John Levique Pirate Days

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

History of John Levique

John Levique Pirate Days 9The history of John Levique and the history of John’s Pass are linked by the legend naming John Levique as the first man to sail through the pass. According to the legend, a large storm rearranged the sands of the barrier islands, opening a new inlet to Boca Ciega Bay. The new inlet was subsequently named John’s Pass. The boardwalks, restaurants, and gift shops did not appear for another 150 years. The name John Levique is remembered, thanks to his discovery of the pass. Today, his name is used for one of the best celebrations you will find on the Florida Gulf Coast. John Levique Pirate days skeleton manequinJohn Levique was a turtle farmer, so you might wonder why the celebration is called ‘pirate days.’ Here on the Florida Gulf Coast, and especially in Tampa Bay, a true pirate history exists. The pirate theme, often invoked in this region, has been used to enhance the John Levique celebration. Once you’ve experienced the fun at the John Levique Pirate Days event, you will see that John Levique would probably not mind at all.

 

John’s Pass

John Levique Pirate DaysJohn’s Pass Village and Boardwalk is one of the best tourist stops on the Florida Gulf Coast. The small but popular shopping and restaurant district is lined with loads of souvenir shops and lots of great dining. John’s Pass is a fun diversion where you can spend hours walking from one interesting knickknack shop to the next. When you need to resupply your energy, you can choose from a number of unique restaurants, many of them on the waterfront. Seafood is popular at John’s Pass, thanks to the numerous fishing boats that use John’s Pass to reach the Gulf of Mexico. The boardwalks and sidewalks are fun to stroll, and when you are done with your dining, stop into a candy shop to finish off your day. You can find all of these things on an ordinary day at John’s Pass. During the John Levique Pirate Days celebration, that entertaining setting becomes a backdrop for much more.

 

John Levique Pirate Days Celebration

John Levique Pirate Days foodThe John Levique Pirate Days event was on our roster of things to see this spring. This year it was held May 9th through 11th. The event took us by surprise. We expected a few pirates standing in the doorways and perhaps few kiosks- not by a long-shot. The entirety of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk had been transformed in to one giant event. The street was filled with tents and kiosks selling everything imaginable, much of it pirate themed. Instead of a parking lot we found a large tent where the musicians and dancers performed, along with lots of tables for dining. John Levique Pirate Days 8The other side of the parking lot was the food court, with banquet style vending stalls selling mouthwatering food. Amid the lively setup strolled a large number of attendees, enjoying shops, vending tents, the shows, and the food. However, all of those things together were still not the best surprise. We found no mere dozen pirates at the John Levique Pirate Days event, but rather the streets were filled with them. The pirates had erected tents to mock up how original pirates had camped on the shores of the Gulf Coast. Tons of professional pirate actors roamed the streets along with a number of enthusiasts. Aside from the pirate encampment, we found a pirate wrestling ring, a mechanical bull, a tropical bar, a hula hoop contest and an inflatable slide for the kids, and roaming musicians. John Levique Pirate Days 4Lastly came the large pirate show down at the waterfront of John’s Pass. On the sandy shore, amid the older pylons, some 50 to 60 pirates put on a mock battle. The battle included walking the plank, musket fire, sword fights, and, our personal favorite, ‘death by mermaid,’ which consisted of throwing convicted pirates to the trio of mermaids waiting just off shore. John Levique Pirate Days 6The mayhem lasted for a good five minutes, all under the thunderous explosions from cannons set on the shore. Watching from the drawbridge between Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, the handrails under our palms trembled from the shock wave of the cannon fire. Spectators lined the John’s Pass boardwalk to watch the show, many of them dressed in pirate costumes themselves.

 

John Levique Pirate Days Recommended

John Levique Pirate Days 7

For Love or Money Band

After our visit to the John Levique Pirate Days celebration, we definitely recommend it to visitors to the Florida Gulf Coast. The event was a lot of fun and definitely lived up to its name. There were pirates galore, lots of in-theme trinkets and souvenirs to purchase, good music shows, and fantastic food. The pirate battle topped off the event with a performance that brought the theme to life. The event has earned a place on our list of celebrations to visit year after year.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Best View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Clearwater Beach Stone Crab Festival 2013

 

Clearwater Beach T shirts

Gift Shop Essentials at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Tourist Shops

Clearwater Beach gift shopsWhen you visit Clearwater Beach, it is impossible to miss the gift shops along the main drag. Clearwater Beach is divided into two areas, North Beach and South Beach –at least according to the locals. It’s okay to consider Clearwater Beach all one place. It is a small barrier island and it is conceivable to walk from one end of the shopping district to the other. It is 1.5 miles from the Surf Style beach shop at the far end of South Beach to the North Beach parking lot that sits between Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and Palm Pavillion Beachfront Bar and Grill. Of course, you might want to pace yourself, because you will walk more than 1.5 miles if you stop at every T-shirt and souvenir shop along the way. We suggest dividing your Clearwater Beach souvenir-crawl into two outings, one for North Beach and one for South Beach.

 

Souvenirs from Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach gift shopSouvenir shopping at Clearwater Beach is not for the meek. You will find trinkets and keepsakes everywhere you go. Even if you stop at the Barefoot Beach House for ice cream or coffee you might walk away with a souvenir. Make sure you stop by Pier 60 for the daily Sunset Festival, which runs two hours before and after sunset. There you will find all manner of gifts and personal memorabilia for your Clearwater Beach vacation, including painted shells, beach photos, jewelry, and beach themed art of every description. Along the beachfront roads, every T-shirt shop we visited while researching this blog had an area set aside for jewelry, seashells, or other small souvenirs. Shot glasses, coffee cups, and other items with logos were also popular. You will have no trouble returning home from you vacation with a souvenir that says Clearwater Beach.

 

T Shirts and Beach Apparel at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach gift shopsOn our casual survey of Clearwater Beach gift shops, we discovered one overwhelmingly popular item on sale in every shop. That item was the forever-popular T-shirt. More than any other item, T-shirts dominated the stock along the beachfront. And, as you might imagine, lots of them had Clearwater Beach logos. And why not? One of the best ways to remember your fun-filled vacation is to wear a T-shirt you bought. Of course, you don’t have to buy just a T-shirt. Board shorts are a top seller for the guys and popular for the ladies is the beach dress, often worn over the over a bathing suit. With a beach dress in your bag, you are ready to for a quick dinner following your afternoon at the beach. Of course, if you want to wear something a little nicer for a dinner out, you can find that too!

 

Additional Beachwear for your Clearwater Beach Vacation

Clearwater Beach gift shopsWhile you are shopping for your day at Clearwater Beach, don’t forget to buy the other essentials. A sun hat is a good idea, especially in the summer.  You will probably want to shade your face by late afternoon. The other necessary requirements for your Florida outfit are flip flops or sandals and, of course, sunglasses. That might sound overly touristy, but really, these are the clothes you need to navigate the beach in comfort. The Clearwater Beach sands are bright-white in the sun, making sunglasses a good idea. Walgreens beach suppliesFlip flops don’t collect sand like other shoes and so are ideal for the beach. Lastly, don’t forget to get a beach towel or beach blanket. Hotel or household towels just don’t cut it. A big beach towel or a Mexican throw blanket are perfect for marking your territory on the beach. With these essentials in you beach bag, you are ready for your perfect vacation at Clearwater Beach.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Johns Pass

Ultimate Tourist Attraction at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

How to Prepare for Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

 

Clearwater Beach dolphin sighting tours

Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

About Clearwater Beach Dolphins

bottlenose dolphinThe dolphins you will see on Clearwater Harbor and Gulf of Mexico tours are bottlenose dolphins. This type is of dolphin is probably the best known dolphin in the U.S., especially with such celebrities as Flipper from the popular 1960’s TV show, and Winter from the modern Dolphin Tale movies. (Winter lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium right here at Clearwater Beach!) The bottlenose dolphins of the Gulf of Mexico reach about nine feet in length and, unlike dolphins in colder regions, may stay in the same area all year long. They live 40 to 50 years and will raise one offspring about every three years. A local dolphin sighting tour guide at Clearwater Beach Marina told us that the baby dolphins will often have hair on them when they are first born. Clearwater Beach dolphinsDolphins will eat pretty much any kind of fish as well as some of the creatures that live on the sea floor. While they do have teeth, dolphins don’t chew, but rather swallow their prey whole. Dolphins can jump as high as 20 feet out of the water, although that is unlikely here in the shallow waters of Clearwater Harbor. Instead, our dolphins like to play in the wakes of boats, something you have an excellent chance of seeing on a Clearwater Beach dolphin sighting tour.

 

Where to Find a Dolphin Sighting Tour at Clearwater Beach

We would love to tell you the name of each and every tour company that offers dolphin sighting tours at Clearwater Beach. However, when we went to Clearwater Beach Marina to tally them up, our heads spun. If you want to catch a ride on a dolphin sighting tour on the waters of Clearwater Harbor or the Gulf of Mexico, you have nothing to fear. You will find hosts of boats ready to take you out for a cruise on the beautiful coastal waters of the Gulf Coast.

dolphin sighting toursIt can be fun to simply stand and watch the goings on down at the marina. Happy sightseers embark and set off quite frequently. You can choose from sleek speed boats, tropical pontoon boats, pirate ships, and more. Many boat crews will describe the landscape for you, making your tour complete. While some will allow you to bring along your own refreshments, most are ready with a complement of drinks or snacks for their passengers. The boat rides are easy to spot with lots of banners and signage. The unique tour boats wait on the water just beyond. The Clearwater Beach Marina is located right next to the roundabout at the center of Clearwater Beach.

 

What to Expect on a Clearwater Beach Dolphin Sighting Tour

Clearwater Beach dolphinYour chances of seeing dolphins on your harbor cruise are pretty good. We have a good population of bottlenose dolphins living along our shores. They frequent the harbor and intra-coastal waterways when not swimming in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The boat crews usually know where the dolphins are. On some days you will simply get to see dolphins swimming by in small pods, while on others they will treat you to a show by playing in the wake of your boat. A number of boat tours guarantee you will see dolphins, with a second free ride if you don’t. Clearwater Beach dolphinThe dolphins on our shoreline are not that difficult to find, however, and sightseers are rarely disappointed. Quite often, the boat tour will include a short stopover at an additional place of interest, like one of the spoil islands on the harbor. Ask where your tour will go when buying your tickets. Keep in mind that each tour will probably take a different route, since the dolphins move about. The crews of the many Clearwater Beach dolphin sighting tours will always take you to locations where they hope to find dolphins.

 

Perfect Addition to a Clearwater Beach Vacation

Dolphin sightingsA dolphin sighting tour is a perfect addition to a Clearwater Beach Vacation. There are lots of sights to see in the area. Aside from the white sand beaches you will find tons of shops and restaurants, as well as a good number of local attractions. When you are ready to get out onto the water, a dolphin sighting tour is a great way to go. Sit back with a refreshment in your hand and let your captain and crew do all the work for you. A dolphin sighting tour is the perfect way to add some fond memories to your Clearwater Beach vacation.

 

Other blogs you might like:

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Dolphin Jam

Sand Key Beach

A Beach Less Traveled

Where is Sand Key Beach?

Sand Key ParkSand Key Beach is located at Sand Key Park, on the barrier island known as Sand Key. This barrier island, or key, is the next island south from Clearwater Beach. Sand Key Park is very easy to access if you are visiting Clearwater Beach or the beach communities to the south such as St Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, or Belleair Beach. All of those beach communities are found on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, to the west of Tampa and Tampa Bay. In other words, Sand Key Beach is located at the heart of a very active beach zone and tourist destination. The park entrance is very close to the Sand Key Bridge that leads across Clearwater Inlet, the waterway between Sand Key and Clearwater Beach.

 

Enjoying Sand Key Beach

Sand Key BeachOnce you park at the very large parking lot at Sand Key Beach, you will see the beach, beyond a set of grassy dunes. Winding pathways of sand or concrete lead between the dunes, taking out onto the expansive area of sand. Restrooms and outdoor beach showers are available for visitors. After you stroll past the palm trees and sand dunes, you will have to cross a fair stretch of sand to get to the water, so make sure your cooler has wheels! Sand Key Beach is adjacent to Clearwater Inlet, which is the waterway allowing boats to pass between Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. A jetty protrudes out from the northern edge of the beach, creating the entrance to Clearwater Inlet. South of the jetty is all beach. Sand Key Beach is a great place for swimming or wading. With the large area of sand, you are free to set up your towel or beach chair just about anywhere. Sand Key Beach trailIn fact, that is one of the joys of Sand Key Beach; it is a beach less traveled. While times such as the 4th of July, Memorial Day, or Spring Break might see a larger number of people, chances are you will encounter a smaller, quieter group of beach goers at Sand Key. Keep in mind that this is Florida Gulf Coast beach, which means it will have the fantastic white sands for which the coastline is famous. If you enjoy a mild day at the shore, Sand Key might be your beach.

