Tag Archives: Florida

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

 

Strange Florida news

Weird Florida News Right Here in Clearwater

Weird Florida News

Florida map of Pinellas CountySometimes a news story comes out of the state of Florida that sounds a little odd. Strange news from Florida includes the legends of the chupacabra and the skunk ape monsters, the house made of bowling balls, the drive-in church, and more. Then of course comes the crazier variety like the woman arrested after throwing her husband’s chicken into the pool, or the man who attempted robbery with a tomahawk.  Yes, we citizens of Florida smirk at these too. However, a while back we noticed our own local slice of bizarre Florida, not all that far from Clearwater Beach. While we won’t be disclosing the exact location, we took pictures of the strange occurrence we found.

 

Local Piece of Weird Florida

Guinea Pig and Marsh RabbitA common variety of rabbit living in Florida is the marsh rabbit. These rabbits are most often seen at dusk, and almost always next to areas of tall grass, where they like to make their homes. They frequent marshes where the abundant undergrowth makes perfect homes for them. Within the stiff grasses that grow along the water, the small-eared rabbits create pathways that look a lot like tunnels. While there is nothing surprising about finding marsh rabbits in Florida, this time we found something else. Living in perfect harmony with the wild rabbits was a Guinea pig! He huddled next to the rabbits and foraged alongside of them. The rabbits had clearly accepted the Guinea pig as part of their community.

The animal was well-known to local residents who said the Guinea pig had lived among the rabbits for quite some time. Apparently, each evening at sunset, when the rabbits come out to forage, the small Clearwater, Florida resident draws a small crowd of onlookers.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Where the Heck is Pinellas County and Why Should I Care?

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Gulf Coast Local Big Bird Secret

 

Perfect vacation rental

9 Need to Know Differences between Hotels and Vacation Rentals

Towels and Linens at a Vacation Rental VS a Hotel

Vacation rental king size bedHotels and vacation rentals handle linens and towels very differently. In a hotel, you can get new towels and linens either every day or on the schedule you request. At a vacation rental, your towels and linens are there for the duration of your stay. The perk you will usually get at a vacation rental is an in-unit washer and dryer for your laundry. That is great for week long stays where you are visiting the beach often. It also means, however, that you will be washing the sheets and towels on your own. While an on-call towel service is nice, so is having your own washer and dryer for your one week to one month vacation accommodations.

 

Daily Cleaning at a Hotel Vs a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach hotelsHotels will clean your room each day if you let them, while vacation rentals leave that task up to you. The pros and cons are pretty easy to imagine. With a hotel, you get the cleaning done for you. In a vacation rental, you do the cleanup, but, in exchange, the space is yours without interruptions. That means leaving your personal belongings lying around in a vacation rental might feel more comfortable.

 

Staffing at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation hotelYour vacation rental staff is always willing to help you out but they are not onsite like a hotel. Help in a hotel is usually right downstairs in the lobby. For a vacation rental, the staff is in an office somewhere in town. While vacation rental offices (like ours) will respond to your call 24hrs a day, it might require a longer period of time to arrive than a hotel, based simply on distance. You might want to choose your vacation rental office based on office location, by the way. A remote office will be less capable of helping you than one closer by.

 

Hotel Check in VS Vacation Rental Deposit

Check in for vacation rentalVacation rentals and hotels operate differently regarding check in. Hotels will take your credit card number to secure your reservation and you pay for your room when you arrive. Vacation rentals most often take a deposit at the time of booking and the remainder upon arrival. This is where researching your vacation rental company becomes a good idea. Are they members of BBB? Are there reviews of at least some of their properties? See our blog on vacation rental scams for more information on how you might protect yourself.

 

Hotel Common Spaces VS Vacation Rental Properties

vacation rental with poolHotel and vacation rental grounds differ considerably. A hotel will always have common areas such as the lobby, rec rooms, restaurants, pools, and so on. A vacation home or vacation cottage, on the other hand, will often have yards that are yours to use. Rather than a balcony, many vacation homes will have patios. If you enjoy luxury accommodations and settings, a hotel is probably your style. If you are looking for spaces to call your own, a vacation home or vacation cottage might be the way to go.

 

Noise and Privacy in a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation rental spacesIt is easy to guess who comes out on top when comparing noise and privacy between hotels and vacation rentals. Despite the numerous pleasures of a hotel, they are meeting places for larger numbers of people than you will encounter at private residences. This is true even with beach vacation condos. The choice here is between a more dynamic hotel atmosphere and the quieter spaces of a vacation rental.

 

Hotel and Vacation Rental Age Requirements

Clearwater BeachThe difference in age requirements between vacation rentals and hotels is slight, but very important. While most hotels will allow 21 and up to book, the age is higher in most vacation rentals. Our requirement is 25 and up. Anyone who has gone to Florida during Spring Break will understand why that rule is in place. We do apologize to our college friends.

 

Hotel Dining VS Vacation Rental Dining

vacation diningMealtime at a vacation rental is a very different affair than at a hotel. Hotels rooms without kitchenettes offer very few options outside of ordering a pizza or going out on the town. At a vacation rental, how you eat your meals is completely up to you. Vacation rental properties will always have some sort of kitchen, even if it is a kitchenette. Vacation homes and vacation condos will usually have full kitchens, just like at home. Leave the pots and pans at home as these kitchens are stocked with at least the standard complement of kitchenware. If you want a kitchen, look for hotels with condo-style suites, or book your vacation in a vacation home, cottage, or condo.

 

Length of Stay at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach sunsetHotels will accept accommodations for one night while vacation rentals are intended for longer stays. Ordinarily, a vacation rental will limit the minimum stay to seven days, while some condominium associations will hold vacation rentals to one month minimums only. The plus side to this, of course, is that longer-term vacation rentals will often prove to be the better value for per night costs.

 

Other blog posts you might enjoy:

What Is a Beach Villa?

Regatta

How to Prepare for Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

 

 

Caladesi Island

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Barrier Islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Off the Pinellas County shorelines of the Florida Gulf Coast are a series of barrier islands. It is very likely you know the names of some of them, like Clearwater Beach, or Honeymoon Island. We’ll break them all down for you, so that you too can be an expert on the barrier islands of our area. We’ll start in the north off the shores of Tarpon Springs and head south past Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, St Petersburg, and beyond. Once you are a barrier island expert, you will be able plan your Gulf Coast vacation trek up and down our shoreline with much keener insight.

 

Anclote Key

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is directly off shore of the mouth of the Anclote River, the waterway that runs past the tourist destination of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. You can depart from those docks on a tour boat that will take you to Anclote Key, where you can walk the shores, view the historic light house, or just spend some time on one of Florida’s best natural beaches. You will find lots of driftwood and seashells on this island, since it can only be reached by boat.

 

Three Rooker Island

Gulf Coast ShoresThree Rooker Island is one step up from a very large sand bar. This tiny barrier island is a favorite hangout spot for boaters. You can only get to the bar by boat and anchoring off its shores is a great way to spend the afternoon. The shores of the small key are the soft, powdery white sand for which the Florida Gulf Coast is famous. Swim from your boat or from the shore. On a walk down the beach in ankle deep water you might be able go from one end to the other of the two mile stretch of Three Rooker Island.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island, Florida

Honeymoon Island sunset

Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the most famous of the barrier islands along our coastline. It has long stretches of white sand beaches, a concession stand, lots of parking, a dog beach, nature center, playground, and nature trail. It is also where you catch the ferry to neighboring Caladesi Island to the south. The island is a great place to beachcomb for shells. You can also see nesting ospreys, bald eagles, and great horned owls, or perhaps one of the burrowing gopher tortoises. On a trip to Honeymoon Island you can choose the type of adventure you want to have. In fact, you will have to, because the Honeymoon Island is too large to see all in one day.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island is just north of Clearwater Beach. You can even walk to the island from the south, because a storm some decades ago filled in the opening between the two islands. Of course, you can skip the long walk by taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island. Caladesi Island is known for its pristine white sand beaches. You will feel as if you are in the wilds when you walk along its northern shores. You can also view plenty of Florida birds that use the island for nesting. This famous retreat belongs on your must-see list for your Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Caladesi Island is one of our best.

 

Clearwater Beach Island

Clearwater BeachThe most famous of all the barrier islands along our coast is Clearwater Beach Island. It was formerly known as Tate’s Island, named after a family that lived on the island when the area was first settled. Clearwater Beach became the tourist destination we know today after the bridge was built from the city of Clearwater. Clearwater Beach has more tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at, including the famous Pier 60 nightly sunset festival, and the nearby home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies. With its beautiful white sand beaches and multiple attractions, Clearwater Beach makes a perfect base of operations for a Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Sand Key – Sand Key Beach to Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, Florida

Madeira Beach, Florida

The long barrier islands of Sand Key starts just south of Clearwater Beach. It extends down through some great beach communities until it ends at John’s Pass, which is one of the best tourist destinations in the region. To the south of Sand Key Beach is Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Madeira Beach. The beach communities on Sand Key are some of the calmest of our region of the Gulf Coast, perfect for family vacations. You should definitely check into the many diners along the scenic drive down the length of Sand Key.

