Wedged between Old Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater rounds out Tampa Bay’s urban trifecta. And although Tampa and St. Petersburg attract more attention, there are plenty of interesting things to do in Clearwater, too. It’s a great place to while away a day or two in the sunshine and enjoy the seaside pleasures of Florida’s west coast and Pinellas County’s picturesque parks.
Many of the area’s top tourist attractions revolve around Clearwater Beach. The barrier island west of the city center is home to many of the city’s top restaurants, cafes, and bars. And, of course, let’s not forget its beautiful sandy beaches! Elsewhere in the region, you’ll discover lovely state parks stuffed with nature trails and wildlife.
Not sure what to do on your vacation? Pad your ultimate Tampa Bay trip with a barrage of fun activities and experiences with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Clearwater, Florida!
Must-see places to visit in Clearwater, FL
Only visiting Clearwater in one day? Beeline for Clearwater Beach. Located on a barrier island east of downtown, Clearwater Beach is the city’s top attraction—even ranking among the top stretches of sand in the United States! This seaside destination is jammed with fun beach activities and superb restaurants & bars for everyone in your travel crew.
Clearwater Beach is a popular spot among locals and travelers for water sports. Hit the crystal-clear water and add jet-skiing, parasailing, or paddleboarding to your itinerary. The calm waters, watched over by lifeguards, are also great for families with younger children in tow.
After soaking up the sun and enjoying the waves in the perfect weather, take a stroll along Clearwater Beach’s promenade to incredible views over the Gulf Coast. Fuel up with a coffee at one of its cafes or enjoy a tasty meal for lunch or dinner at one of the waterfront seafood restaurants. In the evening, slide into one of the beachfront bars and clubs to sip on craft beer, wine, or sundowner cocktails.
PRO TIP: Want to save the hassle of finding a parking spot around the beach? Scoot around Pinella Country’s shorelines on the Clearwater Ferry. Stops along the route include Downtown Clearwater, Clearwater Beach Marina, North Beach, and Dunedin.
Sitting front and center on Clearwater Beach at the western end of Causeway Blvd., Pier 60 is the area’s most popular hangout spot. Like Mallory Square in Key West, Pier 60 gets its rep from its nightly sunset celebration, which is one of the area’s coolest things to see for visitors.
Every evening between 6 pm and 9 pm, street performers descend upon Pier 60 to entertain onlookers with their talents. Enjoy the performances as you scope our beautiful views of the sun dipping below the Gulf of Mexico.
By day, there’s also plenty to experience around Pier 60. The fishing pier is a popular popping-off point for dolphin tours and boat cruises. Book yourself onto a dolphin cruise to spot bottle-nosed dolphins frolicking in the Gulf of Mexico. Grab tickets for a sunset cruise to while the evening away on the deck or have a little fun on the water on a tiki boat cruise.
You’ll also find several boutiques for a shopping adventure and patio dining options around Pier 60 to whet your appetite.
PRO TIP: Want to see bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat? Book yourself onto a Dolphin Exploration Tour!
To experience the award-winning beach at its finest, take a stroll along the Beach Walk. On the promenade, you’ll enjoy lush landscaping and gorgeous views over the Gulf Coast beachfront.
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The Beach Walk is a popular hangout for locals to go biking, rollerblading, or for an evening walk. The area also teems with nightlife and entertainment options, including the Pier 60 sunset party.
PRO TIP: Catch the perfect sunrise from the Gulf on the spectacular Sunset Celebration Cruise. Upgrade to its Tropical Wristband option to enjoy unlimited beer and soft drinks on your boat cruise.
Sand Key Park
Need a break from the beach town buzz? Venture south of town over the Clearwater Pass to Sand Key Park. Located on the northern tip of the Sand Key barrier island, the small park is a favorite getaway from the city and one of the coolest places to go in Clearwater for relaxation.
The family-friendly Sand Key Park is fringed by white-sand beaches, featuring cute beach cabanas to escape the sun. Drift into the paths through the park’s salt marshes to soak up the natural beauty and spot birdlife like herons, spoonbills, and great-horned owls in their natural habitat.
RELATED: Top-Rated Tampa Beaches
With its Gulf Coast frontage, Sand Key Park is also a great place to marvel at beautiful sunsets as you lay on the soft sands. Best of all, you’ll enjoy all your adventures without the crowds at the main beach!
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
For a break from the beach scene, drop into the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. With its abundant marine life, the non-profit aquarium is one of the city’s most popular kid-friendly attractions.
