Category Archives: Gulf Coast for Children

Kite Festival

Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition

Beach Kite Festival

kite festival Treasure IslandThe Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition flew over the Florida Gulf Coast again this January, lighting up the daytime sky with bright colors. The day started with mild breezes, not the kind you want for a kite competition, or for flying the giant sized kites. Fortune was on the side of the kite flyers, however, when the afternoon weather brought winds that were perfect for kite flying. The skies were partly cloudy, and it the type of day where some people wore shorts and others light jackets. Crowds lined the sidewalk, using the wall at the edge of the sand for seating. The turnout was fantastic, with the beach restaurants and bars filled to capacity. The large crowds lent an atmosphere of excitement to the event.

 

Sport Kite Competition

sport kitesThe completion portion of the festival was as fun to watch as ever. One of the events that drew the most comments was the children’s kite races, where youngsters, holding kites several times their size, raced across the sand. Other competitions included synchronized kite flying, sport kite flying, and flying sport kites to music.

 

Giant Kites

giant kitesWhile the sport kites were flying, all manner of non-competition kites were sailing over the beach at Treasure Island. The giant octopus kite was a favorite again. Many new kites made their first appearances as well. The kite receiving the most comments was the figure of a scuba diver with a shark swimming just behind him. A kite premiering at the beach was the image of a geisha with the flowing tail of the kite representing her dress.

 

Perfect Beach for Kite Flying

kite at Treasure Island BeachWith kites filling skies over the beach, it was easy to enjoy a walk across the sand. The combination of large, colorful, slow moving kites and racing sport kites created a mesmerizing effect.

The location at Treasure Island Beach was well chosen, the sand being wider than any other location on the coast. Plenty of fun shops and restaurants are nearby, as well as tourist activities like fishing charters and day cruises. The festival comes to the beach each year in January, providing a great excuse to get out to the shore at this great beach community.  If you are considering a trip to the Florida Gulf Coast for the winter, the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition is an event to keep in mind.

 

 

Treasure Island Kite Festival Videos

 

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Sky Surfing Clearwater Beach

A Beach Less Traveled

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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

 

lighted boat parade

Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Holiday Season in Florida

lighted boat parade in Tarpon SpringsThe holiday season in Florida might not have snow, but it does have plenty of holiday cheer. What we don’t experience with snow, we make up for with miles of seasonal lights and endless festivals. On the Florida Gulf Coast, the water plays a large part in our lifestyles, adding a dimension to events that is easy to appreciate. Holiday boat parades are popular, drawing lots of boaters and loads of spectators.

 

Snow Place like Tarpon

Snow Place Like Tarpon eventThe tourist town of Tarpon Springs, Florida, added an in-town festival to its yearly holiday boat parade. Snow Place Like Tarpon is a street festival held on the main street through Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Avenue is an interesting place on any given day, with old style buildings, multiple antique shops, a museum, and some great restaurants. For the Snow Place Like Tarpon event, Snow Place Like Tarpon holiday festivalmanufactured snow was blown from marquees, to fall on the people below. Vendors lined the curbs, with dancing girls in holiday outfits dancing in the streets. A snow slide occupied an empty lot filled with spectators. The vendors sold holiday crafts and lots of food, including great deserts. A holiday wagon ride was also running for the kids, as well as an outdoor movie screen showing Disney’s Frozen. Most importantly, Santa took Christmas wishes on the dock at the bayou. According to residents of Tarpon Springs, the crowds roving Tarpon Avenue were the largest ever to attend the event. Snow Place Like Tarpon ran from the antique district all the way down to Spring Bayou, where the holiday boat parade was scheduled to run at the end of the evening.

 

Holiday Boat Parade

holiday lights on boatThe holiday lighted boat parade entered Spring Bayou at the end of the evening events. The parade, illuminated the waterways of Tarpon Springs, thrilling happy spectators who had moved from the street festival down to the bayou. Onlookers lined the waterfront with beach chairs and cameras, cheering to the boats as they passed. The boats entered Spring Bayou with holiday music at high volume and their boat horns blasting. The reflection on the water added to the dazzle of the lights. The boat owners enjoyed the event too, turning back for a second spin around the shoreline. boat parade capture The lighted boat parade started and ended on the Anclote River, home of the famous Sponge Docks, the host marina being the docks at Captain Jack’s restaurant and bar. The boats returned by the same route, docking at the marina to enjoy nightcaps and banter about the parade. Snow Place Like Tarpon and the Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat parade made for a fantastic holiday themed night out in the famous tourist town.

 

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs FloridaTarpon Springs is a small tourist town on the northern end of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It lies along the Anclote River, home of the famous Sponge Docks, the leading producer of natural sponges in the world. It is known for its Greek community, pioneers of the area’s sponge diving industry. Greek food is a must when visiting this city. Tourist souvenirs are of nautical theme, with sponges sold in every shop. Handmade soaps and kitchen seasonings are also a hit in Tarpon Springs. Boat rides cruise the river, with some taking tourists to the coastal barrier islands at the mouth of the river. Tarpon Avenue is known for its many eclectic antique shops. The city is also a favorite stopover for those on bike rides along the 38 mile Pinellas Trail. Tarpon Springs is forty minutes or less to the north of other famous Florida Gulf Coast destinations such as Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and Clearwater Beach. If you plan to visit the Central Gulf Coast, put Tarpon Springs on your list of places to see.

 

Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade video:

Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade video (short version):

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Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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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

 

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the Garden

 Holiday Lights at Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensEvery year the Florida Botanical Gardens presents the Holiday Lights in the Gardens event. It is well worth the visit. Holiday lights are strung to trees and bushes throughout the gardens, illuminating the wide variety of unique plants, and remarkable garden settings. The event is held at the three formal gardens, starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through New Year’s Eve. This year the dates are November 28 to December 31, and is open between 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. The volunteers at the entrance ask that you give a $4 donation upon entering, which is well worth it. The pathways, which are spectacular in the daylight, have decorations designed for viewing at night. Every color imaginable lines the walkways, many in shapes of animals or toys. The walkways are designed to wind through the gardens in a peaceful way, a feat still achievable, even with the crowds drawn by the light show.

 

Heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens

TLive music at Holiday Lights in the Gardenshe heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens is the Wedding Garden. At its center is a large Christmas tree surrounded by toy trains. The lighted trains circle the tree, amid more displays of illuminated gardens. The Wedding Garden gazebo, the site of many weddings, is brightly lit, and is the foreground for live entertainment. On opening night, a pair of gentlemen played guitars to the crowd.

The other central feature at the event was the jolly man himself. Santa and his wife made an appearance at the garden, a line of children waiting throughout the evening to have their moment with the famous man and his missus. Parents waited with cameras to record the event. Santa and his wife were perfect images of their legend.

 

Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensFlorida Botanical Gardens opened in 2000, giving Pinellas County Florida another spectacular tourist attraction. The 160 acres is maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department but also by Pinellas County Master Gardeners, who volunteer thousands of hours each year. The expansive gardens include areas for both beauty and education. Walkways wind throughout the gardens, leading you through various types of foliage and displays. The gardens are organized by type. You will find the Herb Gardens, Tropical Fruit Garden, Succulent Garden, Butterfly Garden, and many more from a long list of interesting choices. The three formal gardens are guest favorites, which include the Wedding Garden, the Tropical Walk, and the Tropical Courtyard. Beyond these are trails that lead you through wilderness areas maintained by Florida Botanical Gardens.

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensThe Florida Botancial Gardens are in Largo, Florida. Largo is in Pinellas County, which is the peninsula that creates Tampa Bay. The county is home to Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach, Fort DeSoto Park, Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and many other famous attractions. The Florida Botanical Gardens is a perfect diversion from the beach, especially during the holiday evenings. The event proves even palm trees can put you in the holiday spirit. If you are on the Florida Gulf Coast for the holiday season, be sure to put the Holiday Lights in the Gardens on  you list of sights to see.

 

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Salvador Dali Museum

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Kite festival Treasure Island Florida

Veterans Day Fall Kite Festival at Treasure Island

Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI

Veterans Day giant kiteWe visited the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI on Sunday, hoping the clouds would part for some great kite photos. With overcast skies most of the day, we were happy to see clouds part in the late afternoon, right as we arrived. Big kites were in the sky, visible from miles away. Parking for the event was easy, making our arrival worry free. The beach at Treasure Island is enormous, providing kite flyers a huge expanse of sand. A giant heart shaped kite colored with stars and stripes was the biggest kite in the sky. Around it flew a good number of others, giving us plenty to see.

 

Unique Veterans Day Kite Festival

manta kiteWe were expecting the event to be the same as the festival in January but the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI was different. While not as many kites were in the air, the Veterans Day kite festival had some unexpected surprises. Because of the smaller number of kites, we were able to make our way across the sand with ease, viewing the kites close up – or at least as close as we could get from the ground. The Windworks kite tent was fun to visit, with lots of sport kites for sale. They looked fun but how would we know if we liked them if we could not try them? Fortunately the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI solved that problem for us. Because of the lighter crowd, we had the opportunity to get some free kite flying lessons. The sport kites employ four strings held by two handles. The number of things that a pro can get the kites to do is amazing. As it turned out, we were best at landing them, mostly by accident. The kites were well made, however, and held up to the abuse. We did manage to pull off a few successful tricks by the time we were done with our five minute lesson.

Kite shopThe personal attention and accessibility of the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI helped it to earn high marks from us. We enjoyed the opportunities to talk to the kite flyers, the guys at the kite shop, and to the kite flying instructor. With some extra kiting experience under our belts, we made plans to possibly buy our own kites. We also set our schedules for Treasure Island Beach in January for the big kiting competition.

 

Anticipating Treasure Island Kite Competition

Giant kiteIf you love the beach and kite flying, the kite festivals at Treasure Island are must-see events. Veterans Day Fall Fly at Treasure Island was presented by Windworks Kite Store and the Eastern League Sport Kite Association. Be sure to make plans to visit Treasure Island January 16th through 18th for the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition.

 

 

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Fun Super Boat Race Weekend at Clearwater Beach

Superboat racing Clearwater BeachSuper Boat Races at Clearwater Beach created a fun weekend for large numbers of spectators on September 28, 2014. Crowds lined the beach from Clearwater Pass northward, the sands of Clearwater Beach serving as the natural arena for the spectators. For those who wanted a closer look, Pier 60 offered access for either $5 or $20 depending on how far down the pier onlookers wanted to go. Speakers on the beach and on the pier informed attendees what was happening out on the water. One of the tidbits the announcers mentioned is that he Super Boat National Championship at Clearwater was chosen for this part of September because it was one of the slowest weekends of the year. Thanks to the boat races that is no longer true. According to some of the hotel staff we talked to the boat races bring in plenty of extra guests. Reports from last year estimated attendance at close to 180,000 with this year rumored to have attracted close to that number again.

Fun Times at Clearwater Beach

Superboat spectators Clearwater BeachClearwater Beach took on a very festive air, with many of the spectators watching the race from inflatables or while wading.  The most enviable race-side seats were on the flotilla of boats out on the water surrounding the racetrack. With the sun shining, the race went off well, with both visitors and locals touting the Clearwater Beach Super Boat National Championship as one of the more lively weekends of the year.

 

 

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Fishing Charter Hotspots on the Florida Gulf Coast

Secrets of the Fall at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Earns Two More Top Rankings

 

 

Super Boat National Championship Clearwater Beach

Super Boat Races 2014 at Clearwater Beach

Super Boat National Championship Coming to Clearwater Beach

Clearawter Beach Super Boat National ChampionshipThe time has come again to get excited about Super Boat racing at Clearwater Beach. This year, the Bright House 2014 Clearwater Super Boat National Championship will run from Friday, September 26th through Saturday the 28th. Last year’s event was exciting, drawing a great beach crowd as well as a flotilla of boaters to watch the event. Eight classes of boats will blast past America’s favorite beach in a series of exciting racing events. The races is timed to coincide with fantastic weather on the Florida Gulf Coast, experiencing daytime temperatures that typically rang from the mid 70s to mid 80s. Sunshine and moderate temperatures equals a great day at the beach to for a spectator event. Before you reach the sands you might hear the roar of the powerful engines of these apex race machines, getting you in the mood for an exciting coastal event at Clearwater Beach.

 

Super Boat Racing next to Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Super Boat Races Clearwater BeachThe Super Boat racing event occurs right offshore from famous Pier 60 at the heart of Clearwater Beach. Seating for the event is ample, being the beach itself! Bring your own chair or towel to spend the day on the beach watching the high speed boats roar past. You will experience all the pleasures of a typical day at the beach plus a whole lot more. You can still wade out a short distance to cool off in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, even with the powerful boats thundering past just off shore. Be sure to bring a cooler and some sunscreen, as well as any other sun protection, like a wide brimmed hat. You won’t want to leave once you arrive at the Clearwater Beach Super Boat Races.

 

Viewing Super Boat Races from a Boat

Super Boat National Championship Clearwater BeachThe other unique viewing opportunity for the Clearwater Beach Super Boat Races belongs to the boaters. A long line of boats forms, parallel to the beach, demarcating the event boundaries. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t own a boat to join the armada. Many of the local boat touring companies offer rides out to see the races. The event is fun to watch and draws plenty of people to the beach, so be prepared ahead of time. If you plan to book a private charter boat, you might want to call ahead for reservations. Calling the larger tour boat companies in advance is also recommended. Regardless of means you choose for getting out on the water, your views for this event are sure to be spectacular.

 

Booking Ahead for the Super Boat Races at Clearwater Beach

Take it from a Clearwater Beach vacation rental company, you will want to book your accommodations in advance when choosing Clearwater Beach as your destination. The Super Boat Races are right around the corner, so make your plans now to attend this upcoming event. If you want to use Florida Beach Rentals, we do have openings at the time of this writing.Clearwater Beach Super Boat Races

 

Enjoying Clearwater Beach during the Super Boat National Championship

Clearwater Beach Super Boat RacesBe sure to check out all the other great entertainment opportunities at Clearwater Beach. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the beautiful shores of the Florida Gulf Coast. Possibilities include walking the beach at night, touring the souvenir shops, dining, beach combing, touring local parks, boating, parasailing, and, of course, visiting famous dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies. The list does not stop there, however. You can look into all the other remarkable things to do at Clearwater Beach during the Super Boat National Championship in our Gulf Coast Activities and Attractions posts.

 

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5 Favorite Party Spots at Clearwater Beach

Walking the Streets of Clearwater Beach

Ultimate Tourist Attraction at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach