Located just a little more than 20 miles from downtown Tampa is Clearwater Beach, recently named “Florida’s Best Beach Town” by the readers of USA Today. Clearwater boasts one of the most famous strips of beach in the world. With miles of soft white sand to dig your toes into, and the warm calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to swim in, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven - until you get hit in the head by a beach ball. There’s always something going on at Clearwater Beach, so get ready for an activity-filled day.
First, you’ll want to get to the beach early (between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.) if you’re not staying at one of the nearby hotels, as it can get very busy. You'll need a car to get there from Tampa, and public parking is available at city lots up and down the beach. If you want to be in the center of the action, then park at the Pier 60 lot (160 S. Gulfview Blvd). Your maximum daily charge here is $12.50. Try parking at lots to the north for smaller crowds and lower parking costs. A tempting arial view of Clearwater Beach and the Beachwalk — Photo courtesy of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater
Next, establish your home base. All along the beach you'll find cabanas consisting of a couple of lounge chairs with shades (very important). Most of these will be available for rental, while some are reserved by hotels for their guests. Just pick the one you want and set up camp. The attendants will come out to you for payment, which should be about $25. When you’re tired of sitting still, go exploring. There is so much to do!
Take these tips to heart to make sure your beach experience is a fun one: Bring plenty of sunscreen and water to combat the fierce heat of the Florida sun. The waters close to the beach are fairly shallow and usually calm, but there will be the occasional rip current to watch for and make sure you do the “sting-ray shuffle” (See beach signs for details.).
To put your mind at ease, lifeguards patrol the beach from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Just to be safe, do not leave valuables at your cabana while you are away enjoying the beach. Finally, there is a strictly-enforced no-alcohol policy on the beach. With these tips in mind, have a great day at the beach!
If you want to venture out a bit, then head over to Pier 60. This public pier stretches way out into the Gulf waters, providing visitors a pleasant stroll or a spot to fish from. Fishing supplies are available for rental, and there is a $0.50 charge for walking out to the end. Just adjacent is a concession stand and playground for the kids.
Another option is the Clearwater Marina, just across the main road from Pier 60. This is where you can hook up with a parasail company if you’re really adventurous, or a fishing charter if the Pier doesn’t cut it. Also available are dolphin cruises and speedboat rides. You can even take a ride on a pirate ship!
Continuing south, you can explore the beautiful and newly renovated Beachwalk, with its palm-lined boulevard and wide, paved paths. Along the way, you’ll pass popular outdoor cafes and yummy ice cream parlors. If you want to go farther afield, then you can jump on the convenient Jolly-Trolley system (look for marked stops along S. Gulfview Blvd.) and tour the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of the famous dolphin Winter.
Pier 60 really heats up as the day cools off, hosting the very popular Sunsets at Pier 60. This is a daily and free celebration that features family-friendly entertainment, artisans and street performers. This celebration is a great conclusion to your fun-filled day. Enjoy the Pier 60 Sunset Celebration for the perfect end to the perfect beach day — Photo courtesy of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater