate Cruise – This is your chance to play pirate with your entire family aboard the ship Pirates Ransom, because every passenger is issued a pirate’s hat, water gun and hula hoop. Kids can join in on treasure hunts, limbo dances, water games and more. Or you can just sit with your drinks and snacks, listen to reggae, watch for dolphins, and enjoy the sunset.
Pier 60 – This hub of activity includes a visitor center (pick up maps), shopping (hats, sunglasses, and related sundries), and concession stands (hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream). A huge covered playground has two distinct play areas – one for preschoolers, the other for older kids, all the equipment is under shelter to protect from the sun. The Pier is connected to the city’s new Beach Walk, a promenade designed for bicyclists, skaters and pedestrians.
Sunsets are usually stunning, and celebrated nightly at Sunset at Pier 60 festivals. Artists and entertainers perform from two hours prior to sunset until two hours after, weather permitting. The family entertainment can include any combination of magicians, balloon artists, fire eaters, stilt walkers, living statues, escape artists, break dancers, performing pets, and jugglers.
|Heritage Village – This living history museum is actually 25 historic structures covering 20 acres, including a school, church, sponge warehouse, railroad depot and store as well as a variety of historic homes, an “old time” country store, and a railroad car. Kids can explore and watch demos of blacksmithing, weaving baskets, and everyday pioneer tasks such as laundry and cooking.
|Heritage Park is located adjacent to the Florida Botanical Gardens which has a new children’s trail leading you on a one-hour search for butterflies, wildlife, and tropical fruit.
|Don’t forget to bring a lot of sunscreen, and reapply it often. You’ll also want bottled water, sunglasses and or hats, snacks, insect repellent, water and sand toys. If you’re not staying in a beachfront property, leave yourself extra time to park and transport all your gear to the beach.
|If you’re traveling in the winter months (November through March), the temperature of the water is going to be colder than you might expect. Your kids probably won’t care, and will be happy to play by the water’s edge.
Caladesi Island – This beautiful beach, also a state park, is only accessible by ferry. There’s a small café, changing rooms and cabana rentals. One of the best beaches in the United States, it can get crowded on the weekends. Go early in the day to avoid the rush, and be sure to keep track of the ferry schedule (the ferry leaves from Honeymoon Island State Park).
|Clearwater Beach –The most popular and accessible beach, with bathrooms, changing areas and the Beach Walk promenade which leads north to Pier 60. Beach activities such as parasailing, jet skis, aqua bikes, and paddle boats are available for a fee.
|Sand Key Beach – This beach is part of Sand Key Park. The beach and park areas are connected by nine boardwalks. There are plenty of shady trees, walking trails, picnic shelters with public facilities, playgrounds, and fishing piers. You’ll find solitude and great places to look for shells at the northern tip. The parking lots all have meters, but there’s a change machine.
|Redington Shores –This is a quieter beach in a more residential community, its width of 400-feet distinguishes it from surrounding beaches. Nearby is Constitution Park, which has a small playground and public facilities. The Redington Long Pier juts over 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, offering great views back to the shoreline.
Tip: The Suncoast Trolley travels Gulf Boulevard, from downtown Clearwater south to Pass-a-Grille, the southern tip of St. Petersburg. Running from 5:00am to midnight, it stops frequently at shopping centers and other points of interest. You can purchase a 7-day unlimited ride pass online.