The Clearwater / St. Pete area, 2 hours from Orlando, has miles of beaches, great boat outings, and some unusual sightseeing. (See the area on a map.)
Reasons to Visit:
- Top-rated beaches
- Day trips to Orlando
- Fun boat outings
- Great museums in St. Pete
- Affordable prices
Clearwater Beach / St. Pete: the Lay of the Land
26 communities have 35 miles of shoreline on this peninsula southwest of Tampa, between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. You'll find the beach-y, the snooty, even the Scottish (Dunedin) and Greek (Tarpon Springs). Some little fingers of land are only a block or two wide. See an overview of the Clearwater / St. Pete area.
Getting There and Around
Most visitors fly into the Tampa airport, about 45 minutes drive from St. Pete. The best option is to rent a car, though a trolley is a cute option.
Every year, flocks of Europeans buy vacations that combine Orlando theme parks with Clearwater Beach/St. Pete: a great combo.
Sunset at Pier 60: on Clearwater Beach, Pier 60 has a beautiful sweep of sand, a large playground, a looong pier to walk out on, and a free daily Sunset Festival with artisans, face painting, street performers, etc.
Where to Stay
Sheraton Sand Key Resort is a beachside resort, located right next to Sand Key Park on Clearwater Beach.
Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key is an all-suites property with kiddie pool, playground, and Lisa's Klubhouse for ages 5 to 12 (modest fee); teen activities too.
Tradewinds Island Grand Resort: on St. Pete Beach on Florida's Gulf Coast; an AAA four-diamond resort with many family-friendly features, including suites with kitchen facilities. Families like the inflatable slide on the white-sand beach, and the beach cabanas and water-trikes, five pools, kids club, meandering river with paddle boats.
Where to Eat: choices are many-- check Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater. Seafood is tops, here on the Gulf. Just two examples: Guppy's on the Beach Seafood Grill & Bar is small and casual: sit outside, try divine desserts, and watch the sunset over Indian Rocks Municipal Beach, on Gulf Boulevard (a narrow strip between two beach-sides.) Further down is Passe-a-Grille; eat upstairs at The Hurricane-- casual, with a well-priced kids' menu. Watch the weather changing on the Gulf.
Clearwater Beach: Fun Outings
Boat Outings: definitely get out on the water, during a family trip to Clearwater / St. Pete. Go dolphin-viewing, or shelling on a quiet island... see Boat Trips.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium: this aquarium is best known now for its dolphin-in-residence is Winter, the "tail-less dolphin", who received a high-tech prosthetic tail. Also at the Aquarium: pet manta rays, take an Eco-Tour...
Theme Park: much closer than Orlando is Busch Gardens Africa theme park in Tampa Bay, with exciting rides (great coasters) and superb African theming. Many rides are "wet" which keeps kids cool, and the park is a good size to tour in a day.
Pirate Cruise: another fun outing, perfect for families. Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary: a fun outing; hundreds of rescued birds are in residence (and more arrive every day) at this visitor-friendly sanctuary.
Visit Dunedin and Tarpon Springs: The quaint community of Dunedin takes pride in its Scottish heritage and has a cute shopping area, a small museum, and good eats. Likewise, Tarpon Springs is proud of its Greek roots: enjoy the Greek food and ambiance.
St. Pete has a number of museums for sightseeing, including an incredible opportunity to see the giant canvases of Salvador Dali. Kids will enjoy Dali's double-image visual tricks: look at a picture one way, and see two ladies in long dresses; blink, and see the head of a philosopher instead. And his giant surrealistic canvasses are sure to impress. The Salvador Dali Museum has a waterfront location.
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