Clearwater Beach with orange sunset and white beach

Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by Dr. Shannon Barrett

Are you yearning for a beach escape with pristine white sand and sparkling turquoise waters?

I know the feeling all too well – that relentless quest for the ideal coastal sanctuary.

After thorough research and personal experience, Clearwater Beach in Florida emerged as the perfect destination.

It’s no surprise it’s ranked as one of the best beaches worldwide by TripAdvisor.

Consider this blog your comprehensive travel guide to Clearwater Beach.

We’ll cover the best attractions to exceptional dining spots and luxurious accommodations.

Are you ready to plunge into paradise?

Key Takeaways

  1. Clearwater Beach in Florida is a top-ranked beach globally, with beautiful white sands and sparkling waters.
  2. The nearest airport to reach Clearwater Beach is Tampa International Airport, but you can also fly into St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.
  3. You can explore the downtown area for shopping, visiting marine aquariums, dining on yachts, or taking ferry rides to nearby cities from Clearwater Beach.
  4. Delicious food options are plentiful in Clearwater Beach, with restaurants like Clearsky Cafe and Senor Tequila by the beach offering tasty meals.

About Clearwater Beach

Clearwater beach up close with clear water and blue sky
View of Clear water in Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach, nestled on Florida’s west coast, is easily accessible by the nearest airport, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Recognized as the #1 beach by USA Today and Tripadvisor, Clearwater captures hearts with its sparkling Gulf waters and pristine white sands.

Live beach cams offer virtually immersive experiences of this heavenly spot even before your visit.

The beach is dog friendly all day as long as they are on a leash.

Clearwater Beach and the surrounding areas are very dog friendly!

Where is Clearwater Beach located?

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Clearwater Beach lies in Pinellas County, Florida.

You’ll find this award-winning Beach on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s the northernmost developed area among Tampa Bay Beaches and stretches three miles along Florida’s alluring Gulf Coast.

Who wouldn’t be enthralled by its stunning white sand and sparkling waters?

How do you get here?

Large Flamingo Statue in airport
“Phoebe” the iconic Flamingo Statue in Tampa’s International Airport

Tampa International Airport (TPA) provides the quickest the largest access to Clearwater Beach.

It’s strategically situated just 45 minutes away from St. Pete/Clearwater’s award-winning beaches and a short six-mile drive west of downtown Tampa.

With an impressive array of flights and airlines, it remains popular for those looking forward to soaking up the Florida sun on our beautiful white sand beaches.

Alternatively, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is the closest airport to Clearwater Beach.

Though minor, with fewer scheduled passenger flights than TPA, this airport provides potential savings with its low-cost, nonstop flights, especially appealing to visitors exploring the Gulf Coast area.

Both airports guarantee accessible travel routes into the heart of downtown Clearwater, making your arrival as smooth as possible.

Named #1 beach by USA Today and Tripadvisor

Red and Pink sunset on Clearwater Beach
Amazing Sunset on Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach proudly holds the title of #1 beach in the United Statesbestowed by USA Today and TripAdvisor.

Its pristine white sandsparkling gulf waters, and unbeatable Florida sun consistently place it at the top of numerous beach rankings.

In 2018, TripAdvisor named Clearwater Beach the best in the U.S., while in 2019, this stunning location secured its reputation globally, ranking sixth-best worldwide.

These accolades make visiting Clearwater Beach a must on every traveler’s bucket list for an unforgettable seaside adventure.

We loved living here so much, we extended our stay an additional 2 months.

Like checking out top rated attractions? Check out the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine

Live beach cams and videos

If you want to check in on life in this beach town, you’ve can check out the live beach cams.

They offer a real-time glimpse of Clearwater’s beach.

The Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach provides a fantastic bird’s-eye view through their webcam.

Here you can see what the beach looks like before you visit.

For marine life enthusiasts, tune into the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s webcam for an underwater adventure.

They have webcams from their dolphin pools – very cool!

Dolphin at Clearwater Aquarium
One of the Dolphins at Clearwater Aquarium

And check out other popular feeds like Pier 60 or Shephard’s Clearwater Beach, which also provide great beach views.

Here’s are links to the best webcams:

Beach View by the Pier: Wyndham Grand webcam

Aquarium cams for Dolphins, Otters, and Sea Turtles: Clearwater Aquarium Webcams

Beach View: Shephards Resort Beach webcam

Top Things to Do

From beachside shopping and dining in the vibrant downtown area to exhilarating dolphin adventures, Clearwater Beach offers countless fun-filled activities.

Explore the downtown area and shops

Multiple storefronts lining  downtown Clearwater Beach
Multiple shops line Downtown Clearwater Beach

Wandering through the downtown area of Clearwater Beach, you can feel the small-town atmosphere.

The streets are lined with shops and beachside attractions.

Every corner reveals something interesting to see or do.

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As you walk further, you will find several crafters offering handmade treasures near Pier 60.

From unique jewelry to one-of-a-kind souvenirs, there’s something for everyone in these quaint stores.

The locale also offers delicious seafood restaurants such as Frenchy’s Original Cafe if you crave a bite while shopping.

Visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Outside of Clearwater Aquarium Building
Clearwater Aquarium is a great place to visit

One of our favorite attractions is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

The facility showcases sea turtles, otters, and Dolphins. 

They also inspired Winter the Dolphin from the Dolphin Tale films.

self-guided audio tour comes with admission so that you can learn about each species at your own pace.

This aquarium stands out because it focuses on rescuing, rehab, and releasing marine animals.

This isn’t just an attraction; it’s a refuge for injured creatures who receive care before reentering their natural habitats.

You don’t often see dolphins up close – those playful spirits make any visit unforgettable – making this one of the top attractions in the Tampa area worth checking out.

It was one of my favorite parts of Clearwater Beach. 

Read our full review of Clearwater Beach Aquarium

Take a dolphin adventure with Little Toot

Red and White tugboat on water called Little toot
Photo Courtesy: Little Toot Tour

Climb aboard the Original Little Toot tugboat for a unique dolphin adventure.

With over 25 years of operation, this tour guarantees sightings of playful dolphins in their natural habitat.

Their specially designed boat creates a wake that draws these beautiful creatures right up next to it, giving you exceptional views and photo opportunities.

Multiple departures throughout the day mean you can plan your trip around the Florida sun.

Dine on a yacht with StarLite Majesty Dining Yacht

StarLite Majesty Yacht on clear ocean water
Photo Courtesy: StarLite Majesty

Boarding the Starlite Majesty Dining Yacht is an experience that’s a must. This 115-foot vessel isn’t just a sight to behold; it’s also home to some fantastic dining options.

With its brass and mirrored interior design, you’ll feel like royalty as you sail through sparkling gulf waters under the Florida sun.

The yacht serves both lunch and dinner dance cruises, giving passengers plenty of opportunities to enjoy their wide range of entrees, live entertainment, and dancing on deck.

If daytime cruising is more your style, they have that too.

It comes with excellent informative narration by the Captain about Clearwater Beach and beyond.

Every trip has stunning waterfront views; be prepared for brilliant sunsets and starlit vistas while on board.

It’s a great way to see Clearwater.

Take a ferry to explore nearby cities

Clearwater Ferry parked at dock
The Clearwater Ferry is a great way to see the area

I love to travel by boat and being able to take the water ferry to nearby towns was great!

The Ferry runs between Clearwater Beach, Downtown Clearwater, and Dunedin.

We loved being able to take the ferry from Clearwater Beach to Dunedin.  

The ferry taxi service does all the work, allowing you to sit back, enjoy the ride, and avoid traffic nightmares.

Go on a pirate cruise with Captain Memo’s

Red Pirate Ship on the ocean
Photo Courtesy: Captain Memo’s Pirate Adventures

Ever wanted to live out your pirate fantasies?

Step aboard Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise for an unforgettable adventure!

This two-hour family-friendly cruise offers thrilling activities that kids love, like water gun battlesface painting, and treasure hunts.

The ship replicates a pirate vessel but with updated amenities like bathrooms, a limited bar, and comfortable benches.

It sails along the beautiful Clearwater Beach shoreline and into the stunning Gulf of Mexico waters.

Catch a baseball game during spring training

Baycare Ballpark at sunset with open field and pink and purple sunset
Photo Courtesy: Baycare Ballpark

Feeling the warm Florida sun while watching a riveting baseball game makes for an unforgettable experience.  

Baycare Ballpark is home to the Philadelphia Phillies during spring training. 

Stroll along Pier 60

Pier 60 entrance

This iconic pier offers wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico, especially during sunset.

It also becomes a hub of activity as evening approaches.

They have a nightly sunset market in the summer which features local artisans and craftsmen showcasing unique souvenirs and handcrafted items.

Pier 60 and the surrounding area reminds me of Venice Beach in CA.

Make sure to check out the lively atmosphere and enjoy live street music surrounding the pier.

Top Restaurants in Clearwater Beach

We were impressed by the number of great restaurants in Clearwater Beach.

Some of our top recommendations are below.

We ate at Clearsky Cafe weekly.

For a more upscale dining experience, try Caretta on the Gulf.

If you love to watch the boats in the harbor then Marina Cantina is the place for you with their rooftop restaurant.

Don’t forget to unwind with a cocktail at Tommy’s Tiki Bar!

Clear Sky Beachside Cafe

Outdoor patio with covered and uncovered tables at Clearsky Cafe
Clearsky Cafe has a large outdoor patio and sidewalk tables

ClearSky Beachside Cafe is just a half-block stroll from the exquisite Clearwater beach.

Known for its gourmet offerings, you’ll find dishes brought to life with fresh, local seafood as a specialty.

Open seven days a week, ClearSky caters to your hunger anytime – breakfast through dinner.

We often hesitate when a restaurant serves breakfast and dinner, but Clear Sky does a great job with everything.

With an expansive menu featuring everything from Kobe sliders to crab legs, there’s something here for every palate.

As icing on the cake (though they serve great dessert too), the café boasts being voted Best Dining venue that fits all times of day!

I believe it!

One visit here will have you understand exactly why it holds such prestigious recognition in foodie circles.

Read our full review of Clear Sky Beachside Cafe

Senor Tequlia by the Beach

indoor dining room with white chairs and wooden tables
Senor Tequilas has an indoor dining room open to the patio

Senor Tequila, a new favorite among locals and travelers alike, sits serenely on one of the quieter streets of Clearwater Beach.

This Mexican hotspot occupies a spot once held by an old Greek restaurant but has been creatively transformed into a modern, inviting space where guests can unwind in style.

The praise for their food is no surprise – from delectable tacos to fresh seafood delicacies, every dish promises an explosion of authentic flavors that highlight Mexican cuisine at its finest.

The Mexican food is authentic and the service is wonderful.

Read our full review of Senor Tequilia

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill

Beachfront patio at Frenchys with orange and yellow tables
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill has a great beachfront patio

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill opens its doors onto the beautiful white sand of Clearwater Beach.

You’ll find yourself dining al fresco, with stunning sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico, adding a touch of magic to your meal.

The restaurant stands larger than life as it is the largest among six Frenchy’s restaurants in Clearwater Beach.

With over 40 years in service, they have mastered their craft and earned a reputation for serving tasty meals alongside live music.

If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere where quality food meets iconic beach vibes, this spot is one to check off your list during your visit.

Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar

Beachfront patio at Palm Pavillon
Palm Pavilon has a large beachfront patio

Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar is an epic spot you should explore.

It’s been serving up unique seaside dining experiences since 1926!

I love relaxing with the stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico while indulging in their top-rated food and service.

The beachfront setting adds to its charm, making it a popular choice for great meals.

Plus, they offer live entertainment daily, which gives your meal a fun spin.

