Commonly ranked as one of the best beach destinations in Florida and the United States, Clearwater is a gorgeous seaside town on the Gulf Coast that provides a perfect combination of beach fun, an excellent dining scene, outdoor adventures, and a vibrant arts community.
The fact Clearwater is so close to Disney World, and Orlando makes it a top-rated destination for day trippers and those looking to extend an Orlando theme park vacation with some time at the beach.
If you’re currently planning your trip to Clearwater, chances are you find yourself wondering what to see and do during your visit (aside from spending hours on end lounging at a white sandy beach, of course!).
From going dolphin spotting to learning all about marine life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and visiting a deserted island, these are all the best things to do in Clearwater, Florida, with your family.
This post is part of our series Discover the USA
12 Best Things to do in Clearwater, Florida
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1. Pier 60
At just over a thousand feet long, Pier 60 is one of the most popular landmarks of Clearwater and a lovely way to spend a few hours.
Artisans and street performers have made the pier their favorite hangout spot, and no matter what time of the day you visit, live entertainment and plenty of handmade shopping options will be on the menu.
Bring a blanket and some snacks to set a picnic up, and if you’re into fishing, Pier 60 is considered one of the best places to do it in Florida, with snook, tarpon, silver trout, redfish, and flounders being just a few of the species that roam the waters around it.
2. Sand Key Park
Encompassing 95 acres of sand, Sand Key Park is a wonderful destination to visit for a day spent out under the sun.
Sand Key Park is made up of a green area and a beach area, both of which are splendid to stroll through. The park has plenty of amenities, including grills, picnic tables, restrooms, and playgrounds. In contrast, the beach area has everything you could ever wish for on a relaxing beach day.
Moreover, if you’re into birdwatching, there’s a salt marsh in the area where herons, roseate spoonbills, great horn owls, and many other birds love hanging out!
3. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Even though it’s relatively small, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium remains among the best in the United States, thanks to the vast array of species it protects and its plethora of interactive activities.
With the aim to rescue and rehabilitate marine animals, this fantastic aquarium opened its doors in the 70s. Ever since, it has been working with different species ranging from dolphins to stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, and more.
4. Busch Gardens
Located in Tampa just east of Clearwater, a visit to Busch Gardens is pretty much a mandatory item on your Florida family bucket list!
Combining a fantastic zoo and one of the best theme parks in the world, Busch Gardens is a place that has a ton to offer, no matter the adventure you’re after.
Here, you’ll find a plethora of thrilling rollercoasters and rides. Still, if you’re looking for something that’s not as adrenaline-inducing, you’ll also get the chance to hop on slower rides or enjoy the park’s amazing dining scene.
Besides the theme park, Busch Gardens also boasts a marvelous zoo that makes up half of the park. With more than 200 species residing here, it makes for an excellent activity that will get you to see animals such as rhinos, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, alligators, and plenty more in a setting that feels almost like their natural habitat.
To make the most of your visit, book yourself a safari tour through the planes or hop on the Serengeti Express Train and see how many animals you can spot!
5. Clearwater Beach
Named after the town itself, Clearwater Beach is the main shore of the city and a must on your itinerary for that quintessential Florida vibe.
Clearwater Beach is constantly ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the state, and once you get to swim in its crystal-clear waters, you’ll see exactly why that is!
Excellent amenities for a perfect day spent under the sun are aplenty here. Kayaking, parasailing, and jet skiing are just a few of the water sports activities you can enjoy at Clearwater Beach.
You’ll also find plenty of beachfront restaurants and bars to choose from once you get hungry (or need a cocktail!)
6. Dolphin Watching Tour
The waters surrounding Clearwater are popular spots for dolphins to spend time in, making dolphin watching an absolute treat here!
Most dolphin tours in Clearwater offer the unique chance to see bottle-nose dolphins from a pretty close distance, but throughout the ride, you’re very likely to spot other species like pelicans and even manatees as well!
While dolphin spotting is possible from the comfort of your boat, some tours also offer snorkeling time near Compass Island, which is a prime spot to interact with them from a close distance.
7. Caladesi Island State Park
Considered a bit of a hidden gem in Florida, Caladesi is a barrier island off the coast of Dunedin that boasts some of the most pristine beaches in the entire state.
While no hotels or amenities are found on the island, Caladesi is one of the best things to do in Clearwater for nature-lovers who want a day spent outside in a very tranquil setting.
Activities like hiking, kayaking over mangroves, and paddleboarding are just a few of the things to do at Caladesi State Park on a day trip.
