pirate adventures offers fun for the kids and relaxing tour for
As one strolls along Gulf View Drive on Clearwater Beach late on a Saturday night, the night air is awash in convertible car headlights, bright spirits, laughter, and the meanderings of teenagers and adults.
Clearwater Beach is a barrier island on the Gulf Coast of Florida, near St. Petersburg and Tampa. In fact, Clearwater Beach is a part of Clearwater, which became a city in 1915. The Clearwater area was first settled in 1841 by James Stevens (known as the Father of Clearwater) and his six brothers, and by 1888 there were 18 families. One hundred and ten years later, Clearwater's population is 104,000, not including the annual 1.5 million snowbirds which flock from points north seeking an alternative to the hustle of South Florida or the commercialism of Orlando. Its beaches and outdoor life are the main attraction. The renowned geologist, Dr. "Beach", who annually rates U.S. beaches, voted nearby Caladesi Island and Sand Key among the top 10 U.S. beaches.
Visitors enjoy the beaches at all times of the day. Even after 11:00 at night people still are in the ocean, and lots of couples stroll along the shore near the Clearwater Beach Pier - there is a sense of safety because of the amount of people and the presence of police in Clearwater Beach.
The outdoor evening action starts shortly before the setting sun sizzles into the ocean against a backdrop of a usually perfect sky filled with puffy, white clouds.
The City of Clearwater Beach heralds this evening spectacle with "Sunsets at Pier 60", every Thursday through Monday on the city pier with artists, magicians, jugglers, musicians, and vendors. This landmark is easy to find since the major road on to the island, State Road 60, leads you to the intersection of Coronado Drive, the Pier looming in the background.
The best way to experience Clearwater Beach and its environs is by boat, and there is every type of boat adventure imaginable at the marina. Cigarette boats, fishing boats, nature tours, snorkeling boats, air-conditioned paddleboats, and even a pirate ship tie up at the docks. Parasail, fish, gamble, watch nature (dolphins, sunsets, and other marine life), snorkel, go shelling, or even embark on a unique pirate adventure -- a sure-fire kid pleaser. Kids don pirate hats, engaging in treasure hunts, water pistol fights, and line dancing with the crew. Mom and Dad can relax with complimentary wine, beer, soft drinks, and water while enjoying the slow ride (2 hours) up the Gulf channel to the mouth of the ocean. Expect to pay at least $35 per person (Call 1-813/446-2587).
Where to Stay:
There are plenty of hotels to be found in this resort town. Expect to find a range from high-class hotels like the Adams Mark and the Hilton (see our resorts listing) to inexpensive weekly apartment rentals. Some moderately priced hotels include the Holiday Inn, Best Western, and a slew of local spots like the Spyglass Inn, Sunny Motel, and Aegean Resort. Click here for Absolutely Florida's Hotel/Motel listings. There are three visitor seasons in Clearwater Beach, the summer when lots of families come to stay, the winter when lots of snowbirds visit and hotel prices peak, and the slower fall season when hotel prices drop.
Where to Eat:
Clearwater Beach offers variety of restaurants to suit any palette. The omnipresent chains, like Waffle House and IHOP are easily accessed, but you can also find lots of medium-priced restaurants in the area. Pick up one of the free "Weekly Planet" guides from the hotels or restaurants, for the selection of fare. For inexpensive, tasty food, try Frenchy's (great grouper sandwiches) and Kelly's in downtown Dunedin (great breakfast).
Above: sting Rays are a common sight along the Clearwater Beaches
The action at the beach continues well after dusk in kinder, gentler Clearwater Beach.