Planning a trip to Clearwater Beach? I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area for most of my life, and have spent more than my share of time exploring everything that this tourist spot has to offer. From beautiful beaches to adventurous water sports to delicious dining – there’s something for everyone.
Here are my top picks for the best things to do in Clearwater Beach, Florida!
Ok, that’s an easy one. But the beach is the reason you’re going, right? So be sure to spend at least one full day simply sitting in a lounge chair and enjoying the incredible view!
If you’re staying in a beachfront resort (here are my favorite hotels), they will likely have their own beach chairs and umbrellas. And bonus points if you stay somewhere with a private beach area, like Sandpearl, where you can even get some delicious cocktails served to you while you lounge.
If your hotel doesn’t have their own beach area, head over to the spot just south of Pier 60 and you will find the main spot for public chair and cabana rentals. Look for the blue beach cabanas! (The ones in the picture below.)
And if you’re bringing your own beach chairs or sun shade, you can set up anywhere you find space. In my experience, the beach area north of Pier 60 and the Hilton hotel tends to be less crowded than the area immediately surrounding Pier 60. And that is also a great location for walking to Frenchy’s or Clear Sky for lunch.
Jet Ski Rentals
If you’re looking for a bit of a thrill, jet skis are a really fun adventure. You can find basic rentals right on the beach, where you simply take the jet skis out and motor around right there. Or you can find full jet ski tours with guides that will take you out to one of our great spoiler islands.
There is typically a vendor set up right on the beach in front of the Hilton – or you can check out the vendors at the marina, which will put you out into the Intracoastal waterway. This is also a great location for private boat rentals, but I would only recommend this if you have prior boating experience. The waterways can be tricky!
A few of the popular jet ski rental places in Clearwater Beach are:
The Sea Screamer is part dolphin watching cruise and part thrill rice. It’s a fast paced boat ride – and I do mean VERY fast paced, which is I generally recommend it only for adults or families with older teens.
But if you’re up for a thrill ride and some potential dolphin sightings – it cab be a fun time! You can check out their website here.
Dolphin Watching Cruise
I’ve lived in Florida for all my life – and yet I never get tired of seeing dolphins. We go boating most weekends and so we see them often. And yet we still stop every time, and just hang out watching them until they decide to leave us. They are just so totally amazing!
There are plenty of dolphin cruises to choose from in Clearwater Beach, and most of them are going to get you a similar experience as far s the dolphins go. I would choose a tour that leaves early in the morning or early evening for the best chance of spotting dolphins. A sunset cruise is always a fun choice!
A few of the popular tour providers are:
- The Tropics Boat Tours
- Mega Bite Shark Boat
- Little Toot Dolphin Adventure
- Encounters with Dolphins
- Kai Lanai Catamaran Tours
All of them are great operators and all are going to give you the same chances of seeing dolphins. The catamaran tour is a good choice if you are looking for something a bit more upscale and more adult oriented (although no guarantees that you won’t end up with families on board!).
Evening Dinner Cruises
If you’re looking for an evening of dancing and cocktail-ing on the water, you can’t beat a dinner cruise. There are several to choose from right at the marina in Clearwater Beach. Some of them will offer a fancy multi-course dinner experience and some are simple buffets, but most offer some music and dancing afterwards. This makes a great date night activity!
Some of the popular dinner cruise options are:
Sunsets at Pier 60
This is the main gathering spot in Clearwater Beach for the evenings! The daily sunset festival at Pier 60 lasts from two hours before sunset to two hours afterwards every evening, and they are a lot of fun.
You’ll find all kinds of vendors- from food to arts and crafts. There are lots of family oriented activities, but there is also often live music and street performers. If nothing else, it’s a great place to walk out on the pier and enjoy the gorgeous sunset over the water.
Be sure to check out my complete guide to Pier 60 for all the nitty gritty details!
Beach Bar and Bonfire
The Sandpearl is one of my favorite higher end resorts on Clearwater Beach. And they are also the location of the only bonfire on the beach every evening. The fire pit is set up in front of their beach bar, Tate’s Island Grill, which is also a great place to grab a drink and a bite to eat!
After your cocktails, take a few minutes to lounge in one of the many hammocks all around the property!
Get a Drink at Hulk Hogan’s Bar
They actually have pretty good food and a rooftop bar that is a lively place to hang out. It’s also the best place to catch a football game on the strip.
Get a Grouper Sandwich at Frenchy’s
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill is a Clearwater Beach icon. Their beach front location directly on the sand has a lot to do with that. But they are also famous for their grouper sandwiches.
Back when I was a kid, there was a big grouper scandal. Apparently many local restaurants were passing off cheaper fish as fresh caught grouper. A news reporter started taking samples of sandwiches all over town, and published a list of which ones were actually grouper. And Frenchy’s was one of the only true grouper sandwiches in town!
This place is very popular and does not take reservations, so go at an off peak time if you want to sit down for a full meal. Or stop by for late night drinks – it turns into an adults only bar in the late evening.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is located off of the main causeway that leads out to Clearwater Beach. It’s not a typical aquarium – more of a marine rescue that focuses on rehabilitating wildlife and educating the local community on issues of conservation.
The aquarium was first made famous by Winter, the dolphin star, who unfortunately passed away recently. But it remains a nice place to stop to learn about the local sea life and see whatever critters they are currently housing. You can check out their website here.
Honeymoon and Caladesi Island
If you want to escape the tourist area for a few hours, this incredible state park should do the trick.
Honeymoon Island is a short drive away from Clearwater. However, there is only one causeway that accesses it, so I strongly recommend going early morning (by 9am) to avoid waiting in traffic on the bridge or at the entrance gate.
The beaches are much more natural and rustic than Clearwater Beach, but it’s a really beautiful spot. There are some chair rentals and a concession stand available at the main parking lot, but you won’t find shops and restaurants like Clearwater Beach here. So plan accordingly!
Take a Ferry Ride to Caladesi Island
If you are up for a full day adventure, you can take a ferry ride from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island. Caladesi is not technically an island. If you look at a map, it’s actually the northernmost tip of Clearwater Beach. But it can only be accessed by boat.
Caladesi is much more secluded than Clearwater Beach, and will always be less crowded simply because it’s extra work to get there! The ferry runs every 30 minutes all day long (start and end times vary by season) – but it is pretty small and does get to capacity sometimes. So be sure to arrive plenty early to get your tickets.
This is the beach my own family goes to when we go boating on the weekends! It’s really worth the time and effort to get there. You can get info on the ferry schedule and prices here.
More Clearwater Beach Resources
If you’re planning a trip to Clearwater Beach, be sure to check out these other helpful resources:
- Best Hotels in Clearwater Beach
- Where to Eat in Clearwater Beach
- Things to Do in Clearwater Beach (for all ages!)
Or browse all of our Tampa Bay travel planning resources – covering Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater!