Tag Archives: Clearwater Beach

Gulf Coast artificial reefs

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Pinellas County Artificial Reefs

coral on reefLittle known to most tourists at Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach and the various tourists stops of the Central Gulf Coast are a series of artificial reefs located just off the coast. The reefs vary in distance from the shore, some being only a few hundred yards out while others are as far as 38 miles out in deeper waters. The artificial reef program was started in 1975, growing to the present day total of 42 sites. Most of the reefs, 29 of them, are close to shore. These inshore reefs were set down to help with beach replenishments. After sands were taken from the seafloor to help bolster area beaches between Sand Key and Treasure Island, the reefs were set down at areas where sands were removed. The 13 offshore reef sites are in deeper water and consists of larger materials than those close to the shore.

Both types of reef share a similar life cycle, growing barnacles and other sedentary sea life within just weeks. Fish arrive soon after to feed on these stationary creatures. Coral completes the reef community around the one year mark.

The purpose of the artificial reef program is to enhance fishing opportunities and to provide diving sites for scuba enthusiasts. The reefs also help to disperse the recreation areas of the Florida Gulf Coast, a very popular vacation destination. The increased number of diving and fishing sites offer visitors and locals greater opportunities for sport and play.

 

Materials for Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Deploying artificial reefsThe materials for the Gulf Coast artificial reefs ranges from the unique to the mundane. Many of the reefs are constructed from relatively simple items, such as pipes, pylons, and deconstructed bridge debris. Other sites contain treasures such as sunken barges, sunken ships, and even obsolete military tanks from WWII. The reef building materials have to pass an inspection for hazardous wastes and have to be relatively large in size. While it might seem that builders would simply drop the items into the water and be done, it is not so. The reefs are constructed with careful planning, intentionally creating openings that differ in size. The construction technique creates habitats for the various species that will arrive as the reef matures.

Diving on Florida Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Scuba diving on artificial reefsWhen we questioned divers regarding the artificial reefs of the Gulf Coast we were surprised to find out that even the simple reefs created from construction debris were popular dive sites. It seems that the attraction of many reefs is the sea life that surrounds them. Grouper, sting rays, eels, sea horses, sharks, coral, sponges and more find homes on and around the reefs. Lucky divers might also encounter sea turtles or dolphins. The visibility changes with Gulf conditions, giving views through 15 to 60 feet of water. Unique dive sites include the large barges and fishing boats, which divers can enter. The WWII tanks are also a popular dive.

Fishing Florida Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Fishing Gulf of MexicoThe other inspiration for the artificial reefs on Gulf Coast of Florida is to increase the fishing opportunities. The reefs not only provide good fishing destinations, they also create habitats for bait fish. Fishermen start at the reefs, casting their bait nets to scoop up the smaller fish. They can move on from there or stay, trying for the larger fish that troll the artificial structures below. Some of the more popular fish to catch are grouper, snapper, amberjack, and Spanish mackerel. The reefs closer to the shore are all marked for fishing on the maps, while those in deeper water are designated for mixed use. With the overwhelming popularity of fishing along the Gulf Coast, these new habitats provide additional locations for local fishermen and tourists to cast their lines.

How to Locate Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Artificial reefsModern technology makes finding the reefs quite easy. Each one is marked on the official maps, with GPS coordinates included. The intra-coastal waterways of the Florida Gulf Coast are shallow, creating a need for depth finders aboard pretty much every boat that plies the local waters of Clearwater Harbor, Boca Ciega Bay, or St Joseph Sound. Purchasing a GPS to have on board your boat is a good idea, although the more expensive devices come with both depth sonar and GPS. The reef program is no longer creating new sites but those that already exist are being maintained. Florida artificial reefsThat includes, in a few locations, buoys to mark them. If you are not interested in trying to find the reefs on your own, try a local dive shop. Guided tours will take out to the reefs and allow you to dive. Local fishing charters will know where the reefs are, naturally. It is their job to give the best fishing experience possible, which is an easy task on the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 Enjoying the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Fishing artificial reefsThe artificial reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast are there for the enjoyment of fishing and diving, creating locations that would otherwise be unavailable. The artificial reefs supply an added bonus for an area already full of recreation opportunities. With Tampa Bay, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg being very popular Florida vacation destinations, it makes sense to expand the resources. If you are looking to take your Gulf Coast vacation a step further, why not give them a try?

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

How Big is your Vacation Activity Zone?

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

 

white beach sand

Remarkable Origin of Clearwater Beach Sand

Geological History of Florida

Florida Below Sea Level

Clearwater BeachWhile walking the beaches in Florida, you might take a moment to reflect on how the beaches came to be. Underneath the beautiful soft sands is a marine legacy that reaches back millions of years.

Florida has spent much of its long life below sea level. Millions of years ago, North America and South America had not yet connected and the Gulf of Mexico did not yet exist in its present form. Florida was merely sea floor, part of the continental shelf of North America.

Florida Rising out of the Sea

Florida bayouSea animals lived and died over millions of years, depositing their skeletons and shells on the sea floor. That happened in such volume that the marine animal remains became a sediment that eventually formed into limestone. The limestone build up became the foundation for more sediment, bringing Florida closer to the surface. The sea level fluctuated with the coming and going of the ice ages. Each time Florida rose above the water, only to be covered by the seas once again.

Prehistoric Florida

Giant slothsWhen the land was above sea level, vegetation and land animals moved into Florida. The animal life of early Florida included elephants, sloths, saber-tooth tigers, and giant beavers. When North America and South America joined together, the Gulf of Mexico was born.

Modern Florida

beach sandFlorida subsequently rose and fell beneath the waves until, finally, portions of it remained above sea level permanently. The Florida we recognize formed at the end of the last ice age when sea levels matched those we know in present time.

 

Origin of Clearwater Beach and Gulf Coast Sands

Quartz stoneThe powdery white sands of Clearwater Beach are part of the legacy of Florida. With the talk of sea beds and millions of sea creatures creating a limestone bedrock, it might seem logical to assume that the seashore was created from fragmented shells. In fact, the soft, white sands of Clearwater Beach came from the Appalachian Mountains. Clearwater Beach sands are made of quarts rather than sea shells. This light colored rock is responsible for the brilliant color of Gulf Coast sands. In ages past, rivers that are now long gone, carried the eroded stone of the Appalachian Mountains southward. Appelachian MountainsGeologists have said that the mountain range was once as tall and jagged as the Rocky Mountains. The Appalachians are actually a much older mountain chain, eroded, over the millennia, into rolling peaks at lower elevations. All that rock traveled southward, ground eventually into tiny grains. Those beautiful bits of stone now form the sands of Clearwater Beach and the Florida Gulf Coast on which we walk today.

Florida Gulf Coast

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

A Beach Less Traveled

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

The Best Beaches in America

 

references: http://academic.emporia.edu/aberjame/student/barr1/report.htm    https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pangaea    http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/lessons/land/land.htm    http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/geohist-2.htm     http://practical-microscopy.blogspot.com/2011/06/where-is-best-beach-sand.html

 

Sea turtle

Sea Turtles of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Sea Turtles

Out of the 7 species of sea turtles on Earth, 4 of them lay their eggs on the Florida coastline.

    • Loggerhead sea turtleLoggerheads are large sea turtles that are named for their wide heads, sometimes 10 inches in width. Loggerheads are the most common turtle to nest on the beaches of Florida.

 

    • Green sea turtleGreen Turtles are known for their beautiful green shells, that are also, unfortunately, one of the reasons the species was hunted into an endangered condition. They range in warm waters across the globe and, when nesting in Florida, usually lay their eggs on the east coast.

 

    • Leatherback sea turtleLeatherback turtles are the largest of the sea turtles, some weighing as much as a compact car. The trademark shell is leathery with ridges running from front to back. These turtles can inhabit colder waters and dive over 3000 feet deep. They range worldwide, a small number of them laying eggs on Florida beaches.

 

  • Hawksbill sea turtleHawksbill turtles are named for their beak-like mouths. This turtle uses its sharp beak for eating sponges and invertebrates, common species in the Gulf of Mexico. In Florida, these turtles most often lay eggs on the east coast between Canaveral National Sea Shore and the Florida Keys.

Kemp’s Ridley is a rare turtle that swims the Gulf of Mexico but nests on the Gulf Coast shores of Mexico. Two other species of sea turtle are the Flatback, which lives in the waters north of Australia, and the Olive Ridley, which ranges in equatorial waters.

 

Turtle Hatching Season on the Florida Gulf Coast

Loggerhead turtle hatchlingsTurtle hatching season on the Florida Gulf Coast lasts from May through October. On the east coast of Florida, the season starts as early as March. While four species nest in Florida, only loggerhead turtles nest commonly on the Gulf Coast. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, turtles create 3-8 nests per kilometer on the shores of Pinellas County, where you will find Clearwater Beach and other popular destinations like St Pete Beach, Treasure Island Beach, Madeira Beach and Indian Shores. While Pinellas County is not the most prolific site for turtle nests, you should still keep an eye out for them while you are here.

 

Turtle Egg Laying on the Beach

Sea turtle eggsSea turtles do not return to land once hatched. Only the females will pull themselves ashore to lay eggs. The life cycle of sea turtles keeps the young ones in shallows or in areas with growth where they can take cover. When larger they move to the shallows, and then later, into open water. Loggerheads live approximately 50 years but do not begin mating until they are around 35 years old. Females will mate every two to three years, laying an average of four nests. Florida has groups that help to protect the sea turtles, volunteers locating nests and marking them off so that beach-goers to not dig or set up umbrellas or towels on top of the nests. When walking the beach, be on the lookout for stakes bearing orange or pink tape. Disturbing the nests is illegal. Many nests have cameras trained on them to deter anyone from vandalizing them.

 

Turtle Season Guidelines for Beach-goers

Sea turtle nestYou can play your part in protecting the sea turtles. Always leave the nests sites alone. If you believe you have found an unmarked sea turtle nest, be sure to contact authorities so that the nest can be protected. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies, will take your calls if you find a nest in Pinellas County, (727-441-1790). Other than human tampering and predation by animals, lights are the biggest threat to sea turtle hatchlings. Hatched sea turtles aim toward the greatest light, which, without beach housing, would be the moon reflecting off the sea. That is why many locations mandate that beach houses and businesses keep their shades drawn during turtle hatching season. You should not shine flashlights or other types of lights onto hatching sea turtles. Loggerhead sea turtleAdditionally, if you come upon an adult sea turtle coming ashore to lay eggs, keep your distance. If the turtle is frightened, it may return to the sea, in which case, it could drop its eggs into the open water where they will not survive. Hunting and loss of habitat has greatly reduced the sea turtle population. If you are given the opportunity, do your best to help them survive.

 

Local Turtle Trivia

Turtle sculptureHere in Pinellas County, home to Clearwater Beach, we love our turtles.

  • The Gopher Tortoise can be seen here in open flat lands like Honeymoon Island State Park.
  • Another local turtle, living in our freshwater ponds and lakes, is called a cooter. Cooter’s Restaurant & Bar, found right here on Clearwater Beach, takes its name from this turtle.
  • Up in Tarpon Springs, home to the famous Sponge Docks, you will find a fun pub called Lagerheadz,which is named after our local loggerhead turtles.

 

Other posts  you might enjoy:

Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Fishing Charter Hotspots on the Florida Gulf Coast

Refences:

http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/fl-sea-turtles/species/   http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/fl-sea-turtles/life-history/   http://www.seefloridaonline.com/turtles/   http://www.conserveturtles.org/florida.php?page=nestingseason   http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/articles/2013/freelance-articles-2013/sea-turtle-walks-bonnie-gross.html   http://www.seaturtle.org/faq/answers/6.shtml   http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/nesting/loggerhead/   http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Amphibians-Reptiles-and-Fish/Sea-Turtles/Loggerhead-Sea-Turtle.aspx

Ingraving of native Floridians

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast Native American Indian Mounds

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

 

Native American Mound Builders of Florida

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

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

 

Where to Find Mound Sites

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

Safety Harbor MoundJungle Prada Park

Philippe Park

Pinellas Point Temple Mound

Anclote River Park

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

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Curious History of Philippe Park

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

 

References:

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

Winter the dolphin

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

A Day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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

 

Harborview Center

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

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Ferry

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

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Features

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

Winter and Hope

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

Rescued Sea Life

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

 

Sealife Safari Boat Tour

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

 

Perfect Family Outing at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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

Dolphin Tale I Trailer

Dolphin Tale II Trailer


Other posts you might enjoy:

Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

beach road

To Drive or Not to Drive on your Clearwater Beach Vacation

Facts Travelers Need to Know

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

 

Tampa International Airport

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

 

To Walk or Drive on your Clearwater Beach Vacation

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

 

Jolly Trolley

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

 

Day Tripper

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

 

Beach Taxi Services

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

 

Getting around your Beach Town

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

Clearwater Beach

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

Beach Bar

5 Favorite Party Spots at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater BeachFavorite Party Spots on Clearwater Beach

Finding a fun place to let your hair down at night on Clearwater Beach is not really that difficult. Bright lights and lively music give these locations away. However, to make our list worthwhile, we have include why each of our five favorites have made the list.

 

Tropix Island Tiki Bar

Clearwater PassTropix is a bar located along the Clearwater Pass, that strip of water connecting the Gulf of Mexico to Clearwater Harbor. This bar includes access to its own tiny strip of beach. It is located at the back of the Quality Beach Resort of well-known Quality Hotel. This made our 5 favorite party places list for being laid back and comfortable. It is an open-air bar, right next to the pool, with very nice views of the water.

 

Cooters Clearwater BeachCooters of Clearwater Beach

Cooters is the next Clearwater Beach party location on our list. It made our list because of its ability to seamlessly blend a fun hang out spot that serves alcohol with a great family restaurant. The staff are friendly and laid back. It is located on Poinsettia Avenue that runs parallel to Mandalay Avenue. While it is not on the sands of the beach, it succeeds quite well at being a very beachy establishment. It is also one of the hosts of the yearly Stone Crab Festival at Clearwater Beach.

 

Crabby’s Bar and Grill

Crabbys Bar and GrillAnyone who knows Clearwater Beach knows the name Crabby Bill. A restaurant by that name sits at the central beach roundabout. However, the party location of which we speak is on the South Beach portion of the strip and is called Crabby’s Bar and Grill. This two story bar is flashy and bright, yet homey. It has fantastic views of the beach and immediate access to and from the popular Beach Walk that runs along the sands of Clearwater Beach. Party with friends and watch the sunset from this quintessential beach bar.

 

Brown Boxer

Brown Boxer Clearwater BeachThe Brown Boxer is located on the north end of the business district of Clearwater Beach on Mandalay Avenue. It has made our list of beach bar favorites because of two very important words, Happy Hour. Don’t let the terminology fool you however, because the happy hour specials at the Brown Boxer go from 11Am to 7PM. That’s quite an hour. Enjoy discounted drinks and maintain your center by eating happy hour chicken wings. You can even lean over the railing and wave at us here at the Florida Beach Rentals office. As a disclaimer, there is no guarantee that we will see you waving.

 

Shephards on Clearwater Beach

Shephards of Clearwater BeachAnyone who has strolled or driven Clearwater Beach after dark has surely discovered Shephards. Their rocking live music is a well-known beacon to beach bar party seekers. Have your smile ready at the door, as well as a high tolerance for ear thumping tunes and wild times. Shephards is an establishment for those who take their beach bars seriously. It has two options for night-clubing as well as a restaurant. Shephard’s Tiki Beach Bar has a waterfront deck facing Clearwater Pass.

 

 

Note Regarding Coconut Cove

Florida Beach Rentals manages vacation rentals at the Coconut Cove, sister hotel to the Quality Beach Resort mentioned above. That means that anyone staying in Coconut Cove has access to the beach and swimming pool at the Tropix Island Tiki Bar.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

The Amazing Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival at Clearwater Beach

9 Need to Know Differences between Hotels and Vacation Rentals

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

 

Clearwater Beach crosswalk

Walking the Streets of Clearwater Beach

Walking the Tourist District of Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach causewayOne of the great things about Clearwater Beach is that you might be able to spend the length of your vacation without using your car. Your on-foot beach vacation can include going to the beach, dining, nights at Pier 60, all the shopping Clearwater Beach has to offer, and even some famous area attractions. The entire island is only three and a half miles long and much of that is residential. The tourism area of Clearwater Beach is approximately 1.5 miles long.  Your walk could be much shorter, depending on where you start. From the central roundabout, the tourist district reaches half a mile north and one mile south. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin, is a one mile walk. If you enjoy walking, or don’t want to bother with your car, then you will surely enjoy a vacation at Clearwater Beach.

 

Where to Walk on Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Mandalay AveAt the north end of the tourist district of Clearwater Beach you will find a perfect area to lie out on beach right alongside of some great restaurants. Just south of that you will encounter the shopping area of Mandalay Avenue, which is almost like a large outdoor mall. Of course, this ‘mall’ has a road down its center! Lining both sides of the street are clothing, souvenir and surf shops, as well as a very good selection of restaurants ranging from simple diners up to the high-end hotel resort restaurant inside the Sandpearl Hotel. There are also a number of very nice bistros. At the center of the beach is the roundabout, Pier 60, and the Clearwater Beach Marina. Pier 60 is the home of the nightly Sunset Festival. At the marina you can catch a fishing charter, a harbor cruise, sunset cruise, dinner cruise, dolphin sighting tour, or you can rent a watercraft to tour the harbor on your own. Clearwater BeachThe south end of Clearwater Beach has the long, beachfront walkway known as Beach Walk. There you will find more great restaurants, bars, and another hotel resort restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa. South Beach district of Clearwater Beach also has miniature golf, bike rentals, and the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, where you can get more information on the area. All told, it would take longer than most vacations last to visit each gift shop and dine at every restaurant on Clearwater Beach.

 

Clearwater Beach Pedestrian Safety

Clearwater BeachWhile walking the beaches and sidewalks of Clearwater Beach, visiting the shops, and dining at the many restaurants, you will want to keep your mind on safety. At times, the pedestrian traffic at the beach can be quite heavy. While that contributes to a fun beach resort atmosphere, it also means that pedestrians and motorists need to be mindful of one another.

Crosswalks and Traffic Lights at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater BeachWhile the freedom of walking the fun tourist district of Clearwater Beach cannot be denied, it should not be done carelessly. Both motorists and pedestrians have rules for safety to follow. First, and most importantly, are the rules for motorists. Driving more than 25 miles an hour at the beach is flirting with disaster. While not getting a ticket is one good reason not to speed, the real purpose is to protect people on foot.

Stop for Pedestrians at Clearwater Beach Crosswalks

Clearwater BeachMotorists visiting Clearwater Beach need to know that stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks is the law in Florida. That means if you see a pedestrian on the sidewalk waiting to cross the road, you need to stop your car and let them go. Not doing so can get you a ticket, which is a vacation memory you don’t need. Responsibility also lies with pedestrians. Be careful at crosswalks. Not everyone knows they need to stop! Wait until you are sure the motorist knows you are crossing and has stopped.

