Clearwater harbor bridge

What Is a Causway?

Definition of Causeway

CausewayWhen you visit Clearwater Beach or any other location on the Central Gulf Coast, you will soon hear the locals talking about causeways. More than one visitor has asked the question, “What is a causeway?” According to Dictionary.com and Mirriam-Webster.com, a causeway is a raised road or path such as those that cross wet areas or water. It also refers to Roman style roads, and can refer to paving a road with cobblestones or gravel. Of course, we are not building Roman style roadways here in Florida. Our causeways are used to get you across the water. But why does the Central Gulf Coast of Florida use causeways instead of bridges?

Bridges and Causeways of the Florida Gulf Coast

We do use bridges here in Florida, but we are also very fond of our causeways. Causeways lead us to our beaches! You will also find causeways leading across Tampa Bay itself. The roads across Tampa Bay span a very large stretch of water, three in total, the Gandy, Hwy 275, and the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

  • Gandy: 2 of the 5 miles is causeway; 3 miles of bridge
  • HWY 275 bridge, roughly half of the 7 miles is causeway
  • Courtney Campbell Causeway is 9.5 miles, almost all of which is causeway

The bridge spans over the bay raise up off the water, with pylons holding them up, allowing for boat traffic. The causeways are made from rocks and fill dirt. Of course, fill dirt In Florida is also known as sand. The dirt then has a long road paved over top of it. Tampa Bay and the surrounding waterways of the Florida Gulf Coast are shallow. Tampa bay is reportedly only about 12 feet deep! Such shallow waters lend well building causeways.

Why Are Florida Causeways So Popular?

BridgeThe causeways around the Florida Gulf Coast are popular for a variety of reasons. The foremost reason is an ease in traffic. According to CourtneyCampbell.org, the roadway between Tampa and Clearwater sees over 50,000 motorists a day! With three such bridges crossing Tampa Bay, you can imagine the relief the causeways give to the land routes that encircle the water. The other reason the causeways are popular might not occur to you until you see them for yourself. Causeways provide many extra miles of coastline!  You will see plenty of Florida natives and tourists enjoying the shoreline along the causeways. They make great launch sites for small craft and are also very popular fishing destinations. The Courtney Campbell Causeway is even considered a scenic roadway, which it truly is. The vistas of Tampa Bay are beautiful from all three of these large Florida causeways.

Clearwater Beach Causeway

Clearwater Beach causewayWhen you come to Clearwater Beach for vacation it is likely you will cross the Courtney Campbell Causeway on your way into Clearwater from the Tampa airport. Enjoy the ride! After you pass through downtown Clearwater, you will be treated to our little causeway here at the beach. It is lined with large palm trees and has a wide biking and walking trail along its southern shore. The Clearwater Beach causeway also takes you past the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movie. Keep the causeway in mind on your Clearwater Beach vacation. The beach causeway is a great place for morning walks or afternoon bike rides.

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Honeymoon Island of the Florida Gulf Coast.

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater Beach Day Trip Adventures #1

Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater BeachThe Central Gulf Coast of Florida is known for its islands. In fact, you might already know one or two of their names without realizing it. Did you know that Clearwater Beach was an island? Most of the popular beaches along our coastline are situated on barrier islands, those little strips of land that sit just off the mainland. All of the beaches from Clearwater Beach down to Fort Desoto State Park are found on just such islands. Those fantastic stretches of beach are known for their beautiful white sands and sparkling turquoise waters. But what about some of the other islands nearby? Read on, because the Central Gulf Coast of Florida has some great island surprises in store for you.

 

Anclote Key Island

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

You will find Anclote Island at the northern end of the Central Gulf Coast. The island sits just off the mouth of the Anclote River. Anclote Island is roughly one mile off the coast, and it has no bridge leading to it. If you want to visit the island, you have to go by boat. Thankfully the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are calm, and you can make the journey in pretty much any type of craft. You can also catch a ride on a tour boat out of Tarpon Springs, a tourist town located on the Anclote River. Just let them know where you want to go ahead of time and they will take you out to Anclote Island for a visit. The southern end of the island has a lighthouse you can view, although its stairs are no longer open for climbing. Otherwise, the island is a wilderness. Why visit a wilderness? Several miles of beach almost entirely to yourself is the answer. You will see wild palms ruffling in the breeze while you collect shells from shoreline a bounty not found on the more frequently visited beaches. The north tip of the island has a swath of some of the softest, whitest sand you will find anywhere. If you enjoy wilderness areas, Anclote Island is a must see destination on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida.

 

Weedon Island

Weedon IslandWeedon Island is situated on Tampa Bay, one of the best-known bodies of water on the west coast of Florida. While Tampa Bay does not really have beaches, Weedon Island is still a worthy destination. You will find a wilderness park on the site with boardwalks that weave through the various types of mangroves along the shoreline. A historic site has been excavated at the park, close to the parking lot. The park also boasts a large nature center with an outdoor garden. Despite all these features, the park is known for something else; its fantastic kayak trails. Weaving throughout the mangroves is a waterway suitable for kayaks and canoes. This popular attraction is the longest kayak trail on the Central Gulf Coast. Part of your waterway journey will take you past a panoramic view of Tampa Bay itself, with the city of Tamp visible in the distance. You will also pass by and under the boardwalk trail leading hikers throughout the mangroves. The convenient kayak launch dock also has a popular fishing pier that makes good use of the currents that flow in and out of the park at high and low tides. If you enjoy hiking or kayaking in a natural Florida setting, then Weedon Island might become one of your favorite Central Gulf Coast islands.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon IslandHoneymoon Island is one of the most popular destination along the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. The island offers a perfect blend of developed and natural coastline. A very large parking area accommodates the high season beach traffic along this very long beach. A concession stand sits at the south end of the parking lot. If you have a dog, this is the beach for you, with a dog beach at the south end of the island. You will need a leash but this is still a great place to introduce your pooch to the Gulf of Mexico. The eastern side of the island has a great Nature Center, a playground, and a long nature trail. The nature trail leads past nesting osprey, great horned owls, and bald eagles. You will also see gopher tortoises and armadillos along the trial. The most visited feature, of course, is the beach itself. It is a long island, with only the southern end developed for tourists. However, you are free to walk northward, immersing yourself in the natural coastline. The beach is beautiful white sand most of the time, although rougher weather will sometimes expose the small coral rocks underneath –as well as a lot of great seashells! Walking to the northern tip of the island is not a hike for beginners, especially in the full heat of summer. If you do make it to the northern end, you will be treated to one of the most pristine coastlines of powder-soft white sand the Central Gulf Coast has to offer.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi IslandCaladesi Island may be the most idyllic of the island destinations of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. Formerly a separate island, a storm rearranged the sands and connected the island to the barrier island to the south. What is the island to the south? It’s Clearwater Beach! While that makes walking to Caladesi Island possible, it doesn’t make it easy. The walk from Clearwater Beach is a long one, another hike you might want to consider carefully if summer is in full swing. However, armed with a water bottle or two, you can make the hike up to Caladesi Island along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Soft white sand, sea shells, palm trees, and long stretches of bird sanctuary will mark your journey as you head northward. The northern tip of the island is similar to Honeymoon Island and Anclote Island, with a deposit of remarkably soft, white sand. You will also find that the north end of Caladesi Island is only a short distance away from Honeymoon Island’s southern end. You will likely see dogs playing on the strip of dog beach located there on the other island. If a long walk is not your style, that’s OK. You can catch a ride on a boat from either Honeymoon Island or Clearwater Beach. Whether a ferry boat or a charter, the boat will take you to the docks at Caladesi Island, located within the water channels leading into the island interior. Beyond the dockside concession stand is the beach access and a wilderness trail. You will also find a kayak trail at the docks, similar to the one at Weedon Island. Caladesi Island wins awards on a regular basis as one of the best beaches in the United States. When you arrive, you will see why Caladesi Island has earned a top spot among the islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida.

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Monkey at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Local Secret #18

Florida Gulf Coast Primate Rescue

ChimpanzeeThe purpose of the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary is to provide a place to live for rescued and donated primates. They have a growing collection of animals, not all of them primates, which is open for public viewing. Inside you will see lots of monkeys and apes, including chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, spider monkeys and more. Additionally you can see alligators, tortoises, and an assortment of birds. The sanctuary is privately funded, so it does not come off as a major theme park like Busch Gardens, but the animals are well cared for and casual observation shows a lot of happy, furry faces.

 

Florida Gulf Coast Secret Primate Sanctuary

BaboonsWhy is the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary on our local secrets list? While they certainly do advertise, you will not find neon lights flashing on the roadside. The unassuming sign for the sanctuary has pictures of the animals, and the parking lot is a simple strip off the side of the road. The setting does not necessarily leap out at passers-by. You might need a local to help you arrive!  However, for animal lovers and for those who want close by entertainment for the kids (or grownups) the sanctuary is a fun place to visit. The staff give helpful information and you might even get to pet a live alligator -a small one. Give the sanctuary a try!

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Clearwater Color Run

Clearwater Color Run 2014

Is the Clearwater Color Run a Race or a Party?

Clearwater Color RunAttendees to the Clearwater Color Run in January of 2014 were in for more than just a race. Long before the race began Coachman Park filled with racers in white shirts and their camera-toting companions. Tents dotted the field, selling T-shirts, drinks, and unique photo opportunities. An instructor on the Coachman Park stage led a large number of participants in a Zumba dance warm up. Once at the starting line, an MC standing on top of a tower next to the gates kept the crowd lively by throwing give-away items into the throng of runners. The atmosphere of the Clearwater Color run seemed more like a party than a race before the starting gun ever fired.

 

Clearwater Color Run Is Not Your Ordinary 5K

Clearwater Color RunThe Clearwater Color Run was a lot like other 5K races with one distinct difference; the racers get pelted with colored paint dust along the way. Standing at the first station we saw the racers doused with purple. The cloud plume was so thick we could barely see the people inside. Coming out the other side, the color-stained runners were smiling and laughing. When we moved to the 4.5 kilometer mark, the smiles were fewer, but the spirits of the runners were still high. Many of the participants gave us cheers as they ran by, headed down the last slope toward the finish line. By this time they had gone through all four color tossing stations and were completely covered with bright dust.

 

The Clearwater Color Run After Party

Clearwater Color Run after raceWhile there was no official after party for the Clearwater Color Run, the festivities at the finish line did just as well. The organizers held a contestant dance off on the stage while music blared and bubbles from large machines filled the air. At regular intervals the guys on stage called for a color toss, in which all those gathered nearby threw colored paint dust into the air. It was a great event for all ages, with lots of teens and kids of younger ages participating. The Clearwater Color Run was promoted as the happiest 5K on the planet, which it seemed to do a pretty good job of delivering.

 

 

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Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs hippoHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles drive north of Clearwater Beach. The park displays rescued and other creatures native to Florida. The list includes black bears, alligators, bald eagles, otters, and many more. The number of different bird species at the central pond and the aviary are amazing. A unique park resident is the hippopotamus once used in Hollywood movies, granted official Florida citizenship to overcome its status as a non-native species. The number one attraction at the park, however, are the manatees. Both wild and park animals can be seen swimming in park waters. The manatees you will find in pens are there to receive care, followed by release back into the wild. The park has a unique underwater room where you can view the manatees being fed.

 

Lowry Park Zoo

Lowry Park Zoo orangutanLowry Park Zoo sits just north of the city of Tampa and is a 25 mile drive east from Clearwater Beach. It is a large zoo with plenty to see. Stoll on wooden boardwalks past large aviaries or ground level animal enclosures. You can get a close up view of a wide variety native and exotic species of animals. The Lowry Park Zoo is large enough to plan an all day trip from Clearwater Beach. Kids love the zoo because of the carnival rides located at the center of the park. The kids’ area includes fun things like slides, a water fountain area to play in, pony rides, and a petting zoo.

 

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Florida tigerBusch Gardens is the top theme park within easy reach of Clearwater Beach. Busch Gardens in Tampa has an African theme, which goes well with the animals you will view there. You will find fantastic roller coasters and other fun rides, as well as kid-friendly attractions, like the massive playground called Treetop Trails. Click here to see their huge list of attractions. If you want to offer your family some extra excitement on your Clearwater Beach vacation, then give Busch Gardens in Tampa a try.

 

 

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Dinosaur World Florida

Dinosaur World

Florida Road Trip Adventures #1

Dinosaur World (1)Dinosaur World Is Fun for the Whole Family

Dinosaur world is great fun for kids but parents will enjoy it too. The dinosaur models are full size and placed amid Florida brush and tall palms, giving the park an authentic setting. Kids get very excited to see the life size dinosaurs. The park takes over an hour to walk around, with enough displays to satisfy even the most avid little dinosaur enthusiasts.

Dinosaur World Is an Interactive Kid Experience

Dinosaur World has great extra activities for kids. Young visitors love the fossil dig, where they get to take home real, fossils from the age of dinosaurs. Some of the dinosaur models can be touched, including the carnivore that where kids can peek out at the mom and dad photographer from inside the mouth. A shelter at mid park lets kids dust off a large replica of stegosaurus dinosaur bones. A few other treats can be found along the way.

Dinosaur WorldDinosaur World Gift shop

The gift shop is a kid paradise, with walls lined with dinosaur toys. Actual fossils are for sale for the grownups. The gift shop greets you on the way in but if you want to catch it on the way out, that’s OK too.

Dinosaur World Is a Great Outing for the Kids

If you want to spend half a day entertaining the family, Dinosaur World is a great diversion. Be sure to take your camera to get shots of your kids alongside these behemoths from the past. Florida’s Dinosaur World is in Plant City which is within an hour of the cities of Tampa and Clearwater.

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Tarpon Springs sunken s hip

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

Gulf Coast Local Secret #17

Does the Gulf Coast Have Sunken Ships?

Of course the Gulf Coast has sunken ships! You will find that any harbor locations around the world have long histories of sunken ships. Before European ships arrived, Native Americans plied the waters in smaller craft. The coasts of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida have been in use by large ships since the Americas were first settled. Settlers, war ships and even pirates used the shores of Florida, especially Tampa Bay, where Fort De Soto State Park still displays cannons used to defend the mouth of the bay. The maritime history of the Florida Gulf Coast is fascinating, and worth looking into.

 

Sunken Ships on the Florida Gulf Coast

ShipwreckA number of websites help divers and others locate known shipwrecks along Florida’s coast. If you are a diver, these are great resources. However, if you are the average tourist, it is not likely you will be diving on shipwrecks. So how can you see your own sunken ship?

 

Tarpon Springs Sunken Ship

Tarpon Springs (7)This local secret turns out to be in Tarpon Springs. Tarpons Springs is a fun, Greek-style tourist destination with enough shops, boat tours, and dining to keep any visitor happy. Located on the Anclote River, Tarpon Springs is known for its Sponge Docks, where the catch of the day is sponges. Little known to most of those walking the docks is that Tarpon Springs has its own sunken ship that you can see. Protruding from the waters of the Anclote River, you can catch a glimpse of part of this ship, identified by the pitch of its mast and derricks. Look for it midway down the docks. If you are lucky enough to take a boat tour past this ship wreck, the guide will surely tell you all about it, and you will get a close up view of this modern sunken ship.

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Spartan Race coming to Tampa Bay

2014 Special Ops Spartan Race Is Coming to Tampa Bay

Fun and Suffering for Racers at Tampa Bay Spartan Race

Spartan RacesI was recently introduced to the Spartan Race concept when I went digging to find out more about the upcoming Special Ops Spartan Sprint coming to Tampa Bay in February. You can watch the fun videos at the Spartan Races FAQ page. The 2014 Spartan Sprint will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, on February 15th. The videos make it look like a lot of fun. They also make it look really hard! Plenty of couch-bound folks consider 4 miles a challenge. The Spartan Race contestants do a whole lot more than just jog that distance. A gauntlet of challenging barriers are put on the course of this race. With brutal climbing and crawling obstacles, and plenty of mud and dirt, I suppose you would wear clothing for this race that you were prepared to throw away afterward. You will find me in the bleachers. However, if you think you have what it takes, then sign up for the Special Ops Spartan Race, and put yourself to the test.

 

Cash Prizes for Tampa Bay Special Ops Spartan Sprinters

Spartan Races Tampa BayCash prizes are awarded to the winners of the Special Ops Spartan Sprint.  Cash prizes will be given to the top 3 male and female winners of the elite heat, $2000, $1000, and $750, respectively, courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union. However, simply the finishing the race is an accomplishment for many. Each participant who completes the race will receive a Special Ops Spartan Sprint Medal. While the weather in February cannot be predicted yet, the Spartan Races are not really weather dependent. Overcoming adversity is the whole idea. So rain or shine, cool or hot, you can expect a good show at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. If you enjoy unique sporting events, we will see you there. The Special Ops Spartan Sprint is free for spectators!

 

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Giant fish kite at Treasure island Kite Festival

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

January 2014 Treasure Island Kite Festival

Trick kite at the Treasure Island Kite FestivalThe Treasure Island Kite Festival returned to the Central Gulf Coast Shores the weekend of January 18th and 19th. The skies were a clear blue color, which created a fantastic backdrop for the multicolored kites flying above the sands of Treasure Island Beach. The temperatures were cool for Florida, with a brisk wind, but as far as kite flying weather, it was fantastic. The crowd that turned out was large, lining the sidewalks and filling the area restaurants.

 

Multitude of Designs at Treasure Island Kite Festival

Giant Octopus Kite at Treasure Island Kite FestivalThe variations of kites in the skies over Treasure Island Beach were amazing. The king of the show was a giant octopus kite, larger than the others many times over. Other interesting kite designs were a giant crab, an Asian-style fish, a giant cat, a blow fish, an alligator, and a fish that looked like Nemo from Finding Nemo. Other favorites where twirling tubes, spinning disks, and a host of trick kites. Something entertaining was flying against the blue skies in every direction.

 

Kite Flying Competitions at the Treasure Island Kite Festival

Group kite flying at Treasure Island Kite FestivalThroughout the Treasure Island Kite Festival weekend, a number of competitions were held. While we walked the beach on Saturday, we watched kite masters fly their kites to match the rhythm of music. At another location, a team was practicing synchronized kite flying, with seven people following the directions of a single director. Their precision maneuvers were visible from across the beach, standing out from the other, more stationary kites.

 

The Treasure Island Kite Festival Will Return

Treasure Island Kite FestivalIf you missed the Treasure Island Kite Festival this time around, you can be sure that it will be back. With happy spectators –and happy local merchants –the kite festival certainly looked like a success. The broad stretches of sand at Treasure Island are prefect for a large show like this one, as well as providing perfect wind conditions for kite flying. Look for the festival again next year. After enjoying the 2014 Treasure Island Kite Festival, we will be sure to make a return visit in 2015.

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Florida deer at sunset

Sunset Deer Sightings

Gulf Coast Local Secret #15

Large Deer Population in Florida

Florida deerFlorida rarely drops below 50 degrees in the winter, making it a great place for wildlife. While this attracts species that don’t tolerate cold easily, it also makes a perfect environment for just about everything else. Florida has a thriving deer population. While it might seem difficult to see deer in an area as populated as Tampa Bay, you might be surprised.

 

Where to See Deer Every Night

Florida deerDeer sightings on a nightly basis can be almost guaranteed for our local secret #15. Well-known by locals, Chesnut Park is a great place to visit any time of the day. The park has endless picnic spots, more hiking trails than most other parks, and has lakefront access and a boat ramp onto Lake Tarpon. In addition to the possibility of alligator sightings, you can also see the local deer population. The park is home to dozens (if not more) of deer which come out of their hiding places in the forest when the sun goes down. The park closes officially after sunset but you still have time to watch the deer come out. Keep your eyes sharp toward the edge of the forest. The baseball field is one of favorite sunset hangouts. Try this park out -it’s a great place to visit –and then wait for the sun to set. You should get to see quite a few deer.

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