 

Treasure Island

Treasure Island BeachTreasure Island has one of the widest swaths of sand on the entire chain of barrier islands. This is a good location to look into local festivals. The beach makes a perfect location for large events, which is exactly what they do on Treasure Island. The bridge heading east from Treasure Island leads into Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg, which is why this is a good location to find restaurants, pubs, and gift shops. Treasure Island is one of the barrier islands along our coast you will want to keep your eye on.

 

Long Key – St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach

Long KeyLong Key is the last of the residential barrier islands on the strip. You will find St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach here. St Pete Beach is one of the more developed tourist districts in the area. You will find plenty of dining and entertainment in the area. It is also a great place for family vacations. Pass A Grille Beach has the distinction of being the most southern beach community on our coast, with plenty of Florida charm.

 

Mullet Key and Shell Key Preserve

Fort Desoto ParkMullet Key is home to famous Fort Desoto Park. The interior waters are shallow and calm, thanks to the islands’ horseshoe shape, making a great place for boating. The park is rich with history, and beautiful white beaches. It is a fantastic destination for a family beach day, complete with shaded picnic areas and shallow wading areas. Shell Key Preserve is just north of Fort Desoto. It is a preserve for local wildlife, especially a large number of local birds, who nest and rear their young there. Shell Key is a great place for boaters and birdwatchers.

 

Egmont Key

Snorkeling FloridaEgmont Key State Park sits at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The lighthouse has been used in times of peace and war since 1858. Ruins of Fort Dade, from the same era as Fort Desoto, can be found on the island. Be aware, however, that access to the southern end of the key is limited because of the shore bird refuge there. The island is reachable only by boat. Once there, you can fish, picnic, swim, hike, or tour the ruins. It one of the most difficult to reach islands listed here, but Egmont Key is definitely worth visiting.

 

Other blog posts you might like:

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Aerial of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island

 

Florida waterways

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Need to Know Info for your Florida Vacation

Florida wildflowerPlanning a Florida vacation? You might want to be able to talk to the natives on their own terms. What terms are we talking about? Florida is known for its greenery and flowers. In fact, the word Florida comes from the Spanish word for flowers or flowery. The way Florida gets its lush plants and flowers is from water. Florida has an abundant level of rainfall as well as a good number of rivers, lakes, and inlets from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. If you want to chat with the local Floridians about the terrain and waterways, here are few words you might want to know.

 

Bayou

Sutherland Bayou, Palm Harbor, FLA slow moving offshoot of a river, lake or other body of water. Often home to volumes of plant life and animals, and having indistinct banks. Often will flow both directions due to ocean tides. You will want to know this word so you don’t accidentally confuse it with the very similar waterway known as a backwater. Nothing puts egg on your face faster than calling some backwater a bayou. And you don’t want to call someone’s bayou a backwater either. Seriously. A bayou will not have much water flow but should take you easily back out to the river or bay to which it is connected. Plenty of them are undeveloped while others have very upscale communities surrounding them.

 

Backwater

Florida backwaterAn out of the way side channel with little flow of water, or an obstructed flow of water. While you might think you’ve found a bayou, you’ll have to look for obstructions, or a lack of water flow that’s cautiously different from the meandering bayou. A general disregard for the waterway in question will also be apparent in the attitude of the locals. Once you realize you are dealing with a backwater, you no longer need to treat the waterway with respect in conversation. Naturally, you might not want to apply that method to anyone you find living on that particular backwater.

 

Watershed

Florida watershedA place for the natural flow of water to go, especially during heavy rains or during the rainy season. They constitute the natural water system leading to lakes, rivers, the ocean, or to below-ground aquifers. Watersheds are maintained by the state to keep water quality high, and to keep the water flowing where it is wanted, rather than collecting in neighborhoods or other developed areas. You can find watersheds marked on local maps in Florida. Many of them overlap with county parks. You might be able to take long walks in the Florida wilds along park trails while within designated watershed areas. If you do so in the rainy season, you will likely find the low-lying areas have filled with water. This might leave favorite walkways in a muddy condition or actually under water.