Clearwater Beach Crossing Lights

Clearwater Beach crosswalkClearwater Beach has a crossing light for pedestrians. Cars need to stop for these lights but so do the pedestrians! Crossing against this light on foot can be dangerous. The same is true for the standard crossings at intersections with traffic lights. While it might seem safe to cross against the signal, the curves of the road and the landscaping at Clearwater Beach can often hide automobiles from view. Cars can surprise you more often than you would imagine while you are right in the middle of the street.

Walking and Driving Clearwater Beach at Night

Clearwater Beach at nightNighttime at Clearwater Beach is a time for even greater caution. Fun on vacation can include getting a little tipsy for some. At night, more so than in the daytime, people will cross the road at random spots. This is jay walking and should not be done, but since it is common, motorists need to keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians. You should slow and stop your car for someone crossing the street at Clearwater Beach no matter where they cross.

Rules of the Road at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach roundaboutWhile navigating Clearwater Beach, realize that the roundabout is meant for cars. While you will see something that looks like a sidewalk out at the center of the roundabout, it is not meant for pedestrians. Crossing into the center of this traffic circle is not safe on foot and should not be done. You should also know that at the small bridge leading into Clearwater Beach, you will find a pedestrian underpass that provides a very safe crossing. Motorists should always give bicyclists three feet of space when passing them. It is the law to do so in Florida. For a safe ride along the causeway to Clearwater Beach, use the bike path that runs along the waterfront.

Walking the Streets of Clearwater Beach

Walking the streets of Clearwater Beach is fun. The strolls up and down the gift shops and restaurants can create some fond vacation memories. Just stay alert and know the rules, and your journey through the treasures of Clearwater Beach will be one to remember.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

Secret Caladesi Island Shell Tree

 

 

Honeymoon Island Florida

Beach Walk of a Lifetime at Honeymoon Island State Park

Setting out for the North End of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkAnywhere you go at Honeymoon Island State Park can be a fantastic experience. The island has multiple areas that offer great entertainment for those arriving from near or far. You can visit the main beach area, the nature trail, nature center, or the dog beach. However, if you want to enjoy a beach walk you will remember for a lifetime, then set the north end of Honeymoon Island as your destination.

The park entrance fee is 4 to 6 dollars, depending on the size of your party, and the parking lots are large, with a surprising capacity. Your destination, however, is the north end of the beach. Honeymoon Island State ParkYou will drive past the sign for the Caladesi Island Ferry and the Dog Beach. You will ignore the concession stand and the area of the beach most popular for sunbathing and swimming. You will drive past the nature center and the nature trail. At the very end,, the road will loop back and, after you drive around the 180 degree turn, you will find the entrance to the parking lot you seek.

Here you will find fencing marking off an area of beach eroded by storms and, to the north, you will see the brush of the island. With your hat on and your sun lotion applied, you are ready to go on your Honeymoon Island beach walk.

 

Preparing for a Walk on Honeymoon Island Beach

Honeymoon Island State ParkThe beach walk is long, taking as much as two hours to reach the tip of the island, so here are some tips to help you better enjoy the experience. Take along a bag for collecting shells. A net-style sack is best since plastic is uncomfortable to carry on warm days. If your skin is sensitive to the sun, you might want to wear long sleeves. The sun here can be hot, and in the summer, quite intense. For those who are accustomed to sunshine, sun tan lotion is still recommended. With the sea breeze and the bright rays, you’ll want to be protected on this wonderful, long walk on the beach. A sun hat is the other item at the top of the list. Leave your sunbathing for another day and enjoy this stroll in as much comfort as you can. The other tip for comfort and safety is checking on the weather. In the summer, if the rain chances are over 20 to 30 percent, then a brief seasonal storm is likely to occur along the coast. Honeymoon Island State ParkThese storms build toward late afternoon and then burst with heavy showers and lightning. They come and go quickly but it is a good idea not to be on the beach when they occur. If you see tall clouds building over the Gulf or inland, it is a good idea to turn back. This beach walk is best planned for the morning. In normal conditions, you can walk all the way to the tip, explore your surroundings, and then make the return stroll without having any worries about the weather.

