Clearwater Beach is consistently rated one of the top beaches in America, so a friend and I decided to visit recently. We went for a day during the last week in March. We were concerned about it being warm enough during that time of the year, but the weather turned out perfect.
It’s 90 miles from Emerald Island Resort so I rented a car and drove. I found some shuttles that went between Kissimmee and Clearwater Beach but most of them only went on certain days. I also decided against shuttles because most of them left Clearwater Beach by 5:00 pm and we wanted to stay and see the sunset.
My GPS said it would take 2 hrs but I thought I could make it much quicker (even though I always follow the speed limit!). As it turns out, the traffic was really bad and it took over 2 hrs to get there. Overall, it’s a pretty easy drive. You take I-4 east until you get to Tampa, get on I-275 towards St. Petersburg and follow the signs to Clearwater.
We got there around noon and the beach was already pretty crowded. There are parking lots near the beach, but they were all full, so I ended up parking in a hotel parking garage. It wasn’t too expensive and very close to the beach.
I’ve been to South Beach, Daytona Beach and many other beaches across the globe but Clearwater Beach ranks as one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. From the soft white sand to the crystal-clear water, it looks spectacular as you’re walking towards the beach. We were in the central area of the beach, which is a short stroll to Pier 60. You can get some amazing views of the beach from Pier 60, which is also a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts.
Clearwater Beach is more of a family friendly beach compared to South Beach or Daytona Beach. The beach is lined with cabana’s which are nice if you want a break from the sun. You can rent cabanas and lounge chairs for a nominal charge and it’s well worth it. They don’t allow any alcoholic beverages on the beach so if you’re looking for a drink, you’ll have to hit one of the restaurants located nearby.
The temperature got up to 80 degrees so we decided to go for a swim in the gulf. The water was a little chilly when we first got in but after a few minutes it felt comfortable. The water is shallow so you can go out quite a way before the water gets really deep. Whenever I swim in the ocean or gulf, I’m always concerned about sharks but I’m happy to say there were no shark sightings during our visit!
Places to Eat
There is a plethora of restaurants across the street from the beach, all within walking distance. After walking the beach for about an hour we decided to grab something to eat. We decided on Badfins restaurant because it was close and didn’t have a long wait. It took about 10 minutes to be seated but we were able to order a drink while we waited. Once seated our server was very nice and got our food order in quickly. I ordered the Oh Snap, which was blackened red snapper tacos and my friend ordered Lobstah & Shrimp Roll. Both meals were delicious and reasonably priced.
The beach “closes” at 5:00 pm, meaning that all of the rented cabana and lounge chairs are picked up and most visitors start leaving. We walked around a little longer and made reservations for dinner at 6:00 pm. I made our reservation at SHOR American Seafood Grill, which is a rooftop restaurant located in the Hyatt-Regency hotel. When we arrived, our table was ready and we were seated promptly. The restaurant faces the gulf and the views were amazing. Our waiter was also amazing and made us feel very welcomed and comfortable. For dinner I ordered grilled salmon. My friend ordered a whole, deep-fried fish, and the presentation was unique! We enjoyed our dinner and the ambiance of the restaurant. I’d highly recommend dining there if you’re looking for a high-class restaurant to dine at.
Clearwater beach is known for its spectacular sunsets and it didn’t disappoint. The sun was starting to set while we ate dinner so we went back to the beach to take pictures. It was somewhat cloudy by the time the sun was setting but it was still beautiful to watch. We were able to take a few pictures before heading back to Emerald Island Resort.
The drive home wasn’t as bad as getting there and we made it back in 90 minutes. There wasn’t much traffic so it was a quicker drive on the way home. Overall, we had a fantastic time at Clearwater Beach. It’s definitely worth the drive and I look forward to going back in the very near future.