 

Swamp

Florida swampsA swamp is low, wet, marshy, woodland area. These can be quite interesting places to visit in Florida. Many Florida parks have raised pathways and boardwalks to keep you dry. A walk in a swamp in Florida will surely take you past the beautiful cypress trees, famous for their wide bases, and the knobs they send up from the ground surrounding the trunk. Florida parksWhile you might think you would never want to visit a swamp, the pathways leading through the cypress groves can be quite beautiful. You might even find yourself strolling along a flowery bayou –or maybe even some backwater somewhere.

 

More blogs you might enjoy:

What Is a Causeway?

What Is a Beach Villa?

Florida Springs

 

Movie star hippopotamus

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

What is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Florida manateeHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to a variety of animals native to the state of Florida. The park is home to a many rescued animals, along with its other exhibits. The animals are displayed in open areas which make viewing easy. The park walkways wind among tall trees, providing plenty of shade for Gulf Coast’s warmer days. A bayou extends into the park which is frequented by manatees, one of the park’s main attractions. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park emphasizes natural Florida Manatee at Homosassa Springsand the preservation of native species. It is a worthy stopover on a Gulf Coast vacation, especially for those who want to see manatees, alligators, or other native Florida species. The Homosassa Springs is a great place to spend the afternoon and makes great entertainment for kids.

Where is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Homosassa Springs boat rideHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles north of Clearwater Beach. It is south of Crystal River Preserve State Park and north of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, and Chassahowitzka are all located on the coastline known as the Nature Coast of Florida. The park is situated on a bayou branching off from the Halls River. You will find the park in the community of Homosassa Springs off of Hwy 19 (Suncoast Blvd), or by taking the alternate route on Fishbowl Drive, which is a very scenic back road. An old sugar mill is nearby on the Fishbowl Drive route, for those interested in history. Homosassa Springs FloridaBoth parking areas leads to the same entrance but the large parking area off of Hwy 19 includes an informative and beautiful boat ride over to the parking area on Fishbowl Dr. We recommend the boat ride, because it starts at an interesting info center and gift shop. Plus, on your ferry to the park entrance, you can see the natural Florida environment and a good number of native animals living in the wild. The address of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is 4150 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446.

What to See at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs hippoOur first recommendation for things to do at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the boat ride to the park entrance. If you miss this ride, you’ve cut out a vital part of the complete experience. You will hear plenty of interesting tidbits from the boat captain as you wind down the slow moving water channel. You might also learn some history, such as the names of famous movies filmed in the area, and about the only non-native animal in the park, Lu the hippopotamus, granted official state citizenship so that he could stay in the park after the end of his Hollywood movie career. You will find gift shops at either end of the boat tour.

Homosassa Springs manateeOnce you enter the park, where you go is up to you. The walkways wind in different directions throughout the park, displaying both native plants and animals. Any walk along the waterway should be done with your eyes alert. You will undoubtedly see manatees swimming in the bayou. Even better is the underwater viewing room where you can see schools of fish and any nearby manatees. Your chances of seeing the large marine mammals is very good, because park rangers feed them at regular intervals from above. You might also find a number of manatees inside of pens on the others side of the waterway, recovering from illness or injury suffered in the wild.

Florida pantherThe park is essentially a zoo, displaying Florida’s native species. You will see just about any bird you can imagine, plus some others. A few of the larger species are egrets, bald eagles, owls, and even turkeys. You can also view of deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, alligators, and otters.

While the park has a concession stand, it is also a great place for a picnic. You also won’t want to miss the ice cream stand just past Lu the hippo’s pool. Alligator at Homosassa SpringsThe park makes for a great afternoon on a Florida Gulf Coast vacation and is just over an hour from Clearwater Beach, making it a great outing for the day. If you are going to strike out from the beautiful beaches of the Central Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best attractions out there.

Other blog posts you might like:

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Top Theme Parks near Clearwater Beach

Fort Desoto Park Florida

Fort Desoto Beaches, Boating, and History

Visit Fort Desoto for the History

Fort Desoto cannonThe history of Fort Desoto Park in Florida is still present in its large cannons, and rooms buried under sand dunes that you can tour. Visitors can get up close and personal with the fort, touching the cannons and entering the old store rooms. Fort Desoto was built and named at the turn of the century in 1900 during the Spanish-American war. Henry B Plant, a railroad tycoon who brought the railroad to Tampa Bay, helped to urge the government to build the fort. Real history buffs might also want to visit the Henry B Plant museum in Tampa. The large Fort Desoto cannons were set to shoot ships trying to enter Tampa Bay, with help from a lookout on nearby Egmont Key, which also has ruins. The remains of Fort Desoto are fun to tour and are very close to the beach and the visitor center at the park.