There’s no wonder why this place has such radiating reviews on TripAdvisor.

Caretta on the Gulf

indoor dining table with beach view at Caretta on the Gulf
Caretta on the Gulf has amazing beach views

Feasting at Caretta on the Gulf is a must on your Clearwater Beach visit.

Nestled in the Sandpearl Resort, this top-notch seafood restaurant serves exquisite seasonal cuisine that reflects the fresh bounty of Florida’s waters.

It is Clearwater’s only AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurant so if you are looking for an extra special dinner, consider Caretta.

They have indoor dining and an outdoor patio.

With its remarkable location right by the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll enjoy stunning beach views during mealtime.  

Marina Cantina

Outdoor patio with water views and string lights
The outdoor patio at Marina Cantina has great water views

Like Mexican food and harbor views? Try Marina Cantina!

This Mexican fusion restaurant overlooks the marina.

Their menu blends traditional Mexican cuisine and fresh seafood.

The margarita selection here is worth mentioning as it’s available by the glass or pitcher, perfect for sipping while enjoying the breathtaking water views.

Many folks agree Marina Cantina serves excellent food and atmosphere, making it one of the top places to eat in Clearwater Beach.

Tommy’s Tiki Bar

Bar on the beach with outdoor tables
Tommy’s Tiki Bar is a favorite for cocktails in the sand, Photo: Hilton Hotel

Tommy’s Tiki Bar is a one of our favorite beachside bars.

It’s part of the top-tier restaurant scene and carries an impressive 4 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor.

The bar sits directly on the beach, making it a perfect spot for enjoying refreshing drinks under the shade while observing beach activities.

What sets Tommy’s Tiki Bar apart is its fun and playful vibe, which makes every visit light-hearted and entertaining.

The views are great and the drinks are frosty.

It’s located on the beach, and you can enter from the beach or from the Hilton hotel.  

Crabby’s Dockside Restaurant

Crabby’s Dockside is located in the heart of Clearwater Beach by the roundabout.

They offer a delightful dining experience that’s anything but crabby.

With their prime location marked by vibrant red umbrellas, this three-story haven serves up great food and drinks. Its first-floor patio is a paradise for dog lovers and people-watchers alike, boasting live music and a lively downtown vibe.

Whether you’re there for the panoramic water views or the bustling atmosphere, Crabby’s promises fun, flavor, and an inviting ambiance for all.

Read our full review of Crabby’s Dockside Restaurant

Places to Stay

Whether you’re seeking luxury or affordability, Clearwater Beach has you covered!

JW Marriott Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa

JW Marriott Resort
Photo Courtesy: JW Marriott

The JW Marriott Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa is a renowned pet-friendly accommodation.

Dogs under 40 pounds are allowed.

Situated oceanfront, this luxury resort offers a range of amenities for their guests.

With stunning oceanfront views, spacious rooms, and top-notch services, the JW Marriott is an excellent choice for travelers seeking a comfortable and pet-welcoming retreat in this beach town.

Sandpearl Resort

sandpearl resort with pool in the middle
Photo Courtesy: Sandpearl Resort

Sandpearl Resort is a beachfront resort that offers 253 luxury rooms.  

They guarantee comfort and an unforgettable stay for families, couples, or corporate guests.

Apart from its two on-site restaurants, the resort also provides top-notch spa services to ensure you get the relaxation you deserve after an adventurous day exploring the city.

It is also pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend to partake in your adventures.

Dogs 30 pounds and under can stay at this resort.

Opal Sands Resort

Opal Sands resort with infinity pool
Photo Courtesy: Opal Sands Resort

Opal Sands Resort is located in the heart of Clearwater Beach, Florida.

This pet-friendly resort has breathtaking gulf views from every room.

They deliver the perfect blend of casual beachfront luxury with a lively ambiance.

You’ll enjoy plenty of activities without leaving the resort premises.

The one and two-bedroom suites bring comfort and style together for an unforgettable stay.

