The barrier island beaches of Clearwater, Florida, are known for being some of the best in America. (USA Today voted it “The Best Beach Town in Florida.”) But what really sets this Sunshine State city apart from the others, like Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, is its old-fashioned, laid-back style. Although Clearwater is technically part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area, it has nearly half the population of its sister cities. So if you’re not into Disney or the Spring Break crowds, but you still want amazingly clear beaches, white sand, and a bustling nightlife, a trip to Clearwater is for you. Here are our top tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do.
Clearwater in located on the Gulf of Mexico, 150 miles south of Gainesville and 66 miles north of Sarasota. It is surrounded mostly directly to the east by Tampa and to the south by St. Petersburg. Most of our charter flights will use either the Tampa or St. Petersburg airports, and SevenJet can also arrange for transportation for you from the airport to your hotel.
Where to Stay
Opal Sands Resort
Located directly on the Gulf, the Opal Sands, which opened in 2016, was designed to give every room a panoramic view of the Gulf. Guest rooms are tastefully decorated in cool blues and greens, and the premium suites include a dining table, mini-fridge, dish washer, wet bar and incredibly spacious bathrooms. Outside, there is a beach-front, zero-entry pool with private cabanas available for rent.
Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa
This all-suites resort features fully-equipped kitchens in all the rooms, which range in size from 600-2,000 square feet. On-site amenities include a spa, three restaurants, a poolside bar and a 24-hour fitness facility. Unlike the Opal Resort, however, which sits directly adjacent to the beach, guests of the Hyatt do need to cross South Gulfview Boulevard to get to the beach. There are marked crosswalks for easier travel.
Located directly on the beach, the Sandpearl offers guest rooms and suites in coastal-inspired décor and with impressive views of the Gulf. The resort boasts having the area’s only Four-Diamond restaurant (Caretta on the Gulf) and being the first Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design)-certified resort in Florida. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification means that the resort is dedicated to lower carbon emissions and healthier environments.
Located next door to the Hyatt, the Wyndham is also only separated from the Gulf by South Gulfview Boulevard. The Wyndham offers easy access on the eastern side to the marina and a variety of boating and restaurant opportunities there. Notable for the crisp, all-white décor, rooms and suites at the Wyndham are varied in configuration so that there is something for everyone, whether you are a party of 2 or a family who needs bunkbeds, too.
Where to Eat
Located at the Opal Sands Resort, the Sea-Guini is an upscale seafood restaurant with Mediterranean and Italian influences. The menu ranges from hearth oven pizzas to rigatoni bolognese, grilled swordfish, scallops, steak and barolo braised short ribs. The interior decor is modern with large windows overlooking the Gulf. The Sea-Guini claims to have some of the best viewpoints for the sunset.
Cafe Ponte is located further inland, off the beach and closer to Old Tampa Bay, but the food has won several local awards that lure foodies off the Gulf and into town for lunch and dinner. Chef Christopher Ponte studied at Paris’s icnoic Cordon Bleu culinary institute and offers patrons a menu with items such as steak tartare, oysters, lamb bolognese, filet mignon, sea bass and scallops.
This Zagat-rated Italian restaurant occupies an extravagantly refurbished historic building for truly upscale, fine dining. The menu offers many Italian classics like Ravioli, Canneloni, Linguini and Pollo Parmigiana. Villa Bellini is closed on Mondays.
Pearly’s is a casual, family-friendly restaurant offering American, Mexican and seafood options like fish tacos and cocktail shrimp with black beans and corn salsa. Entrees are served in baskets, and there is outdoor, picnic-table dining under the shade of palm trees.
Maggie Mae’s boasts a homey dining experience that “comes fast, friendly and with an incredible view of Clearwater Bay.” It is only open for breakfast, brunch and lunch from 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Breakfast favorites include Florida Pecan Waffles, Hillbilly Taters and Farmer’s Hearty All Day Breakfast. Lunch items include a Fried Bologna Sandwich and Grande Chicken Burrito.
Things to See & Do
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a rehabilitation hospital for marine animals. It is staffed by veterinarians and biologists who rescue, rehab and release marine wildlife. Animals who cannot be released are kept at the CMA and can be visited by guests. Exhibits include bottlenose dolphins (especially CMA’s two most famous: Winter and Hope), sea turtles, pelicans, otters, sharks and stingrays. Tickets range from $16.95 for children and $21.95 for adults. Discounts are available for seniors.
Scenic flights in the “motorcycle of the sky.” Sometimes called a Trike or Delta-Wing (or “weight-Shift-Control Aircraft” by the FAA), this unique aircraft is not an ultralight or experimental plane. The website calls it a
“factory built, FAA inspected and certified Light-Sport Aircraft.”Soar above Clearwater Beach and see spectacular views of the ocean, people below and marine wildlife. Flights are available for 20-, 40-, and 60-minute intervals. For a video, click here.
Pier 60, a 1,080-foot pier, is located on the Gulf, near the Hyatt and Wyndham hotels. It marks one of the busiest and most popular spots on the beach. During the day the pier is home to a playground, a bait and tackle store and several telescopes for viewing. Come evening, however, Pier 60 really comes alive for the nightly sunset festival. From two hours before until two hours after the sunset, the pier is filled with street performers, artisans and crafters to help you pass the time until the sunset, which is supposed to be best-viewed from the pier itself.
For a bit of history and art, visit the Capitol Theatre, which first opened in Clearwater since 1921. (Take a virtual tour here.) Many famous performances come through to the Capitol Theatre. Find more information and tickets on the website.
Contact us today and let us help you plan a trip to Clearwater, Florida. We operate our own fleet and can source any size aircraft from an extensive domestic and international user network, which gives you total flexibility.