 

Hidden Gems at Sand Key Park

Fishing pier Sand Key ParkSand Key Beach is just a part of Sand Key Park. The park has much more to explore. Sand Key Park is a kid friendly place. Aside from the endless joys of the beach, the park also has a playground set, nestled next to a stand of shade trees that shelter the set from the afternoon sun. Sand Key Park is also pet friendly. A fenced dog park is available with separate areas for smaller and larger dogs. The dog park has benches for owners and a number of shade trees. Additionally, you will find picnic pavilions and a walking trail. The picnic area has its own restroom, which also near the dog park. The walking trail runs through the wooded areas of the park and past a saltwater marsh, making for a refreshing diversion. The large shade trees along Clearwater Inlet have become a hangout spot for barbeques and relaxing in the shade on beach chairs. The spot is excellent for watching Clearwater Harbor traffic pass by. Last but not least are the fishing opportunities at Sand Key Park. The entire waterfront of Clearwater Harbor, from the jetty to the Sand Key Bridge, is very popular among local fishermen and tourists alike. Sand Key Park playgroundCloser to the bridge you will find a small parking lot and pier just for fishing. This out-of-the-way fishing retreat seems distant from the rest of the park. It is also a nice spot to launch a short hike along the walking path or to the Sand Key Bridge. The bridge walk is a worthy endeavor, with sweeping views of Clearwater Harbor, Clearwater Inlet, the island of Sand Key, Sand Key Park, the community of Clearwater Beach, and the city of Clearwater. With all the hidden gems at Sand Key Park, you could spend the better part of a day exploring.

 

A Beach Less Traveled

Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaSand Key Park is a great place to go for a beach day with fewer people on the beach. It is a favorite place for flying kites because of the room available on the wide swaths of sand. If the beach combing, sunbathing, and swimming are not enough, you can take a hike around the park, watch the boat traffic go by, or try your hand at fishing. If that all sounds like fun, then give Sand Key Beach a try on your next Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Other posts you might enjoy;

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

3 Essential Rules for Taking Your Pet on Vacation

5 Most Exciting Beach Activity Rentals at Clearwater Beach

 

vacation activities

How Big is your Vacation Activity Zone?

How Close do you stay to your Vacation Rental?

beach vacation rentalWhen you go on vacation, do you stay near your vacation rental or do you strike out to explore everything in the region around you? Some folks are happy to sit on the porch or balcony of their vacation rental and look out onto the world from the shade, comfort, and air conditioning of their unit. Others will keep within a zone in which they can walk. Others might take a single trip in the car during their stay, while still others might head out into the region surrounding their vacation rental each and every day. Which type of vacation goer are you?

 

Making the most of your Vacation Rental

beachfront rental condoHanging out in your vacation rental is not all that bad! Many of the vacation condos and vacation homes on Clearwater Beach and the other beaches of the Central Gulf Coast have large interiors with comfortable amenities. Vacation rentals will usually have some type of kitchen as well as televisions, cable service, and Wifi. If your rental comes with a pool, you might have all you need to keep you happy. If you have a beach view, then you really are at the beach when you sit out on your balcony. If long walks aren’t your thing, then a holiday spent inside your vacation rental might be the perfect getaway. And, if you are looking to relax in peace and quiet, sitting out on a patio or reclining by a pool is a great way to go.

 

Using your Vacation Rental as Beach Vacation Headquarters

Beach vacationWhen you rent a vacation rental on the beach it’s because you want to be at the beach! That’s fairly sound logic. Once you have arrived at your beach rental, it is sometimes hard to take the time to put away your luggage before heading out to the shore. The beach has soothing qualities that few people can deny. The sound of the waves and the feel of the sand combine with the beauty of the beach and water to create a sensation people will travel quite far to experience. So is it wrong to plant yourself on the beach and enjoy the sun and sand and sea every day of your vacation? Of course not! The beach is a favorite travel destination for very good reason. Enjoying your vacation to the fullest is easy to do at the beach, even if you do no more than walk from your vacation rental to the sand each day.

 

Choosing a Favorite Day Trip from your Vacation Rental

Lowry ZooSpending your days sunning and swimming at the beach is hard to beat, but once in a while, it is nice to break up a vacation with a day trip to an interesting nearby location. That is easy to do on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. A drive or a trolley ride up and down the coastline will take you past a host of other beaches. You will pass from major resorts to ma-and-pa style beaches and back again in a very short amount of time. Each beach community seems to have its own personality, so you can choose the one that suites you.  You could also visit one of the many tourist towns nearby for a dinner or a stroll down the main street. The one-day trip is a popular distraction for those who want to see nearby theme parks like Homosassa Springs, Dinosaur World, the Lowry Park Zoo, or Busch Gardens in Tampa. When your one day diversion is over, feel free to relax in your vacation rental or on the nearby sands of the beach.

 

Seeing it all on your Florida Beach Vacation

Great blue heron The dynamic, action packed beach vacation is often the choice of the adventurous souls among us. After you have walked the nearby beaches of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island it might be time to get into the car and head out to nearby tourists stops. How else can you see it all? You can choose tourist areas such as the St Petersburg museums, John’s Pass tourist shops and restaurants, the Florida Botanical Gardens, downtown Dundein, or the Tarpons Springs Sponge Docks. But if those aren’t enough, you should know that the region surrounding Clearwater Beach and Central Gulf Coast of Florida have more nature parks than you might think possible. Give the parks a try, if you enjoy hiking on wilderness trails or seeing the diverse wildlife of Florida, including the amazing variety of birds. If you choose to have a dynamic vacation touring the region surrounding the beaches, be warned, there is more to do than you can achieve in a single vacation. And please, Clearwater Beach and the Florida Gulf Coast have some of the best beaches in the world, so make sure you spend some time enjoying them too!

 

Other posts you might enjoy;

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

5 Best Places to Escape at Clearwater Beach

 

Florida Gulf Coast osprey

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Location of Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Click map to enlarge

You will find Honeymoon Island State Park on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It is just north of Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island, both of which are popular tourist destinations. Honeymoon Island is reachable by car thanks to the Dunedin Causeway, which is a popular weekend destination for boaters, fishermen, and those who enjoy a more casual beach experience. The park has a manned entrance gate with a required entry fee of 4-8 dollars depending on the number of people in your car.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Center

Honeymoon Island Nature CenterAny trip to the Honeymoon Island State Park nature trail should begin at the nature center. While the nature center is not at the trailhead, it will give you an idea of what you might find on the island. The rangers are always willing to help, and will answer any questions you have. Mangrove shores Honeymoon IslandYou will find books on the area, dioramas of island wildlife, kid-friendly displays they are allowed to touch, interactive videos, and a display on the island’s history. Outside is an observation deck that overlooks the shallows of St Joseph Sound where you can often observe Honeymoon Island ospreys diving for fish.

 

Honeymoon Island Loop Trail

Honeymoon Island nature trailThe Honeymoon Island nature trail is a 2.5 mile loop, which runs the length of the island’s pine forest. Honeymoon Island has two peninsulas that reach northward. The western arm is mostly beach, while the eastern stretch is forested, with shores covered by mangrove trees. The stretch of water between the two peninsulas is called Pelican Cove. The looping nature trail, which is on the eastern arm of the island, has a number of connectors, allowing hikers to shorten their hike by making smaller loops. Although you will walk through a forested area, the trail will also have lots of sun, so be sure to bring your hat and perhaps some sunscreen. The surface of the trail is sand, sometimes covered with grass or pine needles, but sometimes not. Be sure to use footwear that goes well with soft, sandy terrain. Keep an eye out for the small signs along the nature trail that give you information on island features.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Foliage

Honeymoon Island slash pineThe most prominent plants you will find on the Honeymoon Island nature trail are the tall slash pines. You will also see them as the barren dead trees where the ospreys like to build their nests. The other common trees are palms and mangroves, a staple plants for the Florida Gulf Coast. In the past, the island appeared somewhat dry, with stretches of low foliage where you could see hikers on the other side of the loop trail. Cactus flower FloridaAfter the island received a prescribed burn a few years ago, the plants filled in the spaces that were previously empty. Now a host of the new slash pines are growing, which is one of the main purposes behind prescribed burns. In addition to the trees you will see a seemingly endless variety of other plants, many of them with flowers. During the spring you will also see the prickly pear cacti in bloom.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Wildlife

Florida osprey nestThe most popular feature on the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail are the ospreys. These fishing hawks are expert at catching their meals out on the Gulf of Mexico, in St Joseph Sound, and in Honeymoon Island’s Pelican Cove. You will often see them flying back to their enormous nests with fish in their claws. The grand nests are easy to see because the ospreys most often build them in dead trees. Joining the ospreys on Honeymoon Island are breeding pairs of bald eagles and great horned owls. These latter two, however, are not as easy to spot as the abundant ospreys. Gopher tortoise on Honeymoon IslandIn addition to many types of birds on the island, you will also come across the gopher tortoise, an island inhabitant that is also popular with visitors. Some of the tortoises will make hasty retreats into the island brush while others will calmly watch you walk by. The tortoises and the birds mentioned above are not the only natural inhabitants, so keep your eyes peeled and you will surely discover more wildlife along the Honeymoon Island nature trail.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Amenities

Picnic area Honeymoon Island State ParkAt the head of the Honeymoon Island nature trail you will find a number of helpful amenities. A small park sits next to a parking lot that never seems to fill up, which is very handy. The small park contains picnic pavilions and a fairly large playground for the kids. You will find a restroom across from the parking lot which also happens to be next to the western trail head of the looping nature trail. If you turn right on path behind the restroom, you will be heading onto the nature trail. If you take the path to the left, it will take you to the famous Honeymoon Island beach. As for that beach, we will let you know more about the other fantastic features of Honeymoon Island State Park in upcoming blogs.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Clearwater Beach vacation

Spoil Your Vacation at Clearwater Beach

Defining Spoiled

The word spoil has a list of different definitions. While they all follow a common theme, they are not all alike.