 

Visit Fort Desoto for the Boating

Boating and kayaking at Fort Desoto FloridaOne of the best features of Fort Desoto Park is the waterways that surround the barrier islands there. Fort Desoto is a barrier island with several other small islands nearby. A good number of them are mangrove islands but you will also find locations where you can land your boat on a tiny, sandy beach. The type of boat you choose will determine where you can go. With a power boat you will be able to cover more ground but you will also need to be aware of the vast shallows surrounding Fort Desoto. On a kayak you will be able to navigate in even the shallowest waters but you will be limited by how far you can paddle. Plenty of other boat types are possible but power boats and kayaks are the most readily available. Naturally, your finances and personal preferences will have something to do with the boat you choose. One of the perks of boating in the area is finding a private strip of beach which is virtually your own for an hour or two. You also might find beautiful areas of wildlife, or coves with lots of shells to beachcomb. Boating is a great addition to a beach day at Fort Desoto Park.

 

Visit Fort Desoto for the Beaches

Fort Desoto beachThe best beaches in America are found along the Florida Gulf Coast, and Fort Desoto is definitely one of them. The beaches there, as well as several others along our coastline, win awards for the beast beaches in America repeatedly. Once you visit Fort Desoto, you will see why. The coastline is covered in fine, white sand, and the waters are blue, with a bright turquois color where the sun strikes the sand in the shallows. It is a long beach which can support quite a lot of visitors. This is a good thing, because on busy days like holidays or Spring Break, the beach fills up. Fortunately, the parking lot is built to accommodate very large crowds. The park also has a picnic area under shade trees right next to the beach. Last year the beach won an award for Best Family Beach. With wide swaths of sand, picnic areas, and plenty of sights to see, it is easy to see why Fort Desoto won the award.

 

Other blog entries you might like:

The Best Beaches in America

Best View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Dog Beaches and Parks

 

Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Pinellas Trail Scope

Pinellas TrailThe Pinellas trail currently consists of 37 miles of pathway that runs from Tarpon Springs in the north down through multiple communities until it reaches downtown St Petersburg at the southern end of the Peninsula. The trail is dedicated to Fred Marquis who was instrumental in the development of the pathway. Despite traveling through nine cities, the trail most often passes between tall trees that provide much welcome shade and solitude. You will find multiple opportunities to sightsee along the trail, the type of attraction depending on which section of the trail you choose. (We particularly like the connection to the bike path leading to Clearwater Beach.) Pinellas TrailThe path will take you past waterways, interesting features of small communities, and the more complex sights of the larger cities of the peninsula. Taking the entire trail is a bit much for most people so just pick the area you are most interested in seeing. The trail winds through Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg. Choose your favorite city and get started on your tour of the Pinellas Trail!

 

Pinellas Trail Experience

Pinellas TrailDeciding which part of the Pinellas Trail is the best for you is a matter of personal preference. Some people enjoy the long stretches of wooded pathway while others like the stopovers in popular cities like Tarpon Springs or Dunedin. At Clearwater, you can take a diversion on the bike path over the causeway to the beach. In Largo you will pass by the large grounds of Largo Central Park and, farther south, Walsingham Park, home to Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village. Passing from Seminole to St Petersburg, you will have an opportunity to cross the longest bridge on the trail, spanning the waters of Long Bayou, with sweeping views across the water to the north and south. The trail begins –or ends- at the docks in St Petersburg, a great place to bike and walk along the scenic downtown waterfront. Regardless of where you use the trail, you are bound to have a relaxing and interesting experience. The memorable sights and enjoyable stretches of the Pinellas Trail are worth visiting.

 

More Information on the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas TrailHere are some links to more information as well as some maps of the trail

Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Guide to the Pinellas Trail

Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (map)

St Petersburg Bike Map

 

Related Blogs:

What Is a Causway?

Top 7 Walks at Clearwater Beach

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

 

Florida road trip

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Clearwater Beach Day Trip Adventures #2

Map Tapron Safety Dunedin Tampa StPetersburgFun Florida Gulf Coast Cities

Looking for a great place to go on a day trip from Clearwater Beach? The region has some great tourist spots that you might want to know about. Try sampling some of the tourist hotspots in the neighboring towns of the area. Here is a brief summary of what you can find in the towns and cities of Tarpon Springs, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Tampa, and St Petersburg.