 

Starting your Beach Walk on Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkThe start of your walk to the north end of Honeymoon Island begins at the parking lot where you will see a trail winding through the bushes and palm trees. Immediately beyond, you will see a small body of water to your right, which is the southernmost tip of Pelican Cove. Of course, to your left, is the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Honeymoon Island State ParkThe beach here, depending on conditions and season, is often gravely with very little sand. Don’t get discouraged though, this beach has many faces, and the best is yet to come. Head north from here, keeping between the island grasses and the water. As you go, the beach will change, and you will be treated to many sights and sounds of Honeymoon Island.

 

Birds of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkOne of the fantastic sights on your Honeymoon Island beach walk is the multitude of birds that live on the island. Great blue herons, white egrets, sand pipers, pelicans, black skimmers, gulls, ospreys, terns and many more species of birds occupy the shoreline and the island’s interior. You will see signs as you walk that inform you that the interior of the island is a bird sanctuary. Honeymoon Island State ParkIt is easy to agree with this code, because aside from protecting the birds, the beach sands make a far better terrain for walking than the brush-filled interior. You can find to identify birds at various shops, and perhaps at the Honeymoon Island nature center. The best charts are laminated so that they last longer. It can be fun to try and identify the birds you are viewing while you continue along the coast into the soft white sands of Honeymoon Island.

 

Beach Combing on Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkBeach combing the shores of Honeymoon Island is a favorite activity. The shoreline changes while you go along, providing many different surfaces where you can search for treasures. The eroded section where you begin the northward walk is one of the best for the more unusual items, such as rocks with interesting patterns. Farther north, where fewer people visit, you will encounter more of the undisturbed items. Honeymoon Island State ParkHere you might find complete clam or snail shells, as well as whole sand dollars. On certain days, the beachcombing can be so good, it might put you in danger of not reaching your destination, if you indeed intend to make it to the northern tip of the island. You might have to choose which of the pleasures of Honeymoon Island you want to indulge in most.

 

Remarkable Sands of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkThe Gulf Coast of Florida is known for its remarkable white sands and Honeymoon Island beaches are no exception. While some parts of the shore might be strewn with gravely, white, coral stone, others are covered with the soft white sands that make the Florida Gulf Coast famous. Walking along the waterline will give you ample opportunity to enjoy the changes on this natural section of beach. The farther north you go, better the sands become. Be sure to look around while you go, the natural shapes the sand takes can be quite interesting. If you have the fortitude to keep going, you will eventually find yourself at the northernmost tip which might find to be the very best part of Honeymoon Island.

 

Beach Walk of a Lifetime

Honeymoon Island State ParkAt the northern tip of Honeymoon Island you will find beach paradise. Take a moment to sit and take in the scenery. You will see the other arm of Honeymoon Island to your southeast, across the waters of Pelican Cove. Boats will surely be out on the Gulf of Mexico. You will see the mainland to your east and a scattering of more barrier islands to your north. For an added treat, closely observe the sands surrounding you. You will see that the wind has sculpted them into shapes courser sands cannot hold. You will also see footprints of birds, perfectly preserved in the tiny grains. The waters and breezes of the Gulf of Mexico move the sands of the island north. That means that the softest, lightest grains of sands find their way to that part of the island. Honeymoon Island State ParkMake sure you take off your shoes –if you are still wearing them. Sink your toes into the powdery sands for an experience like no other. The shallow waters, with white sands just beneath, will glow a beautiful turquoise in the sunlight, a perfect place to dip your feet. Once you have had your fill, it will be time to turn back and walk the beach south once again. You will then be among those who know why the walk north on Honeymoon Island is a beach walk of a lifetime.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

 

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

 

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