The non-profit Clearwater Marine Aquarium focuses on research and on rescuing and rehabilitating aquatic life, including sea turtles, otters, pelicans, sharks, dolphins, and stingrays. Don’t miss the chance to meet its most famous resident, Winter the Dolphin. After losing her tail, Winter was rehabilitated at the facility. Her story was captured on the silver screen in the heartwarming Dolphin Tale, starring Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr.
When you’re done exploring the exhibits, grab a bite to eat at the Island Way Grill. Featuring views over Causeway Blvd to Clearwater Bay and Clearwater Harbor, the grill serves high-brow seafood dishes with an Asian twist.
PRO TIP: Save money by combining admission to the aquarium with other top West Central Florida sightseeing spots with the Tampa Bay CityPASS!
Caladesi Island State Park
Accessible only by boat or foot, Caladesi Island State Park is one of the must-see points of interest in Clearwater for nature lovers. The Florida state park is famed for beautiful beaches, scenic views over the Gulf, and magnificent sunsets.
Aside from comprising some of the most beautiful beaches in Clearwater, Caladesi Island State Park teems with fun outdoor activities. Rent a kayak and enjoy a kayaking ride through its mangroves, hike to the interior of Caladesi Island State Park among the pines on its 3-mile nature trail, or go swimming on its pristine coastline.
Moccasin Lake Nature Park
Need a time-out from the city? Zip east of downtown to Moccasin Lake Nature Park. Set on 51 acres of parkland, the nature reserve is a paradise for hikers and bird watchers, featuring miles of trails and plenty of local wildlife.
Hop onto the park’s trails & boardwalks for a hike under a shaded canopy of oaks and magnolias. Meandering over creeks and ponds, look out for several native Florida species like raccoons, turtles, and gophers.
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Moccasin Lake Nature Park also features a popular nature education center. Pop in to see its rehabilitating birds of prey, including bald eagles, hawks, and vultures.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Piercing into the Gulf west of Dunedin, Honeymoon Island State Park is a favorite escape from the hustle & bustle of the city for Floridians and visitors alike. The island strings together more than four miles of white-sand beaches across the Gulf and its bays & coves.
Honeymoon Island once formed a single island with Caladesi Island to the south called Hog Island. After a hurricane in 1921, the two islands were separated. As Honeymoon Island is connected to the mainland via a short drive on the Dunedin Causeway, it’s the easier of the dual state parks to access.
Staying true to its name, Honeymoon Island State Park is the perfect getaway for couples. At the park, you’ll enjoy fun activities, from hiking and cycling to collecting shells along its pristine shores.
Slink inland along its 3-mile nature trail to dazzle at one of Florida’s only remaining virgin slash pine forests. Or rent a bike for a pedal around the park’s 4.5 miles of trails.
RELATED: Top-Rated Florida Gulf Coast Beaches
Kids and adults alike will love taking to the coastline to enjoy water activities. Go swimming along the shoreline or head to the island’s northern reef for a fun snorkeling adventure.
One of the most popular experiences at the nature preserve is to rent a kayak or SUP for a kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding trip to Caladesi Island to the south. At a brisk pace, the trip to this island gem should only take about 20 minutes.
Cliff Stephens Park
Located east of the city center, Cliff Stephens Park offers bountiful activities for the outdoor enthusiast. At the 44-acre park, you’ll find some of the most popular things to do in Clearwater, with everything from hiking and cycling to boating and fishing on offer.
The most interesting activity at Cliff Stephens Park is its disc golf course. The course spans 21 holes with both amateur and long tees. If you’ve never played a round, this beautiful course, under the shade of oak trees, is a great place to start!
Formerly called Bright House Field and Spectrum Field, BayCare Ballpark is a must-stop for baseball fans. Located in the center of town, the field is home to the Clearwater Threshers minor league baseball.
Visiting in spring? Try to catch an MLB spring training game at the stadium. In the off-season, BayCare Ballpark is the training ground for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail
Built upon an abandoned rail line, the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail stretches 38 miles from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. For active travelers, the multi-use recreational trail is one of the area’s top tourist attractions.
Jump on the Pinellas Trail in Downtown Clearwater for a ride north to neighboring Dunedin. Or pedal 20 miles to St. Petersburg via Largo to explore the cool Warehouse Arts District.
Congo River Golf
Searching for some kid-friendly fun? Find your way to Congo River Golf. Located near Old Tampa Bay, the award-winning miniature golf course is one of the city’s most exciting attractions for kids.
