If I hit the jackpot and could finally buy my dream Florida beach house, it would be located on Clearwater Beach!
In my humble opinion, Clearwater Beach is one of the best beach towns in all of Florida. It’s located on a barrier island and has miles of white sand beach.
Location: Clearwater Beach, FL (There is not an official address, but your GPS should have no trouble giving you directions if you type in “Clearwater Beach”).
Parking: Generally,$1.50 an hour. If you rent a hotel room, condo or house it usually comes with parking included.
Hours: Open daily until “dark,” whenever that is. Pier 60, the prominent pier on the beach, is open 24 hours.
The Florida Explorer’s Ultimate Guide To Clearwater Beach
I’ve been going to Clearwater Beach for over ten years now. When I used to live in a tent in Brooksville for work, my friends and I would often head out to Clearwater Beach on our days off and soak up the sun and get a bite to eat. I felt like I was living in paradise!
How To Get To Clearwater Beach:
The good news for people coming from up north is there are tons of cheap flights that fly right into Tampa International Airport. Personally, I prefer to fly Southwest Airlines as I collect a ton of points for them via their Chase Visa card and can usually book flights almost for free. I suggest when planning your trip, if your financial situation makes sense, to open up a credit card with a huge signup bonus and collect points to put towards your trip. However, flying anywhere to Florida during spring break or during Christmas break will run you much steeper ticket prices. If you are coming from the UK or the rest of Europe you may either have to book your flight for Orlando or you might have to transfer planes in Atlanta if you want to go straight to Tampa.
From Tampa International Airport you won’t have any trouble catching a ride from an Uber or Lyft to get you to Clearwater. (Use Lyft referral code AustinFL and get $5.00 towards your first ride. Use Uber referral code Otbghue for a free first ride). If you plan on driving around Florida for you trip your best bet would be getting a car rental, as Florida doesn’t really have great public transportation. If you plan on just staying at Clearwater Beach you will get around fine without a car, as everything is walking distance. Driving directions from the airport are super easy. Just put Clearwater Beach in your GPS and you will be good to go. Also, you can follow the signs for Clearwater right from the airport. It will be approximately 40 minute drive to get to the beach from the airport. From Orlando, just take I-4 West to I-275 South and then take 60 all the way to Clearwater Beach.
Where To Stay At Clearwater Beach:
You have several really good options as to where to stay, but all of them are pretty expensive. If you want to stay on the beach you should expect around $300+ a night. But this can fluctuate greatly depending on the time of year. I personally love staying in a condo that has an ocean view; there is nothing like taking a morning coffee overlooking the ocean or seeing a sunset on the beach and then having to walk 1 minute back to your rental, but Clearwater will run you much more than other beaches. If you must stay on the beach, you can find cheaper accommodations on a different Florida beach. Anyway, if you search for accommodations you will see that Clearwater Beach is overflowing with beach hotels and condos and there are many homes that are on the barrier island, but not on the beach that can be rented. Those are good options, as the barrier island is not wide, so as long as you are staying on the island you will be able to walk to the beach and restaurants. A couple places to check for rentals is homeaway.com and airbnb.com.
Pier 60 and Beach Bumming:
Pier 60 is the epicenter of Clearwater Beach. It’s called Pier 60 because State Road 60 is the main road bringing people into Clearwater Beach, and if you were able to continue driving straight down State Road 60, you’d end up driving straight onto the pier. On and around Pier 60 you can find a playground, bounce houses and slides, occasional public movies on a giant inflatable movie screen, souvenirs and excellent street performers and artists making their creations as you watch.
There is a sunset festival and that is when you can see some of the best shows, usually involving street magicians that do a bunch of cool tricks and blow fire out of their mouths. There are usually good musicians around the area too.
You can also do a lot of other cool stuff like parasailing, paddle boarding, going mini-golf, taking a pirate ship sunset cruise, going on a dolphin cruise, and seeing Winter the Dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is within walking distance of the beach.
As far as where I prefer setting up for my beaching, I like to set up 100-200 yards north of the pier. The area is less crowded, meaning you can spread out a bit more and have space to goof around in to throw the football, kick a soccer ball, fly a kite, etc…
If you are a really ambitious and also a weirdo like me you can walk north up Clearwater Beach several miles and enter Caladesi Island State Park, which used to be a separate island but a 1985 hurricane filled in the pass. It is a long walk and be sure to wear shoes. I walked once with bare feet and once with sandals, both times I got super nasty blisters on my feet.
One other fun fact is that Clearwater has the largest concentration of Scientology outside of L.A. I was at Clearwater Beach on a Sunday morning and saw a bunch of people walking around town in what looked to me like airport stewardess uniforms. While in line for coffee I asked a person dressed this way who all these people were and she explained to me they were with the Scientology church.
Alcohol is prohibited on the beach. As long as you don’t act like a moron with it and take a little effort to disguise your drink you will probably be left alone. Also, there are plenty of restaurants along Mandalay Avenue, which is the main drag through downtown Clearwater Beach, where you get a beer at too.
Food At Clearwater Beach:
You have a ton of options for food and drink at Clearwater Beach. My favorite place to go is The Palm Pavilion. It’s an awesome little, open-air beach restaurant right on the sand. I love getting a table on the edge of the porch next to the beach. It’s great views, a wonderful breeze, and good seating to listen to their live music–usually a guy singing and strumming on a guitar. My favorite thing to order there is a beer on tap and a fried grouper sandwich with fries.
Nearby is Frenchie’s Rockaway Grill, another beach restaurant similar to The Palm Pavilion. They have a similar menu and also has good live music. There is a huge Hooters restaurant that is good fun, and if you want to go to the original Hooters, you can drive back into Clearwater and you will see it along State Road 60. If you walk along Mandalay Bay you will find another dozen or so excellent options. You can’t go wrong even if you pick a restaurant at random.
I absolutely love going to Clearwater Beach and if you are from out of town and want to see a major Florida beach, Clearwater Beach will do the job. I have brought visiting friends and family to the beach and they all loved it. There is about 3 miles of beach here, so it may seem crowded if you get there, but if you are willing to walk 100 yards or so away from Pier 60 you will be able to find a nice spot with plenty of room to spread out.
Thank you so much for reading my blog and I honestly believe that you will have a fantastic time at Clearwater Beach. Feel free to drop a line in the comments if you have questions or have some tips!