Clearwater Beach: What to See & Do and Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Perched upon a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach is one of the Sunshine State’s most popular beach destinations. All year round, solo travelers, couples, and families alike flock to its white-sand beaches to frolic in the blue waters and experience the beach town’s eclectic dining & nightlife scene.

Around Clearwater Beach, travelers will find plenty to do, from watching sunsets at Pier 60 to sipping cocktails at a rooftop bar overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Not far from the beach buzz, you’ll also discover some of Central Florida’s finest nature escapes, including Honeymoon Island State Park.

Ready to plan the perfect getaway to Clearwater Beach? Get started with this complete Clearwater Beach guide, including what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay.

What to see & do

Clearwater Beach

If you’re craving Florida Gulf Coast vibes, there’s hardly a better place to start than award-winning Clearwater Beach. Stretched along the western coastline of a barrier island, the white-sand beach is often listed among the finest beaches in the United States.

Clearwater Beach

For locals and travelers alike, Clearwater Beach is a hotspot for swimming and water sports. Families with younger children will find plenty of opportunities to swim safely along the coastline thanks to the calm waters. If you’re looking for a dash of adventure, the beach is also the perfect spot to embark on a jet-skiing, parasailing, or paddleboarding tour.

After you’ve spent the day letting the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico lap your toes, hit up the area’s top-notch seafood restaurants and bars for a soothing end to the day.

Pier 60

Besides its soft sands, the most popular place to hang out in Clearwater Beach is Pier 60. Clearwater’s answer to Mallory Square in Key West, Pier 60 gets its popularity from its sunset celebration.

The nightly sunset festival at Pier 60 takes place every evening for two hours before and after the sun sets below the Gulf. You’ll enjoy a cavalcade of street performances—from magicians to fire-eaters—along with several artists and food vendors setting up shop around the pier.

Sunset at Pier 60

By day, you’ll also find plenty to do around Pier 60. Grab your rod and reel and cast out a line from the 1,080-foot fishing pier. (No fishing license required!)

The Pier 60 fishing pier is also a popular starting point for deep-sea fishing charters and family-friendly dolphin cruises.

Beach Walk

Don’t want to take a dip in the Gulf waters? Enjoy Clearwater Beach’s majestic scenery with a stroll along the Beach Walk. Along the town’s famed promenade, you’ll dazzle at lovely landscaping and spectacular views over the Gulf Coast shoreline.

Beach Walk

On the Beach Walk, you’ll dodge locals biking, rollerblading, and strolling along the boardwalk. Bring your appetite and thirst to savor delicious food and cocktails at one of the many beachside restaurants along the promenade. 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Located just east of the barrier island, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is one of Clearwater Beach’s must-sees. Thanks to its abundance of marine life, the non-profit aquarium is a fantastic destination for families traveling with younger kids.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

While you’ll find several interesting species here, the star of the show is Winter the Dolphin. After losing her tail, the now-famous dolphin was rehabilitated at the facility. Winter’s story would later capture the hearts of millions on the silver screen in the movie Dolphin Tale.

After you’re done scoping out sealife, slide over to the nearby Island Way Grill. The popular restaurant serves up classy Asian-fusion seafood to wonderful views over Clearwater Bay and Clearwater Harbor.

Sand Key Park

Want to escape the crowds of Clearwater Beach? Sink south to Sand Key Park. Located on the northern tip of Sand Key, the 95-acre park is a local favorite for escaping the buzz of the busy seaside community.

Sand Key Park

Laze on some of Clearwater’s loveliest sandy beaches, escaping the sun in one of its beach cabanas. After soaking up the sun on the shoreline, head inland to explore Sand Key Park’s salt marshes. Keep on the lookout for local bird species like spoonbills, herons, and great horned owls.

If you extend your visit into the evening, Sand Key Park is another local favorite hotspot to marvel at a blazing sunset over the Gulf of Mexico—with a fraction of the crowds as in town!

Honeymoon Island State Park

Peering from the Gulf of Mexico just west of Dunedin, Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the area’s most interesting escapes. On the island, you’ll discover a string of white-sand beaches, stretching four miles across a series of Gulfside bays and coves.

Honeymoon Island State Park

As you’d suspect from its name, Honeymoon Island State Park is a favorite escape for couples. From hiking or cycling through the virgin slash pine forest on its nature trails to collecting seashells along its pristine beach, there’s plenty to do at this lovely Florida state park.

