Holidays to Clearwater are all about the beach – this stretch of Florida's west coast delivers some of the USA's highest-rated sands.
Clearwater's perched on a peninsula which dangles off Florida’s west coast, so it really lives up to its name. Here, it’s all about see-through seas that wash up on velvety sands. Even the drive to the seafront's scenic – you'll spy jet-skis and fishing boats tracing lines across the bay as you follow the above-water highway. And when you park up close to the shore, it's easy to see why TripAdvisor rank it as the USA's best beach.
Surf and sand
When it comes to sunbathing stretches, Clearwater Beach is a real headline-grabber. The cushion-soft sands are three blocks wide, and they gently slope down into turquoise waters. Turn your back on the seafront, and you're just a couple of paces from a marina that offers scenic boat trips across Clearwater Bay. Mandalay Avenue splits the two with a string of beach cafés, surf shops and design-your-own t-shirt places.
After dark, the beach buzzes with life as people gather by Pier 60 to witness the striking sunsets while musicians, jugglers and magicians get the party started. Across the Garden Memorial Causeway, in downtown Clearwater, the vibe's just as energetic. Oak and palm-lined streets are crammed with restaurants and bars, while a big shopping mall provides the setting for blow-the-budget spending sprees.
There’s no shortage of days out around Clearwater. Take the bridge down to Sand Key Park, where the stretch of coast comes with smaller crowds, wild marshlands and walking trails. And if you keep following Gulf Boulevard, you'll pass through sun-drenched stop-offs like Indian Shores, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach. At the other end of the scale, you’ve got the Greek restaurants of Tarpon Springs within 30 minutes’ drive. And Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort™ are around an hour and a half's drive away.
Things to See and Do in Clearwater
With three miles’ worth of beach, Clearwater’s not short on sand space. Its main slither is a prized white-sand beauty, with bath-warm waters. To the north, you’ve also got unblemished state parks, like Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island, where bird-watching and peaceful strolls reign supreme.
Clearwater Beach has a lot going for it. Firstly, the soft sands are washed by the warm waters of the Gulf, which make it perfect for sunbathing and paddling. If you want to up the ante, book in for watersports or take the kids to Pier 60, where you’ll find a playground with a bouncy castle and inflatable slides.
Caladesi Island is a pin-drop peaceful alternative to all-action Clearwater Beach. It’s only accessible by a small ferry, so few tourists make the trip. On top of the wide, pale sands, there are kayak and hiking trails. Nature’s all around, too – turtles, armadillos and dolphins all make regular appearances.
Candles made from recycled beer bottles, organic toiletries and vegan sauce are just some of the goods you can pick up from Pierce Street Market. It’s held on the second Saturday of every month from June to September, under the Memorial Causeway Bridge.
Mandalay Avenue is good for picking up souvenirs. The stores specialise in beachwear, surf stuff and quirky trinkets. Pro wrestler Hulk Hogan even has a piece of real estate here, selling toys, clothes and signed goods.
Westfield Countryside is the area’s biggest shopping hub, and it’s where you’ll find premium names, like Coach, Pandora and Michael Kors. It’s got 150 shops in total, as well as a load of restaurants, a 12-screen cinema and an ice rink.
Post-sunset, Pier 60 is the place to go for music, crafts and street performers. Magicians, singers and jugglers all vie for your attention. Plus, there are regular, family-friendly movie screenings.
Most of the nightclubs in Clearwater form a single-file line along Mandalay Avenue. There’s everything from nautical-themed tiki bars to rooftop cocktail haunts. For all-night dancing, head to the Wave at Shepard’s Beach Resort. It’s a two-for-one deal with a beachside bar and a state-of-the-art, two-floor nightclub.
Brunch at Wildflower Café
Book in for brunch at the Wildflower Café, where they serve favourites, like waffles with maple syrup and fresh, whipped cream or chicken pecan tart. You can also opt to eat outside on the dog-friendly deck.
Buffalo wings at Hooters
This is the original Hooters – the international chain opened its first restaurant here in 1983. Since then, it’s taken the world by storm with its scantily-clad waitresses and all-American approach to food. Think wings, burgers and cheese steak.
Omelettes at Lenny’s Restaurant
Lenny’s Restaurant offers a taste of old school America. Every item on the breakfast menu comes with a free basket of pastries. And there are some extra-ordinary omelettes, from alligator to three cheese.
Seafood at the Original Frenchy’s Café
There are actually four Frenchy’s branches in town. But the original one is where the now-famous Super Grouper Sandwich made its debut. The smoked fish spread is worth a dip, too.
Sushi at Island Way Grill
Sushi and straight-from-their-own-boat seafood are the Island Way Grill’s strong suits. If you’re not a fan of fish, they also do a good steak. The views from the al fresco deck are another highlight.
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