At Congo River Golf, you’ll putt past tropical rainforests, caves, and waterfalls on your way to mini-golf glory. After your round, stop in at its gator exhibit for an unforgettable gator feeding experience.
Bilheimer Capitol Theatre
Dating back to 1921, the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre is one of the city’s most impressive architectural landmarks. The theater is built in a stunning Art Deco style. Its unique design contrasts with downtown’s normally subdued architectural scene.
And the Capitol Theatre isn’t just a pretty face. Aside from its architecture, it regularly features shows from world-class comedians and musicians. Check the theater’s events schedule to see if any acts are playing when you’re passing through.
Still got a hankering for arts & culture? Take a 20-minute drive east to catch a performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Opened in 1983, this modern performing arts venue attracts a variety of world-class performances, from top-notch concerts to Broadway shows.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Need a dash of excitement? Glide over the bay to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Located in the north of Tampa, the amusement park is one of West Central Florida’s top tourist attractions. If you’re visiting with kids, it’s one of the must-do day trips from Clearwater.
Busch Gardens fuses together exciting thrill rides with world-class animal habitats. To spike the adrenaline, scream down the Iron Gwazi. Reopening in 2021, the hybrid wood-steel rollercoaster is one of the world’s fastest of its kind.
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After dousing yourself in thrills, slink over to the Serengeti Safari. Busch Garden’s popular animal habitat spreads out over 65 acres. It features over 200 species, including giraffes, elephants, and hippos.
PRO TIP: Avoid line-ups at the park by booking your Busch Gardens Ticket online in advance!
Located in Downtown Clearwater, Coachman Park is one of the city’s most popular event venues. The waterfront park, overlooking Clearwater Harbor Marina, hosts concerts, art exhibits, and festivals throughout the year.
Check the city’s official events calendar to see what’s shakin’ at Coachman Park during your visit. If you happen to be sliding through town in October, be sure to pencil in time at the park’s world-famous Clearwater Jazz Holiday festival.
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
Looking for top-notch restaurants around Clearwater Beach? Pull up a chair at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill. Opened by a chef from Quebec in 1981, this open-air beachfront restaurant is famed for its Floridan-Caribbean fusion and dramatic sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico.
While there are five locations throughout the area, Frenchy’s Rockway Grill on Clearwater Beach is the biggest and most popular of the bunch. Visit the restaurant to enjoy fresh Floridan-Caribbean fusion seafood dishes like She Crab Soup, cocktail in hand, with the fresh Gulf breeze blowing in your hair.
Tampa Bay Grand Prix
Wedged between Clearwater and St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Grand Prix is one of the area’s top indoor activities for family fun. At the popular indoor go-kart track, you’ll be able to challenge family and friends to a thrilling race, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph!
Although the Clearwater venue is smaller than the Tampa branch, wannabe Formula 1 racers can test their growing driving skills on the twisting Grand Prix Track. Younger kids can even squeal around the corners safely, with junior carts reaching speeds up to 25 mph.
Fort De Soto Park
Located about an hour south of Clearwater in Tierra Verde, Fort De Soto Park is one of the area’s finest nature escapes. The lovely county park stretches across 1,136 acres, centered upon miles of sandy beach and a historic military fort.
If you’re visiting with kids, Fort De Soto Park’s beach is one of the area’s most family-friendly stretches of sand. Head up to North Beach and watch the kids squeal in delight as they splash around the large tidal pools and search for colorful shells and sand dollars.
After cooling down in the Gulf, history buffs should save time to explore Fort De Soto itself. Climb to the upper level of the fort, where you’ll find several cannons pointed out over Tampa Bay. The views over the blue water and park are spectacular.
Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise
Searching for fun for the entire family? Head to Clearwater Marina and go searching for booty on a Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. On this fun-filled cruise, you’ll hop aboard the Pirate’s Ransom pirate ship and set sail for the waters of Clearwater Harbor and Clearwater Bay.
As you sail the high seas, keep an eye out for dolphins and other marine animals and sea creatures. On the fun two-hour cruise, kids will also be able to take part in a treasure hunt, face painting session, and water-gun games.
Cleveland Street District
Need to add a dash of culture to your beach vacation? Head inland to explore the Cleveland Street District. Stretching through the heart of downtown, Clearwater’s revitalized main avenue teems with beautiful historic buildings and is home to some of the city’s top restaurants & bars and several cultural attractions.
Besides catching a show at the famed Capitol Theatre, visitors can roam the Cleveland Street District in search of the city’s finest food & drink. Let your tastebuds explore the globe at the popular Clear Sky on Cleveland, or indulge in authentic Mexican food at Hacienda Corralejo Mexican Kitchen.
Looking to escape the beach bubble? Embark on a cruise with StarLite Cruises. Drifting onto the Gulf of Mexico from Clearwater Beach Marina, the popular boat tours cover everything from dinner cruises to lunchtime sightseeing tours to dolphin watching adventures.
For an unforgettable romantic evening out, hop aboard the StarLite Majesty, a 115-foot luxury dining yacht. Aboard the vessel, you’ll enjoy a night of delicious food, entertainment, and beautiful views of the Gulf through vast picture windows.
Check the StarLite Cruises official site to check the times and prices for their cruises.
Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar
Built up an appetite after a day of splashing around the Gulf? Settle down for dinner and drink at the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar. With its beachfront location and laid-back atmosphere, the restaurant & bar is one of the most popular places to eat & drink in Clearwater Beach.
The Palm Pavilion Beachside Bar has graced the golden shores since 1926. Over its almost century-long history, it’s become a popular spot to watch blazing sunsets descend under the Gulf while enjoying fresh seafood and happy hour cocktails.
Indulge in local favorites like shrimp & crab chowder, seafood wraps, and grilled steaks. Wash it all down with a Palm Rum Runner, the bar’s signature cocktail, as the sunset cloaks the turquoise waters.
Southern Lights Brewing Company
Looking for a break from the usual sightseeing activities? Slip away from the seashore to sip pints at the Southern Lights Brewing Company. Located on Sunnydale Boulevard, the small-batch craft brewery focuses on handcrafting experimental brews, spanning the entire spectrum of beer flavors and styles.
Visit the Southern Lights Brewing Company taproom to imbibe favorite craft brews like their Stratapocalypse IPA, Grain Man Hefeweizen, and Sticks of Fire New England Pale Ale.
Need some delicious eats to soak up the suds? Although the Southern Lights taproom doesn’t serve food, you can head to the nearby Queen’s Pizza & Restaurant on North Belcher Road. Open since 1978, this popular local restaurant serves some of the area’s finest pizzas and gyros in an inviting home-like atmosphere.
Clearwater Historical Society Museum and Cultural Center
Who said a Florida beach vacation can’t include a history lesson? If you need a break from the sunshine and heat, explore the history of the region at Clearwater Historical Society Museum and Cultural Center. The museum occupies a two-story building on the former campus of the historic South Ward School in the heart of downtown.
Opened in 2019, the Clearwater Historical Society Museum and Cultural Center is constantly adding new exhibits to its collection and renovating other buildings to preserve the site’s history. At one of the beach town’s only museums, visitors will learn all about the city’s past and its major players through a variety of photos and displays. The museum also hosts special events for patrons, from ghost tours to workshops. Check the schedule to see if anything’s on during your visit.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re a nature lover with an extra day in Clearwater, don’t miss the chance to visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Located about two hours north of the city in Citrus County, this nature preserve was established at the headwaters of the Crystal River as a protected natural habitat for manatees.
At Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, travelers can get face-to-face with these gentle giants. Visit in winter and walk along the boardwalk to watch as many as 600 manatees splashing around the crystal-clear waters. It’s even one of the only places in Florida to join in on a manatee swimming tour!
Aside from viewing manatees, the nature refuge also hosts two miles of trails at Three Sisters Springs. Lace up your boots for a hiking adventure on the family-friendly paths. Keep your camera handy to snap some photos of the local wildlife!
Recommended places to stay in Clearwater for sightseeing
For travelers, the best places to stay in Clearwater sit around Clearwater Beach. The area is home to many of the city’s finest hotels, and several top points of interest and tourist destinations are accessible from the beach area. If you want to dig into the region’s culture & arts scene, you can also stay around St. Petersburg.
One of the area’s top value picks, these suites are a 5-minute walk from the beach. Guests will enjoy a free shuttle service and a heated outdoor pool to cool down in the sun.
Located steps from the beach, this mid-range hotel charms with its Art Deco façade and excellent amenities. Chill out in its outdoor pool and on its sun terrace for the perfect Florida vacation.
For a dose of relaxation, look no further than this lovely 4-star hotel. Located on the beach, this resort features a rooftop pool, spa treatments, and an on-site restaurant & bar.