Caladesi Island State Park

Accessible only by boat or foot, Caladesi Island State Park is one of the area’s top hotspots for outdoor adventures. Like so many state parks in Central Florida, Caladesi Island charms guests with its beautiful beaches and amazing sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

Caladesi Island State Park

Besides chillin’ out on the pristine shorelines, visitors can indulge in tons of fun outdoor activities at Caladesi Island State Park. Rent a kayak for a relaxing paddle through the mangroves. Or lace up your hiking shoes for a walk among the pines along the park’s 3-mile nature trail.

Where to eat & drink

The area around Clearwater Beach teems with superb places to eat. Many of the area’s top restaurants dabble in fresh seafood and superb views over the Gulf of Mexico or Clearwater Bay.

For some of the tastiest seafood in town, grab a meal at Crabby’s Dockside. Located next to the marina, the family-friendly restaurant delivers delicious food inspired by the sea along with a superb beer, wine, and cocktail selection.

Craving Mexican food? Head next door to Marina Cantina for favorites like casa ceviche, pork belly tacos, and carne asada. Marina Cantina is also home to the largest rooftop bar, offering tequila cocktails, bottomless margaritas, and more to superb Gulf views.

Beachfront Restaurant

Or climb northward to Pearly’s Beach Eats. Dealing out Floridan Mexican fusion in a colorful Key West-inspired cottage, the popular restaurant serves some of Pinella Country’s favorite tacos, spun with signature Florida Gulf Coast twists.

Another North Beach favorite, the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar is a fantastic option for casual dining with laid-back beach vibes. Grab a seat on the patio, located directly on the beach, to soak up the seaside splendor.

After indulging in a delicious meal, pop up to Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest on the rooftop of Pier 60 House. Serving some of the town’s finest cocktails, the rooftop bar pairs beautiful views with an inspiring food & drink menu.

Where to stay

For travelers, the best area to stay in Clearwater Beach is around South Beach. In this area, you’ll find the town’s largest accommodation selection along with its finest restaurants, cafes, and bars. For a more budget-friendly alternative, expand your search to North Beach, too.

Pier House 60 Clearwater Beach Marina Hotel

Pier House 60 Clearwater Beach Hotel

For sun-seekers, it doesn’t get much better than Pier House 60. Besides the comfy rooms, guests will enjoy cooling down in the outdoor swimming pool and dazzling at panoramic views from the popular on-site rooftop bar Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest.

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach

For the perfect Gulf Coast getaway, book yourself into a room at the Wyndham Grand. Delight in views over the barrier island and ocean on your own furnished private balcony. The luxurious amenities include an outdoor pool and a spa & fitness center. 

Sandpearl Resort Private Beach

Sandpearl Resort

Located in the quieter North Beach area, the Sandpearl Resort is a fantastic alternative to the hotels around South Beach. The 4-star beachfront resort boasts an array of luxurious amenities, including a lagoon-style outdoor pool, full-service spa, fitness center, and two on-site restaurants.

How to get there

By car

Clearwater Beach is about 25 miles west of Tampa and 25 miles northwest of St. Petersburg by car. The drive from either should only take about 40 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.

By air

The closest airport to Clearwater Beach is St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE), about 13 miles to the southeast. PIE is a focus city of Allegiant Air, offering several dozen routes to various cities in the United States.

For more options, many travelers fly into Clearwater via Tampa International Airport (TPA), 21 miles to the east. Major airlines flying in and out of TPA, include:

  • American Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines

Frequently asked questions

Is Clearwater Beach a nice beach?

Yes, Clearwater Beach is a nice beach. For its sugar-white sand, crystal clear water, and amenities, Clearwater Beach is often voted as one of the best beaches in the United States.

Why is Clearwater Beach so popular?

Clearwater Beach is popular for its miles of white sand, Gulf of Mexico breezes, and crystal clear waters. The city's beaches are clean, safe, and family-friendly, and are also often ranked among the best in America.

Is Clearwater Beach free?

Yes, Clearwater Beach is free. You will, however, have to pay for parking if you choose to drive to the beach.

How much is parking at Clearwater Beach?

The metered rate for parking at Clearwater Beach is $3 per hour, up to a maximum of $30 per day. Parking fees may vary during special events.

Which beach is nicer: St. Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach?

Although both are beautiful, Clearwater Beach often outranks St. Pete Beach. Clearwater Beach is short but wide, while St. Pete Beach is longer and narrower. Both locations offer excellent amenities, including great dining options, nightlife, and family-friendly entertainment.

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