The common modern usage of the word spoil means to ruin or degrade, such as

  • 1. A spoiled child, 2. Spoiled fruit, 3. Spoiled plans.

The word spoil comes from an older usage however, originating in the days of attacking and looting cities. It means to loot the valuables from a location, such as a city or town. It is synonymous to despoil, as in

  • 1. Spoils of war, 2. A spoiled city, 3 spoiling enemy villages
great blue heron

Great blue heron on a spoil pile

Another definition comes from the byproducts of construction or mining. Waste materials created from drilling or digging are called spoil. An example would be spoils from a basement excavation being used for landscaping.

  • 1. A large spoil pile

So what does all of that have to do with a Clearwater Beach vacation? Let’s see!

 

Pirate Spoils at Clearwater Beach

Pirate ship

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

Did you know the Florida Gulf Coast has a pirate history? It’s true. Tampa Bay area is no stranger to pirates. In fact, the modern Gasparilla Invasion celebrates a pirate who sailed the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gasparilla treasure, along with some others, is rumored to be hidden along our shores. Many of those pirate spoils, taken from victories over merchant ships, have never been found! Have they sifted down deeper into the sands of the beach? Has the landscape shifted and put the pirate spoils under waters of the Gulf of Mexico? While you walk the sands of the beach on your Florida Gulf Coast vacation, will you inadvertently walk several feet above the long lost treasure of pirate spoils? It’s possible! Rumor has it that, after large storms on the Gulf, coins from pirate conquests might wash up on the shore. None of our guests have discovered pirate treasure yet (that we know of), but it is fun to imagine coming across a coin poking out of the sand.

 

Spoil Islands of Clearwater

Spoil island

View from one island to the next

The harbor that runs between the City of Clearwater and Clearwater Beach is very shallow. Navigating a boat through the waters requires staying within the marked channels or having a sonar to check the depth under your boat. The boating channels that run the length of Clearwater Harbor were created in the 1950’s. The waste material from dredging, called spoil, was dumped in piles at regular intervals. The spoil piles collected vegetation and local wildlife quickly, becoming established islands in a very short time. The islands soon became a playgrounds for local boaters, an attraction the islands maintain to this day. The small islands, wrapped in shallow vegetation or covered with small forests of pines, palms, or oaks, are open to boaters and campers. The spoil islands are property of the State of Florida that has no plans to develop the islands or charge for their use. The islands make great stopovers while cruising the waters of the harbor on a motor boat, kayak, or paddle board. They are great places to relax or walk the shore.  Taking a picnic basket or beach chairs to the islands is a popular past time for those who know this local secret. If you are planning on boating the harbor on your Clearwater Beach vacation, be sure to check them out!

 

Go ahead and spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation

Clearwater BeachWhen we say spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation, we are talking about having fun.

Walking our shores under the Florida sun, you can imagine our pirate history. Is there a pirate chest of gold somewhere beneath your feet? Are the spoils of a pirate raid buried under your vacation rental unit? Will you find pirate gold underneath a seashell on the beach?

While boating our beautiful turquoise harbors, look to one of the tiny spoil islands. The small islands are usually empty, ready for you to land and claim the territory for your own –at least for a little while. Occupying your own island for a few hours of your vacation might give you some fun vacation memories for you to treasure.

So go ahead. It’s okay. Have some fun and spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

How to Successfully Use Vacation to Relieve Stress

What Is a Causeway?

What Is a Beach Villa?

 

Florida Gulf Coast beach

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

Beaches on the move

Clearwater Beach dunes and beachThe beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are among the best loved beaches in America. The soft white sand is soothing to the feet and glows brightly in the sunshine. The pleasant nature of the sand makes the beaches famous, and the area has become a favorite vacation destination. What visitors to the area might not realize, however, is how much Mother Nature can move around that soft white sands.