 

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs, FloridaTarpon Springs is known best for its history and Greek culture. The sponge industry began in the early 1900’s with many Greek divers recruited for the industry. The Greek community still thrives in Tarpon Springs and so does the sponge diving industry. You will see this for yourself when you walk past the sponge-laden boats moored alonge the riverside docks. You will also have multiple opportunities to eat Greek food at the area restaurants. Gift shops abound in Tarpon Springs. The souvenirs have a nautical theme, with an interesting addition of specialty soap and culinary shops. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is entertaining for adults and a lot of fun for kids. If you like history, you will love Tarpons Springs. The historic district makes a nice scenic drive. History buffs should not miss the antique shops on East Tarpon Avenue, the Tarpons Springs Cultural Center, or the restored Safford House.

 

Safety Harbor

Safety Harbor, FloridaSafety Harbor is a quiet town on the east side of the county that is known for its art. Main Street in Safety Harbor is a pleasant walk with a mixture of diners, restaurants, art shops, and pubs. The walk to the Safety Harbor City Marina and pier is a pleasant diversion, while the dock area are often used for community events. The small but interesting Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is very nearby. The local library is bracketed by the Art Park to the north and Baranoff Park to the south. The well-known Safety Harbor Resort and Spa sits over natural springs, which have been in use as a spa since the early 1900’s. The scenic drive along the coast of Safety Harbor is one of the best in the area, with beautiful Phillipe Park near the north end of the scenic drive. The other thing to note about Safety Harbor is that they seem to have an endless line up of festivals and street fairs.

 

Dunedin

Dunedin, FloridaThe Main Street strip of Dunedin is well-known for its large events and smaller street fairs. It hosts a Mardi Gras parade and a large St Patrick’s day evening event, as well as other seasonal events. Keeping an eye on Dunedin events is a good idea for anyone looking for diversions in the Clearwater Beach area. Main Street has a good number of pubs, restaurants, and gift shops. Main Street ends at a pier, marina, and city park, all within easy walking distance. Fresh seafood is available for sale at the docks. The popular Pinellas Trail bicycle and walking path runs directly through the center of town, and is built along the old railroad tracks. The old train station is a central historic building to the downtown area. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball winter training games are also held in Dunedin and are very close to Main Street.

 

Tampa

Tampa, FloridaTampa sits on the other side of Tampa Bay from the City of Clearwater, and is very likely where you will land when you fly into the area. While downtown Tampa is oriented more toward business than tourism, there are still plenty of great sites to see, especially along the many miles of waterfront. The popular Channel District is a great place to try out the dining or the bar scene. In the same general area you will find the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium. Another great museum you should visit is the Henry B Plant Museum, located at the grand hotel the railroad tycoon built to attract visitors to the area once the railroad was built. Old Water Street and Channelside Walk Way are great places to dine or spend the evening out. Close to the waterside attractions is the Tampa Bay Times Forum sports stadium. Tampa is also the home of the yearly Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, one of the largest events in the entire Tampa Bay area, in which a pirate invasion of Tampa is reenacted. The city of Tampa is large, so be prepared to drive between the many attractions.

 

St Petersburg

St Petersburg, FloridaWhile St Petersburg is also a large city, the downtown attractions are all surprisingly close together. In a relatively small area along the waterfront you will find the famous Dali Museum, the St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, and the St Petersburg Museum of History. The Bay Shore Drive area is a hotspot for nightlife and is a good choice for an interesting dining experience. The University of Southern Florida is found amid the downtown attractions, with its own Barnes and Noble bookstore. The developed shorefront parks go on for a surprising distance, including Vinoy park, North Straub Park, and South Straub Park, among others. The sports stadium is located on the western side of downtown. Two main attractions of downtown St Petersburg are the very large pier on 2nd Ave, and the popular Saturday Morning Market, an outdoor flea and farmers’ market.

 

Road Trip!

While on your Clearwater Beach vacation, don’t miss the opportunity to head out for a day of fun. Find out for yourself what makes the Central Gulf Coast of Florida one of the best places on Earth!

 

Other blog posts you might like;

Florida Springs

Safety Harbor Museum

Dunedin Celtic Music and Craft Beer Festival