It’s perfectly seated on Clearwater Beach’s promenade, too, giving you easy access to local fun spots around town.

Since it is owned by the same company that owns the Sandpearl, the same pet policy of dogs 30 lbs or under are allowed.

Vacation Rentals

There are lots of vacation rentals in Clearwater Beach.

We rented through VRBO while we were there.

However you can find listings on VRBO or AirBnb.

There are also local rental agencies such as Belloise Realty which had vacation rentals in our favorite part of the area, North Beach.

We usually stay in a vacation rental, so we can have a yard for our dog and a full kitchen.  

Transportation

Getting around Clearwater Beach is a breeze, thanks to convenient options like the charming Jolly Trolley.

If you prefer exploring on two wheels, there are options for that as well.

Also, to add fun and luxury to your transportation method, try out Fun Ride Rentals for an unforgettable experience.

Jolly Trolley

yellow and red cable car type trolly
Jolly Trolley is a fun way to move around the area

Riding the Jolly Trolley takes you back in time with its vintage San Francisco design.

It’s the go-to for easy transportation, saving you from parking fuss and traffic headaches.

They operate seven days a week and serve several beach towns, including Clearwater Beach, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs — covering practically all of your Florida trip itinerary!

Not just that, they also offer private charters, which can add an extra layer of fun to your group adventures.

And there is even more reason to rejoice as they have launched a new route providing nonstop service from Clearwater Beach to John’s Pass Village!

Clearwater Beach Scooter and Bike Rentals

Beach Scooter and bike rental sign with prices
Prices for rentals at Shepherds Resort

Located at Shephard’s Beach Resort, Clearwater Beach Scooter and Bike Rentals is your go-to spot for diverse rental options.

They cater to every preference by offering bikes, scooters, golf carts, and even unique surrey bikes.

Whether you need a ride for an hour or the entire day, they’ve got you covered.

Fun Ride Rentals

Golf rental with sign rent me in the dashboard

Fun Ride Rentals has 2 locations on Clearwater Beach.

  1. Inside the Hyatt Regency
  2. Inside the Edge Hotel

This top-notch rental service boasts the most extensive inventory of scooters and mopeds in town and provides a choice of fun vehicles, such as golf carts, surrey bikes, and beach cruisers that cater to various sightseeing styles.

Visit Nearby cities

Explore the charm of nearby cities like Dunedin and Tarpon Springs, while in town.

St. Petersburg

Large round white art structure in citt

Just an hour’s drive from Clearwater Beach, you’ll find St. Petersburg, a city that effortlessly blends beach life with remarkable culture.

Known for its exceptional beaches and vibrant arts scene, it’s a must-visit spot for travelers.

You are never far from the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg, where you can enjoy stunning sunsets after fun-filled days on some of America’s top-rated beaches like Pass-a-Grille Beach, which was voted 2021’s Best Beach in the U.S by Tripadvisor.

Dunedin

Dunedin Downtown Sign

Just a short drive from Clearwater, you’ll find the serene city of Dunedin.

This is one of our favorite cities in the area. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to being in “Pleasantville.” 

In Dunedin, you’re always close to natural beauty.

The city boasts some of Florida’s most stunning beaches since Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park are nearby.

Honeymoon Island

Beach with blue water and white sand
Honeymoon Island State Park, Photo Courtesy: Tripadvisor

Both parks combine recreational activities for all ages to enjoy under Florida’s radiant sun.

I’m especially fond of Honeymoon Island, which ranks top among state parks in this sunshine-dappled locale.

Safety Harbor

Wooden welcome to Safety harbor sign

Just a quick drive from Clearwater Beach, you’ll find Safety Harbor on the west side of Upper Tampa Bay.

Far removed from crowded tourist spots, this quaint town offers its charm with unique shops and delicious restaurants worth exploring.

You can enjoy strolls along an enticing fishing pier gracing the Old Tampa Bay waterfront.

Delve into the city’s rich history that dates back half a millennium.

If you’re after serenity without straying too far away from vibrant city life, Safety Harbor is just 20 minutes away from Clearwater Beach.

It truly represents one of Florida’s best-kept secrets!

We loved strolling along the streets and visiting the Sunday Farmers Market. 

Tarpon Springs

sailboat with sponges on it

Jump in your car and head 30 minutes north of Clearwater Beach to visit the quaint town of Tarpon Springs.

Brimming with a rich history deeply rooted in Greek tradition, it is often called the “sponge capital” thanks to its founding by Greek sponge divers in the early 1900s.

The old-world charm continues as you stroll around the historic sponge docks. 

Named after tarpon fish found aplenty nearby, this relaxed community makes for an enchanting day trip away from bustling Clearwater Beach.

Ybor City

Colorful mural with yellow building and Viva Ybor painted on ti

You’ll find Ybor City – Tampa Bay’s historic Latin Quarter, just an hour from Clearwater Beach.

This vibrant neighborhood buzzes with Cuban, Italian, and Spanish influences that mark its rich history.

Here, your senses come alive as you explore the diverse array of activities Ybor City has to offer.

Stroll through the city on foot for an immersive experience; stop by one of its iconic eateries for authentic cuisine or watch skilled artisans hand-roll cigars.

Historic buildings now serve as chic shops, lively bars, and gourmet restaurants where you can savor eclectic flavors while soaking up the local culture

Arts and Culture

Clearwater is not just about sand and surf; it’s also a haven for arts and culture.

Catch a show at the Ruth Eckerd Hall

Large outdoor canopy for outdoor concerts
The Sound is a great place for concerts

Ruth Eckerd Hall is a must-visit.

It provides world-class entertainment, and its 2,180-seat auditorium creates an intimate experience.

Since its opening in 1983 and later renovated in 2003 for improved facilities, it has become a prominent performing arts destination in the Tampa Bay Area.

Clearwater Beach recently added additional concert space in Coachman Park called The Sound which is a beautiful place to see a show.

Nature and Parks

Sandy trail on beach with beach dunes
Beautiful sunsets at Honeymoon State Park

Immerse yourself in nature by hiking or biking in Honeymoon Island State Park, or discover the unspoiled beauty of Caladesi Island State Park, both offering diverse wildlife and stunning Florida landscapes.

Final Thoughts

We spent three months in Clearwater Beach, one of our favorite places along the Florida coast.

The people were friendly and made us feel like part of a community.

There were so many things to do on the weekends it was hard to choose which event to visit.

The water is truly clear and warm.

The sand is white and fluffy.

Dogs were welcome everywhere.  

The food was delicious and diverse.

We can’t wait to go back.

Plan your trip and pack your bags; paradise awaits! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What makes Clearwater Beach Florida award-winning?

Clearwater Beach in Florida is an award-winning place because it’s renowned as one of the top beaches for its white sandy shores, fun things to do year-round, and great places to eat.

Is the beach dog-friendly?

Yes, Clearwater Beach is dog-friendly. Dogs are allowed on the beach but must be on a leash. We saw dogs all day on the beach. Just be mindful of the heat and only take them out when it is not too hot. 

Can I find any activities on the north end of Clearwater Beach?

Yes, the north end of Clearwater Beach is my favorite. It’s where we stayed, quieter than the rest of the beach. It is primarily homes and locals. There is terrific shelling, paddleboarding, and swimming. 

Is the water really clear on Clearwater Beach?

Yes! On bright sunny days, it is clear enough for snorkeling. It is some of the clearest water I have found on the gulf coast of Florida.

Dr. Shannon Barrett

Dr. Shannon Barrett

Veterinarian/Travel Writer/Digital Nomad

Dr. Shannon Barrett is a veterinarian and digital nomad. She owned a housecall practice, Island Veterinary Care, for over a decade and now travels full time. She lives in different beach towns and then writes travel guides based on her time there. If you’re looking for resources on travel destinations or how to become a digital nomad, then you’ve come to the right place! Love to bring your pets with you? Even better!

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