Getting here is possible by boat, but when the tide is low, you can actually walk over to the island if you drive as far north in Clearwater as possible – it’s about a 2-mile wading to get there!
8. Moccasin Lake Nature Park
Home to over 50 acres of oak tree forests, peaceful lakes and creeks, and hiking trails galore, Moccasin Lake Nature Park is one of the dreamiest things to do in Clearwater if getting away from the beach and immersing yourself in a beautiful nature trail is what you’re after.
Walking amid the forest canopy of the park is one of the best things to do here, with 1.5 miles of boardwalk trails that run through it. For hiking, you’ll find plenty of trails available, ranging from easy wheelchair-accessible loops to tougher hikes that will have you going up to bluffs for excellent views.
The park offers plenty of nature exhibits and education programs for kids. You can see different species as you explore along or visit its nature center – turtles, peacocks, and eagles all love to spend time within the park’s boundaries!
9. Pirate Boat Tour
Become a pirate for a day by sailing aboard Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise!
This two-hour-long expedition will have you get the most iconic views of the Clearwater skyline before heading deeper into the sea to explore the Gulf of Mexico in its full splendor.
As the ride continues, you’ll learn all about the waters around Clearwater in super fun interactive ways, ranging from pirate legend storytelling, games, and even treasure hunts!
10. Big Storm Brewing Co.
While this still remains a bit of a secret, northern Florida is a craft beer aficionado haven, and Clearwater is definitely no exception to the rule!
Big Storm is an award-winning brewing company that produces a variety of lagers, stouts, and ales. During your visit, you’ll get to learn all about the process of making them while also getting the chance to grab a table at their outdoor patio to kick back and sip a few of your favorite ones.
The most popular ones include the Wavemaker Amber Ale (the first brew Big Storm made), the BroMosa Tangerine IPA, the Palm Bender Gulf Coast IPA, the Tropic Pressure Florida Ale, and the Bay Beer Light Lager.
We love that the kids can also enjoy a great feed, along with trivia nights and live music – definitely a Clearwater favorite!
11. Honeymoon Island State Park
Whether you’re looking for uber romantic things to do in Clearwater with your partner sans kids or happy to take them along on a more secluded adventure, Honeymoon Island has plenty to offer.
Located about 15 minutes north of Clearwater, a visit to Honeymoon Island makes for one of the most picture-perfect day trips out there. The island boasts over four miles of unspoiled shores, which you can enjoy by lounging at the beach or trying out a few water-related activities.
If you’re more in the mood to get lost in nature, however, a three-mile hiking trail is available to explore one of the last virgin slash pine forests left in the entire world!
12. Cliff Stephens Park
A visit to Cliff Stephens Park is one of the best things to do in Florida if you want to enjoy nature at its best.
Made up of 44 acres of greenery, this gorgeous park is a perfect place to head to for easy hiking trails and biking adventures. Moreover, other activities like inline skating, Frisbee golfing, fishing, and paddleboarding are also on the menu!
Where to Stay in Clearwater, Florida
Whilst it is easy to day trip from Orlando to many of the destinations on this list – either in your own car or join an organized tour – we’d highly recommend you extend your stay to enjoy the best Clearwater and the Gulf Coast have to offer.
Some great family-friendly choices to consider:
- Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa – one of the most iconic hotels along the beachfront offers families two double beds
- For a family group, consider a beachfront condo – for example, this VRBO property can sleep up to 8
- Just across the water, Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key are an excellent choice for a larger room, many with uninterrupted sea views
You are also not far from St Petersburg Beach, which again has a superb range of beachfront apartments.
Have you ever been to Clearwater? What other incredible things to do in this amazing Florida town do you think belong on the list? If you know of any others, please feel free to drop them in the comment section below!
More Help Planning Your Trip to Florida
It’s no secret that Florida is one of the world’s most incredible family vacation destinations! Whether you love or loathe the theme parks, it really is a state with so much to offer; hence we keep returning, again and again, adding new experiences every time.
You may also find helpful in planning your Florida adventure these handy resources:
- Highlights Of Florida On A Family Vacation
- Best Orlando Theme Parks: An Introductory Guide
- Things To Do In Orlando That ARE NOT Theme Parks
- Where To Find All The Closest Beaches To Disney World
- Breathtakingly Beautiful Islands And Keys In Florida
- Where You Can RV Camp In Florida On The Beach
- All The Best Gulf Coast Beaches for Families
- A Weekend Getaway To Sarasota
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