Category Archives: Florida Vacation Day Trips

Tarpon Springs

It Is All Greek to Florida

Tarpon Springs, Florida

Tarpon Springs shopsTarpon Springs is a fun and unique tourist town on the Florida Gulf Coast. It is well known for its dining, and its sponge diving industry. The main road through the tourist district is one lane in each direction, with slow traffic that allows tourists to have a fairly free rein of the town. The street has a Greek name. Because the name is relatively unknown in the U.S., it sometimes is mistaken for other, somewhat similar Greek titles. It starts with a “D,” but is it Diogenes, Dionysis, or something else?  Remembering the name isn’t always easy. It might help if you first define three words from the country of Greece that start with a “D,” which we have listed below. Learn them here, and, on your next trip to Tarpon Spring, Florida, you can sound like an expert.

 

Diogenes, Greek Philosopher

DiogenesRemember the philosopher who carried a lantern in the daytime to find an honest man? It was Diogenes, or so the tale goes.  He lived in Greece, the exact years unknown, roughly from 404BC to 323BC. The tale of the lantern might be the most famous, but is not the only one to survive him. As a philosopher, he was best known for challenging conventional wisdom and roles in society. An account exists telling of Diogenes meeting Alexander the Great. When Alexander sought out the philosopher, Diogenes did not bother to stand up, asking Alexander to stand out of his sunlight. Despite being a poor man, he was famous in Greece, and other philosophers of the time were familiar with his views.

 

Dionysus, Greek God

Le_joueur_d'aulos_(BNF_-_Opéra_de_Paris)Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, grape harvest, wine making, and ritual madness. As the story goes, he was a deity, but his mother was an ordinary human. In one version of Dionysus’ story, Zeus rescued his son when his mother died. To preserve the child, Zeus stitched Dionysus into his thigh, an act which transferred immortality. Dionysus was later accepted into Mount Olympus as a god. Dionysus, in mythology, was raised by nymphs, and is associated with satyrs. The followers of Dionysus apparently worshiped their god in the woods. His followers engaged in holidays so excessive that, at one point, the celebrations were outlawed.

 

Dodecanese, Greek Islands

Dodecanese IslandsDodecanese is the easiest of these three words to define. It refers to a group of 162 islands off the coast of Greece. The islands lie between Greece and Turkey, in the Aegean Sea. The core islands are twelve in number, with smaller islands surrounding them. The words Dodeca means twelve, thus Dodecanese Islands. They are positioned at the crossroads of the world, between Asia and Europe. Evidence of habitation dates back to prehistoric times, with ruins from various eras still to be found on the islands. The architecture includes both Classical Greek structures and medieval castles.

 

Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs diver sculptureYou will find the small tourist town of Tarpon Springs on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, near Tampa Bay. Tarpon Springs’ claim to fame is that it is the number one sponge diving location in the United States. Back in 1905, when the sponge industry became mechanized, a local entrepreneur invited 500 sponge divers from the Greek islands to come to Tarpon Springs. Thereafter, the sponge industry and the city were known as a haven of Greek culture. Today, when you walk down the streets of Tarpon Springs, you stand a good chance of hearing Greek spoken in the shops or on the streets. The name of the main street leading through the Sponge Docks is Dodecanese Blvd. On the first Saturday of the month, during the summer, you will find a Greek festival on that streets called Night in the Islands. One can only assume that the name of the festival refers to the Dodecanese Islands. So, when you visit Tarpon Springs, remember, the main street through town is Dodacanese, named after the Greek Islands, not philosophers or gods.

spice shop Tarpon SpringsThe town of Tarpon Springs is a great tourist stop, with loads of nautical souvenirs and natural sponges for sale. The Greek food is fantastic, and the pastry shops are good enough to make the trip to Tarpon Springs worth it all on their own. If you happen to slip up and use the wrong “D” word from above, don’t worry. The important thing is to enjoy the food, fun, and goodies in this charming tourist town.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Osprey Nesting Season on the Florida Gulf Coast

 

References: http://tarponspringsareahistoricalsociety.org/Local-History/local-history.htm
Caladesi ferry port

No Roads Found to Caladesi Island

Reaching Caladesi Island

Caladesi from the airCaladesi Island State Park is a favorite destination for tourism, but how do visitors arrive to a location devoid of bridges and roads? Because of the remote location, arriving at the state park is an event even for locals. Caladesi Island was named when the barrier island stood alone, detached from other land masses. Thanks to a large storm, Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island are now connected. Despite the land bridge, the northern reaches of the island are still a long way off. Only serious hikers succeed at the 1.5 to 2 hour walk from Clearwater Beach, especially in the warmer summer months. The solution for an easier journey is to enjoy a relaxing ride aboard the Caladesi Island Ferry.

 

Honeymoon Island Ferry Dock

Caladesi Island FerryThe secret to reaching Caladesi Island State Park lies within a second park, Honeymoon Island State Park. Honeymoon Island is a fantastic destination in its own right, with hiking trails, beaches, a dog beach, and a nature center. What Honeymoon Island also has is a set of boat docks where the Caladesi Island Ferry departs. In order to get to the docks, visitors must enter the state park, paying a low entry fee per car. The ferry ride is $14 for adults, $7 for kids, and free for kids under five. Ferry service begins at 10AM. To ensure everyone gets back to the mainland, the ticket office stamps the tickets with a return time, which is about four and a half hours later. A shaded pavilion offers ferry ticket holders a place to rest while they wait for the next ride to Caladesi Island.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry Ride

Caladesi Island FerryThe whole purpose of visiting Caladesi Island is to relax. The ferry is a perfect way to begin. The ride is smooth, traveling across an enclosed waterway which is protected from the Gulf of Mexico waters by the barrier island of Caladesi itself. The ferry passes between the mangrove shores of Caladesi Island and the palm-tree-lined Dunedin Causeway, which leads to Honeymoon Island. The scenery is always fantastic, which includes a chance to see local dolphins and manatees. The waterway is well-used by motorboats, kayaks, and jet skis, creating a lively summer-like playground 365 days a year. The ferry ride travels its last leg down a mangrove-lined channel. After a short, twenty minute shuttle, the ferry arrives at the docks on Caladesi Island.

 

The Docks at Caladesi Island

Caladesi IslandThe docks at Caladesi Island are the first impression many people have of the famous Gulf Coast destination. Awaiting disembarking guests is the Caladesi Island concession stand. The food stand offers a variety of snacks, along with some much-needed refreshments on hot days. Beyond the building, visitors will find trails that lead to restrooms, outdoor beach showers, picnic tables, a playground, and hiking trails through the undeveloped lands of the island. Naturally, the beach is the number one attraction. Behind the restrooms and beach showers are long, raised walkways, transporting beach-goers through the coastal mangroves and dunes. The reward for this easy stroll is a beautiful, white sand beach of the Florida Gulf Coast. CCaladesi Island aladesi Island Beach is a fantastic stretch of bright sand traveling north and south. The length of the beach is so long that walkers and hikers are sure to be pleased. With beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent, and the turquoise waters of the Gulf to play in, the destination is one to remember. The Caladesi Island Ferry makes reaching the island paradise so easy it would be shame for area visitors to pass it up.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry Video

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Finding the Lost Dunedin Pass

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

Southern Pleasures of Honeymoon Island State Park

 

Discover the Island of Egmont Key

Discovering Egmont Key

Discover the Island at Egmont Key

Lighthouse on Egmont KeyThe Discover the Island event hit Egmont Key last month, giving area residents and visitors a great reason to learn more about the unique island. The island is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of the main shipping channel. Egmont Key Alliance put on the event, adding plenty of fun additions to an already fascinating destination. The event was held November 8th and 9th (2014) with plenty of promotion to let us all know to show up. Attending the event was a rewarding experience, even for those who had visited previously. Visitors were allowed to explore the island at will, with lots of goodies thrown in, such as historical re-enactors, a kids area with games and crafts, a silent auction to help support island preservation efforts, and, of course, a food tent. With the fascinating terrain, wildlife, ruins, and rich history, the Discover the Island event at Egmont Key was a crowd pleaser.

 

Exploring Egmont Key

Ruins on Egmont Key

Island railroad ruinsVisitors were free to discover the ruins of Egmont Key’s military bunkers, which date back well over a hundred years. Only the concrete and some metal remains, leaving the buildings without doors, and open to tour. The decaying buildings are the ruins of Fort Dade, part of a defense structure for Tampa Bay that includes nearby Fort DeSoto. The building began in the 1800’s for the Spanish-American War. The island saw military use up through the Second World War, when it served as an observation and targeting station against enemy ships who might try to enter Tampa Bay. Today on the island, tourists can view the ruins up close. Fort ruins on Egmont KeyMany of Egmont Keys buildings have sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, due to erosion of the island’s west coast. Other ruins are open to enter, including bunkers, housing, and a guard house. Targeting towers stand amid the brush of the island while a network of brick roads lead through a military compound partly reclaimed by forest. Although the event provided an excellent excuse to tour the ruins, Egmont Key is open year round.

Egmont Key Lighthouse

Egmont Key lighthouseA lighthouse still stands on Egmont Key, providing a light, into the present day, to direct ships and other vessels that navigate near the island. The lighthouse, erected in 1858, is the second to exist on the island, the first lasting only a short period before being too damaged by weather for safety. The existing lighthouse has unusually thick walls, the inside being no more than a spiraling metal stairway. For the sake of preservation, visitors are not allowed to climb the tower. For the lighthouse reenactorDiscover the Island event, a historical re-enactor waited at the tower bottom to share his knowledge of the lighthouse, as well as the island itself. No question could stump him, his information on the site satisfying every query. The lighthouse is the best known building on the island, serving as a symbol for Egmont Key.

Guided Tours of Egmont Key

Guided tours at Egmont KeyFor the Discover the Island Event, guided tours were available to walk guests by the most important sites. The guides, versed in the islands military and natural history, walked large groups around the island, describing the role of each building visited. They shared such details as storage containers for mine field parts, underground houses, the methods for targeting enemy ships, Fort Dade operations, an island railway, and more. They also stopped the tour groups at a presentation regarding the wildlife inhabitants of the island. Guides told of the gopher tortoise, an endangered species which lives on the island, digging boroughs into the soft sand. History display at Egmont KeySea turtles nest on the island, and the entire southern end is occupied by the Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge, which is a nesting site for numerous species of birds. Another station provided an up close look at military memorabilia. The tours provided great information, the history portions delivered in the environment where the history occurred.

Discover the Island Goodies

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve raptorA number of other great goodies were in store for visitors who attended the Discover the Island event. Civil war re-enactors set up camp on the island, performing military drills for the crowds that gathered. The drills were well done, with historical commentary from the commanding officer. The order to fire was silent, however, out of respect for a wildlife attraction at Egmont Key for the day. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve  brought a collection of live raptors. Owls, hawks, and falcons were out in the open for visitors to view while they walked down the preserved walkways of the island. Reenactment camp at Egmont KeyAt another site, closer to the beach, pirates (in paper hats) had taken over the lawn, with a pirate chest and kids games. Near the foot of the lighthouse, memorabilia for the island was on sale, as well as a crowd pleasing grilling tent serving hot dogs, chips, and drinks. When put together, the extras thrown into the preservation-themed event made the Discover the Island event a perfect reason to visit Egmont Key.

 

Egmont Key

Egmont Key beachIf Egmont Key sounds like a destination you would like to visit, you are right! The island enjoys the white sand beaches cherished on the Florida Gulf Coast, including the sparkling Gulf of Mexico waters. A ferry departs from Fort Desoto Park on a regular basis. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time. Egmont Key Park is open year round for visitors. For the price of a ferry ride, you can tour its spectacular light house, fascinating ruins, and remarkable beaches. The brick roads of Fort Dade are yours to explore. For those who keep their eyes peeled, the local wildlife might make an appearance as well.

If you are planning a visit to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, be sure to put Egmont Key on your list of unique sites to see.

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Guns on Egmont Key video

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

 

 

Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach MarinaClearwater Marina enjoys a central location on Clearwater Beach, adjacent to the roundabout at the entrance and across the street from the beach and Pier 60. It is home to a fair number of private boats and yachts but also an extensive collection of tour boats and fishing charters. On ordinary days, you will see visitors gathered along the sidewalks that run the length of docks. The number of opportunities to get out onto Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico is surprising. If you are considering spending a vacation at Clearwater Beach without an excursion out onto the water, you should think again. The Clearwater Beach Marina is a perfect place to create treasured vacation memories.

 

Things to Do at Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina jet skisAt first glance, the Clearwater Beach Marina has two things, tour boats and fishing charters, but if you look deeper, you will find more. In the lineup of tour boats you will discover a wide variety of choices. The docks provide pirate cruises, dolphin sighting tours, giant cigar speedboat tours, party cruises, sunset cruises, and dinner cruises. The fishing charter choice offer a wide range of choices too. Charters run either half day or full day, run to our shoreline reefs or out to the deeps of the gulf, use small private boats or large multi-passenger vessels. With smaller charters, you can even request certain types of fish, and, if possible, the captain will take you to where they are found.

In addition to the passenger and charter vessels, you will also find a host of other watercraft available. The Clearwater Marina vendors rent jet skis, speed boats, pontoon boats, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards. Scuba excursions, parasailing boats, and sailboat charters also set off from the docks of the marina. You can even charter a boat to take you sightseeing or shelling on Clearwater Harbor or Clearwater area beaches and barrier islands.

 

 

Clearwater Beach Marina Experience

Clearwater Beach cruiseIncluding the Clearwater Beach Marina experience in your vacation plans is a good idea. Boating adds a dynamic dimension to your stay.

You will find the Clearwater Harbor and Gulf of Mexico tours offer more than you would expect. The smaller tour boats will always have a cooler on board, many with alcohol. You will also find the boat crews are very hospitable, allowing you to bring your own drinks and store them in their coolers. Some boat crews will give informative talks about the Clearwater Beach area. There is usually a photo op available on the docks via the tour company too.

Clearwater Beach fishing charterFor those who love fishing, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are renowned. Some of the best tasting fish in the world come from our waters, and casting a line to catch them is fun. Whether you like the relaxation of being out on the water or the excitement of reeling in a great catch, the Gulf of Mexico will satisfy.

Some of the tour boats offer a fun atmosphere with music, like the Tropics Boat Tours, the Calypso Queen, or the pirate ship, Captain Memo, which is a favorite for kids. The dolphin sighting tour guides usually right were the dolphins are, helping to make your ride memorable. Dolphin sighting Clearwater BeachBe sure to take your camera because the dolphins love to play in the wakes of boats, giving you ample opportunity to make them part of your vacation photo collection.

All of the tours are enjoyable, some of them exciting. Whatever type of excursion you choose, you will probably come away with more than you expected.

 

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Fishing Charter Hotspots on the Florida Gulf Coast

 

Ingraving of native Floridians

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast Native American Indian Mounds

American Indian MoundThe American Indian Mounds along the Florida Gulf Coast were once very numerous. Today, in Pinellas County, which is home to popular Clearwater Beach and St Pete Beach, only a few mounds remain for public viewing. Some mounds on the mangrove-covered Nature Coast are overgrown and unrecognizable while those along the beach shorelines are now replaced by houses and businesses. Many of the mounds were originally garbage piles. They survived the centuries because shells comprised a large part of the refuse. These shell mounds, unfortunately, made a good resource for building shell roads, the Florida version of gravel roads. Not all of the mounds were mere shell piles, however. Some served as burial mounds, containing valuables such as jade and copper. Other objects such as arrowheads, tools, and knives have also been found. To preserve the remaining sites it is now illegal to dig at mounds and the parks that surround them.

 

Native American Mound Builders of Florida

Tocobaga TerritoryThe story of the original Native Americans in Florida is an unfortunate one. The mound builders of Pinellas County were called the Tocobaga. They lived in what we now call the Tampa Bay area, home to such cities as Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater. The landscape was sandy, covered with tall scrub pines, waist high palmetto palms, and mangroves trees. It was populated by deer, dolphins, manatees, alligators, cougars, black bears and an abundant bird population. Fishing and shelling provided much of their diet but they also ate other native wildlife, including alligators.

Native American Indian moundWhen settlers came to the Americas, the Native Americans did not fare well. While some newcomers treated the natives with respect, conflicts broke out and treaties were broken. The French, Spanish, and English warred against one another in Florida, often involving the native tribes. More devastating than the political issues was the spread of European diseases for which the Native Floridians had no immunity. Near the end, to survive, the remaining Native Americans of Florida moved to the fort at St Augustine, Florida. After a battle there, the remaining native people of Florida escaped to Cuba. Marking the end of the state’s original Native American tribes. The Native Americans who live in Florida today, called the Seminole, arrived later from other states. While some of the peoples of Florida may have survived as slaves to the north or by joining other tribes, no original Florida mound building tribes remain today.

 

Where to Find Mound Sites

While a number of mounds hide in unmarked areas along the Florida coast and inland, some key parks have preserved the mounds.

Safety Harbor MoundJungle Prada Park

Philippe Park

Pinellas Point Temple Mound

Anclote River Park

You can find additional information about the Native Americans of Florida by visiting the Safety Harbor Museum in Safety Harbor or the Weedon Island Preserve and Natural History Center in St Petersburg. All of these locations can be reached within an hour or less from Clearwater Beach.

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Curious History of Philippe Park

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

 

References:

http://www.southernhistory.us/Counties/c5pine.htm, http://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/articles/indian-mounds-give-clues-early-cultures, http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pinellaspoint.htmlhttp://www.stpeteparksrec.org/jungle-prada.htmlhttp://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/spanishmassacre.htmhttp://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/native-americanshttp://www.aaanativearts.com/native-american-tribes-by-state/837-florida-indians.html#axzz37f5QfBROhttp://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/41/267.htmlhttp://www.native-languages.org/timucua_culture.htmhttp://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tocobaga-indians.htmhttp://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/florida-indian-tribes.htmhttp://www.flheritage.com/facts/history/seminole/http://www.southernhistory.us/Counties/c5hill.htmhttp://fcit.usf.edu/Florida/maps/nat_am/nat_am.htmhttp://www.keyshistory.org/histindians.html 

Winter the dolphin

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

A Day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine AquariumThe Clearwater Marine Aquarium has grown into a beach vacation activity that can last a family the better part of a day. Thanks to the Dolphin Tale movies with stars Winter and Hope, interest in the aquarium has risen dramatically, and the things to do and see at the facility have expanded. Going to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is no longer confined to just the main building. You can now take a ferry ride across the harbor, a marine excursion onto the bay, and see an expanded exhibit detailing the filming of the Dolphin Tale movie. All of that is in addition to seeing the dolphin movie stars Winter and Hope, along with the other rescued sea life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

 

Harborview Center

A great way to see all the sights at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is to start at the Harborview Center. The Harborview Center is located off the beach in downtown Clearwater, at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Street. Inside you will find displays showing you and your kids about the making of the Dolphin Tale movie. While you walk through the center, you will pass various TVs running scenes from the film. Some of the scenes were actually shot at the Harborview Center, allowing you to compare the physical settings in front of you to the movie scenes. Plenty of fun facts about Winter and the movie are posted for visitors to read.  In the Dolphin Tale film, a hurricane impacts the Clearwater area. You can experience a simulated hurricane in an exhibit which puts you at a mock up of a city street with hurricane winds blowing. A hands-on sea life tank allows the kids (and kids at heart) to touch a variety of sea animals. When your viewing is done, you can grab a souvenir at the gift shop to take home some Winter the dolphin memorabilia.

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Ferry

Clearwater Beach causewayWhether you start at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or the Harborview Center, getting from one building to the other is not only easy, it’s fun! You can choose between the Jolly Trolley or the Clearwater Marine Aquarium ferry. The Jolly Trolley is an open air trolley that services Clearwater Beach and the coastline northward to Tarpon Springs. You will be treated to a ride over the scenic causeway bridge, which is included in the price of your admission. Also included in your admission is the alternate water crossing on the ferry. Enjoy a ride under the bridge instead, giving you close up views of Clearwater Harbor.

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Features

Dolphin TaleThe highlight of the tour for fans of Winter the dolphin is a trip to see the celebrity dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium is located halfway across the causeway to Clearwater Beach, in the Island Estates community. Once you arrive at the aquarium, you can view the houseboat used in the filming of Dolphin Tale, which is docked near the entrance. On your way in, be sure to get a green screen photo of your family that you can purchase later with fun sea life edited in around you. The well-stocked gift shop greets you as you walk through the doors, with lots of cool stuff for the kids and the adults. Near the entrance is a small movie theater and a sting ray tank where you can touch the rays. Sea TurtleOn the same level you will find a pirate themed hallway, a life sized diorama of area sea life, and a large tank with fish and a shark. You can also find a kids’ room with drawing books, a TV, smaller aquarium tanks, and full skeletons of otters, dolphins, and a species of a rare, small whale. Nearby is a tank housing rescued sea turtles, giving visitors fantastic underwater views. After you explore the ground floor, it is time to head upstairs to see the famous dolphins.

Winter and Hope

Winter the DolphinViewing Winter the dolphin from Dolphin Tale I, and her new co-star, Hope, from Dolphin Tale II, is very easy. Their tanks are in the open, allowing for plenty of opportunities to view them. During our visit to the aquarium, Winter and Hope where in separate tanks. The two solved the problem by whistling to one another over the wall between them. A larger tank joins to the private ones, allowing Winter and Hope to interact. While we were there, some of the kids lined up for a chance to stand on a platform in front of Hope’s tank to personally meet her.

Rescued Sea Life

Dolphin Tale pelicanNearby you can find a pair of white pelicans which were used in the filming of Dolphin Tale I and II. Other tanks on the same level contain rescued sea turtles and sea otters. Be sure to grab a schedule at the door or check online to find out when the aquarium staff and volunteers will be giving educational talks. You can learn about the lives of these animals in the wild and about the risks they fell victim to that led them to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Another fun attraction is on the top deck of the aquarium. There you will find Nicholas, a dolphin rescued from a stranding along with his mother. Although his mother did not survive, Nicholas has done very well. He is now well known for his antics, such as doing spontaneous flips or splashing the audience. He is young and playful, earning him a reputation as the most energetic dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

 

Sealife Safari Boat Tour

Sealife SafariOne of the best parts of the adventure at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the Sealife Safari boat tour. Aquarium staff take you on a ride across Clearwater Harbor with some special extras in store. The boat trails a net across the seafloor, pulling up local sea life that are then displayed in tanks throughout the rest of that day before being released. Kids and adults can view native sea life up close, such as sea horses, sea urchins, pin fish, flounder, and more. It is fun to note that when catfish are caught, they are thrown back, because the dolphins of the harbor like to eat them. You stand an excellent chance of seeing local dolphins while out on the bay waters. The boat stops at a popular boating destination called Shell Island. The island is aptly named. It is a shell pile create when the boating channel was dredged in earlier decades. Nowadays boaters can stop off at the island, collecting shells to their hearts’ desire. The Sealife Safari boat allows you to disembark on the tiny island for a short stay before heading back across the water of the harbor. The boat ride offers fantastic views of the turquoise waters of the bay, the shoreline of the City of Clearwater, the beach causeway and bridge, and the barrier island of Sand Key. Sealife Safari is a hit with kids and it is a great way for adults to experience Clearwater Harbor.

 

Perfect Family Outing at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Sea TurtleThe Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a perfect family outing while staying at Clearwater Beach. Aside from the attractions already at the famous Gulf Coast beach, you can spend the better part of the day touring this now-famous facility. It is a favorite for kids who loved the Dolphin Tale movies and has actually spawned an increase in tourism to the area, being named Florida’s number one attraction by a 2013 USA Today readers’ poll. If your vacation destination this year is Clearwater Beach, be sure to put the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on your list.

Dolphin Tale I Trailer

Dolphin Tale II Trailer


Other posts you might enjoy:

Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

beach road

To Drive or Not to Drive on your Clearwater Beach Vacation

Facts Travelers Need to Know

Clearwater Beach entranceOne of the most important facts that travelers need to know is how they will get to their destination. We are centrally located on the Florida Gulf Coast, at the heart of Clearwater Beach.  A fair number of visitors who use our vacation rental office drive here from other cities in the United States. A large number also fly in, primarily using Tampa International Airport. Those visitors arrive from both the U.S. and foreign cities. It probably will come as no surprise that our beach is known worldwide as a vacation destination. Clearwater Beach is here to welcome you regardless of where your journey began.

 

Tampa International Airport

The airport, as the name suggests, is located in the neighboring city of Tampa, one of the big three of Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater. The drive from the airport to Clearwater Beach is 21 miles and can take 35 minutes on days when traffic is light. During rush hours or other heavy traffic periods, it is a good idea to plan for a 40 to 60 minute drive. The route takes you across one of the most beautiful stretches of road in our area, known as the Courtney Campbell Causeway. It is a low-lying, man-made land bridge, reaching across the upper portion of Tampa Bay. Visitors arriving via this route are treated to sweeping views of the sparkling blue waters of the famous bay. It is the perfect introduction to our beautiful coastal area.

 

To Walk or Drive on your Clearwater Beach Vacation

Clearwater Beach roadsThe island of Clearwater Beach is only three and a half miles long. The tourist district of Clearwater Beach is even smaller, making it a perfect place for a no-car vacation. You can walk to the beach, restaurants, and gift shops, as well as some of the great attractions, like Pier 60 or the marina to catch a dolphin watching boat tour. While a walking-only vacation is an option, there might be some nearby sites that are just too far for walking. Those include neighboring tourist towns like John’s Pass, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, or regional theme parks like Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo, and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. For those options, a car is a handy item to have. However, if you do not want to bring your car, or you simply live too far away to drive to Clearwater beach, there are other options for getting around on your beach vacation.

 

Jolly Trolley

Jolly TrolleyThe Jolly Trolley is a great way to get around the coastal communities of our county. It runs from the town of Tarpon Springs in the north, to Sand Key, which is the southern end of the beaches that are part of the City of Clearwater. The Jolly Trolley also heads east, to the town of Safety Harbor, where you can find some fun tourist shops. The trolley is all about tourism, with a fun look and an open air design that allows you to view the sights as you travel. For beach transportation from Belleair Beach down to St Pete Beach, a trolley-style bus will take you using the same pass you purchased for the Jolly Trolley.

 

Day Tripper

daytripper autosDay Tripper provides charter transportation for groups up to twenty to key locations around Tampa Bay. Some of the stops include Tarpons Springs, Dunedin, Downtown St Petersburg, John’s Pass, and Busch Gardens. Day Tripper is familiar with the normal length of stay at the sites visited and is ready to transport you back to where you boarded at the end of your visit.

 

Beach Taxi Services

Taxi services at the beach range from the expected to the unexpected. While you will find normal automobile taxi services, you will also find more unique forms of transportation. Many of the bars, such as Shephards, Brown Boxer, Toucans, Pier 60 House, Shipwreck, and others will give you a ride in a golf cart style taxi. Naturally these services are aimed at clientele. While this might seem limiting, some of them will give you a free drink when you arrive at your destination. Aside from the golf carts, you will also find bicycle taxis during peak times at locations like Clearwater Beach.

 

Getting around your Beach Town

Whether you bring a car on your beach vacation can be matter of choice or circumstances. Having a car for sightseeing is a great idea. However, if you wind up at Clearwater Beach without a car, you can still get around to a surprisingly large variety of tourist destinations.

Clearwater Beach

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

Philippe Park

Curious History of Philippe Park

Phillippe Park

Philippe ParkPhilippe Park is located on the shores of Upper Tampa Bay, just north of the city of Safety Harbor, Florida, USA. The park is named after a French settler named Odet Philippe, who arrived at the location in 1842. The park faces east, toward the waters of the bay, with a drive that extends its length. It is easy to see across the bay at this point, since Upper Tampa Bay is a much smaller body of water than Tampa Bay to the south. Large shallows lie off the shores of the park with vast tidal flats sometimes rising above water during low tide. The park is filled with palm trees and oaks that shade the roads and lawns, keeping visitors cool on warm summer days. Because of the large mound built by Native Americans, and the history of Odet Philippe, the park was registered a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Philippe Park offers a relaxing venue for picnics, fun outings with the kids, or quiet walks on the waterfront.

 

 

Native American Mound Site at Philippe Park

Safety Harbor SiteThe Tocabaga tribe is estimated to have lived on the site of Philippe Park beginning around 900 A.D. They built a large ceremonial mound which still stands at the park, making it the largest surviving mound in the region. A village of 400 to 2500 Native Americans lived on the site, using bows and spears as well as tools fashioned from bones. Spanish explorers who arrived in the 1800s described them as a tall, strong people. Today the mound has a concrete path leading to its top with winding stairways descending the sides facing the bay. You will find signs posted at the park that describe the history of the native village more completely. For more information, travel just a few miles north to Safety Harbor where you will find the Safety Harbor Museum. The museum has history dioramas for kids and a set of books that describe the history of Philippe Park, the surrounding area, and the state of Florida.

 

Odet Philippe

Odet PhilippeFrench settler Odet Philippe came to the area in 1842 after serving in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army as a surgeon. The first European settler in the area, he created a grapefruit plantation, being the first to grow the fruit on the Florida peninsula. Grapefruit grows well in Florida, some of the trees bearing fruit nearly year round, surely making the choice a good one for Philippe. He also promoted cigar-making, a fact that becomes more interesting when you discover that twenty years after Odet Philippe’s death, the famous city of Ybor was founded by cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez-Ybor, whose cigar manufacturing became an overnight financial success. While the grapefruit orchards created by Philippe can no longer be found at the park, the temple mound is a part of the Odet Philippe’s life history. Safety Harbor SiteDuring a hurricane, he saved his family from the rising waters by fleeing to the top of the mound. The hurricane reportedly washed away part of the structure but the Philippe family survived. Philippe had a large family and many of his descendants still live in the region. You will find a grave marker for Odet Philippe by driving just beyond the mound site at Philippe Park.

 

 

Philippe Park in Present Time

Giant oakThe land acquisition for Philippe Park occurred in 1948, although the lands owned by Odet Philippe apparently included the City of Safety Harbor as well. The park is mostly an open area space with an abundance of trees. A single road leads from one end of the park to the other while a second road branches off to the base of the temple mound site. Previous to the upgrades in the 1980’s, the park served as an open space playground for the kids and a picnic area for families. Shoreline erosion created fun play areas for kids under the cover of exposed tree roots while rolling down the temple mound was a highlight for the little ones. Because of the erosion, and because Native American artifacts were being lost to erosion and looting, a sea wall was built in the 1980’s as well as the stair system that leads up the sides of the mound.

Today at Philippe Park you will find large picnic pavilions, walkways along the waterfront, trails, restrooms, two playgrounds, a baseball diamond, a volleyball court, a boat ramp, secluded parking spaces for fishermen, and a scenic drive to the north end of the park. Philippe ParkThe scenic drive through the park is made a one-of-a-kind experience by the remarkable oak tree hammock that spreads over the road midway through the park. For families, we recommend the playgrounds and the picnic areas, as well as the historic mound. Adults will enjoy the scenic drives, fishing, waterfront walks, or bicycling the length of the park. Philippe Park is a good choice for anyone who enjoys shady waterfront parks or firsthand ventures into the history of Florida.

 

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