 

Effects of Wind and Sea on the Beach

Kiteboarding Clearwater BeachA visit to the beaches of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida will introduce you to the powdery white sands of which we speak. While pushing  your toes through the sands, your feet will tell you how soft the tiny grains are. Some call it “sugar sand” while others compare it to powder. On a day with higher winds, you might feel the sand gently blowing across your ankles. Over time, this can create a considerable effect. In addition to the wind, the weather patterns create different currents offshore. Over time, the effects of wind and water can significantly change the beach landscape.

 

Mangroves and Sand Dunes on the Florida Gulf Coast

Mangrove shores of the Florida Nature CoastWhile you visit the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, you will notice two things; mangrove trees and sand dunes. Mangrove trees are easy to identify from their sturdy root systems that lift the trees up over the sand or water. These trees help to clean the water while protecting the shoreline from erosion. While a shore of mangrove trees may not be as appealing to some as a wide-open, sandy beach, the trees are an essential part of the Florida coastline. Mangroves can even withstand the powerful forces of hurricanes, protecting inland areas from many of the storms’ effects. Clearwater Beach sand dunesSand dunes may sometimes block the view of the open sand and sea, but they form an irreplaceable function for the beaches. They store sand for times of greater erosion and help to block the flood waters during storm surges. A beach without dunes is far more vulnerable to erosion than one with a healthy dune system. On your Florida vacation, be sure to treat the mangrove forests and the grasses on the sand dunes with the respect they deserve.

 

History of Shifting Sands on the Florida Gulf Coast

Johns Pass

Johns PassThe most famous story of our changing shoreline comes from a location known as John’s Pass, currently a fun tourist day trip destination. However, the popular boating route and tourist stop of John’s Pass did not always exist. The barrier islands along the coast of what is now Pinellas County continued uninterrupted past the present day channel. According to local history, a storm in 1848 washed away the sands and left an opening in the barrier islands, connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the intra-coastal waterway. The passage is now an essential route for boaters that includes a large drawbridge. Waterfront dining and shops have capitalized on the location, which is a plus for tourists to the Central Gulf Coast.

Dunedin Pass

Clearwater Beach to Caladesi IslandThe second, well-known change in the shoreline was started in 1921 by a hurricane. The water channel known as Dunedin Pass was altered by the storm, and in combination with other forces, caused the sand bar at the north end of Clearwater Beach to migrate northward until the pass closed. It is now possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, although locals have not allowed Caladesi’s status as an independent island to fade.

Three Rooker Bar

sand barAnother unique feature of the local coastal landscape shaped by tidal forces is Three Rooker Bar. This land feature began as a sand bar but now is a tiny island supporting both plant and animal life. Thanks to the quickly changing landscape of Three Rooker Bar, you will find it listed online as both an island and a sand bar, depending on where you look. If the forces that made the sand bar continue, not only will the title of island remain, but the island will continue to grow in size.

 

Florida Gulf Coast has a Tradition of Change

Hurricane Pass Dunedin FloridaThe beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast have a tradition of change. While mankind can and does have an effect on preserving beaches, the landscape will continue to shift. You can experience this process for yourself by visiting the channel that runs between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. This passage owes its existence to the hurricane of 1921, thus giving it the name Hurricane Pass. You will find long spits of soft, white sand reaching out toward the passage from both islands. You will also see large, areas of sand just beneath the surface, many of which you can walk on during low tides. If you are lucky enough to return to the beaches year after year, you will notice a marked change at Hurricane Pass. The sands on either side of the boating channel are in constant flux. The shape of the beaches changes visibly, while the sand bars move from one location to another.

 

Gulf Coast Beaches

Palm shadows on the beachYour beach holiday on the shores of Florida’s West Coast will surely be amazing. The beaches are renowned for their soft white sands and wonderful weather. You can choose between a manicured public beach or the wild shores of the less-visited barrier islands. In fact, you can visit both during the same day! Keep in mind that the beaches you walk upon might appear the way they do just for you, right at that moment. The next time you visit, you can then see if you recognize the subtle changes in our beaches. Finding the differences can be entertaining so be sure to bring your camera. It might be fun to add the changing sands of the Central Gulf Coast to the list of beautiful sights you will see on your Florida vacation.

 

 

Dragon sand sculpture

The Amazing Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival at Clearwater Beach

Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival 2014

TSugar Sand Festival sculpturehe Sugar Sand Festival made its second appearance at Clearwater Beach this April. The show ran from April 5th through the 13th. A large tent went up long before the event opened, getting the folks at the beach a heads up the festival was coming. The artisans got busy sculpting, all with the show’s theme in mind. This year, cinema was the theme, with the title of “Beach Walk of Fame.” Inside the tent, sculpted figures from Hollywood history were found along a ribbon of film also crafted from sand. Visitors viewed images from the very beginning of cinema, like Charlie Chaplin, through the most recent movies, including Dolphin Tale.

 

Sugar Sand Festival Extras

Sand sofas at beach restaurantThe sand sculptures were at the heart of the event, but surrounding the tent were a host of additional activities that had the beach buzzing with activity. Sand artists held special shows and contests for beach visitors, including speed sculpting. Directly surrounding the tent were a number of other fun attractions. The Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, one of the event sponsors, had a kid’s sand sculpting area, complete with umbrellas and chairs for the parents. Frenchy’s restaurant hosted a “Sand Bar” right on the beach, with a fenced off area set up as pub. Area restaurants sponsored a restaurant setting behind the show tent with sand sculpted sofas for restaurant guests, with the sand sofas right on the beach. The attractions surrounding the tent were a success, with plenty of attendees joining into the extra fun.

 

Sugar Sand Festival Pier 60 Entertainment

Pier 60 Sugar Sand FestivalPier 60 is a Clearwater Beach attraction every evening, two hours before and after sunset. For the Sugar Sand Festival, however, the vendors and street performers showed up every day, all day long. The usual Pier 60 fun was in overdrive. Clearwater Beach visitors were treated to non-stop entertainment. The pier was lined with vendors selling every manner of souvenir, while the street performers spread across a wider area than usual to accommodate the extra visitors. With a larger amount of people at the beach for the festival, Pier 60 was a hub of activity.

 

A Successful Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival

Sand sculpture Willows in the WindIf the number of visitors to Clearwater Beach last week was any indication, then the 2014 Sugar Sand Festival was a success. The beach enjoyed lively crowds and, each time we checked in, the Pier 60 shows were running. The line leading into the sand sculpture tent enjoyed a constant flow. If you are considering a Clearwater Beach vacation, be sure to check this one out for 2015. Judging by the turnout for this one, the Clearwater Beach Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival will back again next year.

Bugs Bunny sand sculptureOther blogs you might enjoy:

Ultimate Tourist Attraction at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Dunedin Celtic Music and Craft Beer Festival

 

Clearwater Beach dolphin sculpture

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Dolphin Sculptures at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Dolphins sculpture Clearwater BeachOn your Clearwater Beach vacation you will surely notice a host of painted dolphin sculptures prominently displayed along roadways, on sidewalks, and in storefronts. The dolphins are a project created by Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the City of Clearwater, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The display was kicked off in the fall of 2012 with a display of 50 dolphins lining the sidewalk in front of Pier 60. According to VisitClearwaterFlorida.com, the region now boasts over a hundred of the sculptures.

 

Decorated Dolphins at the Beach

Clearwater Beach Marina dolphins sculptureEach dolphin sculpture is painted and decorated in its own unique way. Before displaying the dolphns, the participating businesses most often paint their dolphins to match the business, or to say something about what they do. You will find the dolphins placed at local shop fronts, usually right outside the entrance. If you peek at the bottoms you might see wheels used to roll the dolphins inside at night. The designs are endless and are almost always bright and colorful.

 

Gulf Coast Dolphin Sculpture Tour

Pier 60 Clearwater Beach sculptureYou can join in the fun of the dolphin sculptures right here on our part of the Florida Gulf Coast by following what is known as the Dolphin Trail. While there doesn’t seem to be any official pathway to follow, the starting point is at Pier 60 where you will find a metal wire sculpture of three dolphins, right in front of Pier 60. From there it is up to you whether you head north, east or south. Whichever direction you chose, you will quickly find dolphin sculptures along the way. According to the dolphin sculpture maps, the island of Clearwater Beach has 22 of the dolphin sculptures. To the north, the shops along Mandalay Avenue have quite a few, while to the south you can find many more of the dolphins on a leisurely stroll along Beach Walk. You can also cross the bridge that takes you off of Clearwater Beach to find a good number of sculptures along Cleveland Avenue in the City of Clearwater. Dolphin sculpture Clearwater FloridaFor the adventurous, there are many more dolphin sculptures across the entire peninsula of Pinellas County. It’s up to you how far you want to go.  Whether you follow the dolphin trail or you simply discover the dolphins on your adventures at the beach, take a moment or two to admire the designs on these unique, regional works of art. Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, and the surrounding Florida Gulf Coast communities are quite proud of their dolphins.

Dolphin sculptures unveiled YouTube video

Dolphin sculpture artists YouTube video

 

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Dinosaur World

Secret Caladesi Island Shell Tree