Ultimate Guide to Clearwater FL Beaches

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clearwater fl beaches sunset

Clearwater beaches are not hidden gems or secrets known only to locals. Clearwater is one of the top beaches in Florida. In fact, it’s one of the best beaches in America, and a place to bring kids, enjoy nightlife, be active or lazily sunbathe. This is the ultimate guide for white sand and crystal clear water!

clearwater beach
Spring break Clearwater beachgoers. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Clearwater Beach Florida – Part of Florida’s Sun Coast

The beachy coastline of the west side of the Florida peninsula, a string of oceanfront communities with beautiful beaches and countless beachfront resorts, is what makes Clearwater so accessible to tourists and visitors to the area. Nearby St. Pete Beach is another busy beach community, but they all seem to run together for miles and miles of Gulf Coast views and white sand beaches, whether you want lots of action or a quiet Florida beach.

Read More: When is the Best Time of Year to Go to Clearwater, Florida?

clear water beaches shallow beach swimmers
Waves provide endless beach resort fun. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Be Active: Endless Water Sports Options

If merely looking out at the clear blue water is too passive for you, Clearwater likely has something to keep you busy. Many people—local and tourists alike—take to the water, with many adventures on tap:

  • piloting kayaks
  • paddleboarding
  • bicycle rentals for land adventures

Several resorts have vessels beached and ready for rental, steps from the sea.

jet ski near beach resorts
Jet skis poised for action near private beach resorts. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Need more thrilling means of travel? Try…

The winds must be perfect for being aloft. You’ll see at least one parasailing sky explorer each day. In the evening, a pack of jet skis scream in from the direction of the Gulf of Mexico, ready for dinner and drinks, smiles all the way. Scuba diving was colder than the Keys and was a very different experience, encountering Gregorian shelves and larger megafauna like Goliath groupers and sandbar sharks.

Be Laid-Back: Relaxation Awaits at a Beach Resort

Sometimes what you want is simple: toes in the sand, drink in your hand or some variation of a jaunty country song lyric. Am I right? Clearwater has numerous beach resorts for your stay. Part of the allure of a hotel or resort with beach access (instead of across the street) is the crowd control. For many, it’s worth the hefty price tag.

Family-friendly activities are ample and kids are never bored; sandcastle building and wave jumping in the shallows. The pool and your lounge chair are just steps away for easy monitoring and interacting with your crew. More ambitious families play volleyball or toss a football in the surf.

clear water beaches crowds at spring break
Spring break crowd in the early morning at Clearwater beaches. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Clearwater Beach Public Access

If your beach getaway doesn’t budget a beachfront resort with private access to the sandy beaches, you can still find beach activities and fun at the public beach. The key to finding a great spot to call your own for the day at Clearwater Public Beach is arrive early. If you’re arriving closer to lunch time, especially on a weekend, you might have a hard time finding real estate.

Bring a beach chair, umbrella, towels and snacks and plan to spend the day sunbathing at this popular beach. You will see several other humans. The crowds get crazy, especially during spring break peak season. Boutiques and cafes are dotted along the roadside near the public parking entrance for an easy lunch spot.

live music at clear water beaches
Live music is a daily part of life on Clearwater Beach. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Nightlife in Clearwater

Pier 60 is the place to be at sunset. Like Key West and Mallory Square, with crowds drawn to Smathers Beach for sunset parties, Pier 60 is the place to be while at Clearwater beach for the party.

If you were hoping for a quiet getaway with turquoise waters and the sounds of only the ocean, you might have better luck at an all-inclusive in the Caribbean. You can find live music and competing volume levels of speakers and singers at each beach resort along the beach at night.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we’re traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
  • Jimmy’s Fishhouse attached to the Holiday Inn – sunset countdown entertainment
  • Shephard’s Clearwater Beach hotel – afternoon and night music
  • Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club – tiki bar with music most nights
  • Opal Sands Resort – live entertainment beachside
shells on clear water beaches
Shells at low tide. Photo credit: Amanda Williams

Day Trips from Clearwater Beach Area

Clearwater beach is the perfect spot to base your operations while enjoying your beach vacation, but there are many spots for easy day trips.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The aquarium made famous in the early 2000s by the movie Dolphin’s Tale is just down the road for visitors to discover and learn about marine life. Touch pools, dolphin interactions and other activities can fill an afternoon easily. Sea turtles are popular residents of the aquarium. The conservation efforts promoted by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium are really important to the creatures who share this popular destination with humans. You might even see a pelican, though not the pesky one from the movie.

Sand Key Park

This county park opens at 7:00 am and closes at 10 pm and is $5 to park for the day. Again, arrive early and you’ll have the gorgeous beaches to yourself for a bit. If it’s a good low tide, you might find beautiful shells along the beach.

Boardwalks are numbered and extend from the entrance of the park to the pristine beach. This is a much cleaner beach than the public Clearwater beach area. Many locals walk the nature trails here in the morning with their pups. Sand Key Park has picnic areas, restrooms, showers and rentals for chairs and umbrellas. There is one food vendor. The beach resorts are further from the water than over at Clearwater beach proper.

Caladesi Island State Park

This popular beach state park near Clearwater and just about 30 minutes from the Tampa area is often listed as one of the best beaches…in the world. It’s located on an offshore barrier island which technically belongs to Dunedin, FL, not Clearwater beach area, but makes the perfect day trip since it’s still so close. Palm trees and beautiful white sand wait for visitors 365 days a year. It’s worth noting, to get here, you must boat in to this beach park, so check out the Caladesi Ferry for planning your trip.

Clearwater truly has some of the most beautiful beaches and is a perfect beach town for a getaway to the sunny sea. If you’re planning to visit during the peak season, which is November through April, plan for crowds and book well in advance. Make sure to bring sunscreen! You will love every moment relaxing next to the warm white sands of stunning beaches.

Amanda Williams is a journalist in rural Minnesota. Her stories have been published in Matador Travel Network, Midwest Living, Family Handyman, and several other publications. A solo mother of two young boys, she writes about adventures from National Parks to waterparks. She loves sharing tips and insider information for others to use to make their trip just a little bit better. She and her kids scuba dive and live for new experiences and thrills. Road trips are always on the horizon and she’s embraced van life and has driven from the Midwest to Alaska (via Canada) with her kids encompassing 32 days of wild adventures. Amanda is classically trained as a wildlife biologist and has worked as a National Park Ranger, in addition to other exciting jobs like being a wildland firefighter and even playing the part of a living historian, as a cook in a turn-of-the-century logging camp. Because of these outdoorsy experiences, stories relating to outdoor adventure are often a focus of her writing. She hopes to inspire other solo parents to take on Disney, camping, and trips abroad with their families with the confidence to make those memories, even as the lone adult in the mix! Her most recent obsession is photographing adventures from the land, water, AND skies, as a licensed small unmanned aircraft system (drone) pilot. Learn more about her at https://www.wayfaringmandy.com/ or follow her on Instagram, @WayfaringMandy.
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