St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida, has a lot to offer the crowd-weary tourist, family vacationers, foodies, couples, seniors and the list goes on. It’s an easy flight from Houston to Tampa, and a short drive to Clearwater from there.

Three miles of sugar-sand beaches lie before numerous restaurants, shops and lodging opportunities.

Did you know Trip Advisor reviewers have given Clearwater the designation as the No. 1 beach in the U.S. for three of the last four years? The beauty of this barrier island gem is visible at every turn. Known for its outstanding weather and gorgeous sunsets, Clearwater boasts 240 sunny days per year.

Bob Heilman's Beachcomber has been drawing in locals and visitors from across the globe since 1948.

 

TO STAY

There are many lodging offerings in Clearwater, from large and upscale hotels to condos and retro boutique motels.

The Edge Hotel is a grand property with an incredible pool – one of two – including a glass-wall edge that offers spectacular Gulf views. The hotel offers two bars – one on the rooftop where guests can unwind while taking in another beautiful sunset – as well as a great restaurant, fitness center and ample event space. Rooms are spacious and luxurious and offer private balconies. (edgehotelclearwaterbeach.com)

Frenchy’s Oasis Motel falls on the retro-boutique scale and has garnered five stars from reviewers. The property underwent a nostalgic renovation earning it a beautification award from the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and offers guests an authentic experience for those who want to take a step back in time, when Clearwater was known for motels of its kind. (frenchysoasismotel.com)

Families might like to take advantage of the value and convenience of East Shore Resort, which offer kitchens, a heated pool, a patio with grills where one can grill their catch of the day, and dolphin watching from the dock swing. (eastshoreresort.com)

All of these properties are walking distance to the beach.

Dinner cruise on the Starlite Majesty.

 

TO EAT

Clearwater is known as the grouper capital of the world, so one will find many opportunities to try the flaky, white fish and would be encouraged to do so.

Known more for its crabs, Cooters Restaurant & Bar is a local favorite run by Barry and Carol Mears and their daughter, Amanda Mears Calhoon, all originally from Michigan. The welcoming building was built in the ‘40s and license plates gifted by patrons over the years fill the walls, along with many interesting photographs. Their She Crab Soup is to die for, and the all-you-can-eat crab legs special keeps the seats filled. Each fall they host a Crabfest, tempting customers with stone, king and dungeness crabs, with an emphasis on the stone crabs’ abundance. (cooters.com)

Badfins Food & Brew (seafood and Mexican food) offers a wonderful grouper sandwich, a pulled-pork delight called P.I.G. Poppa, and much more, all while boasting that they’re “rebellious at heart.” They offer an impressive lineup of beers on tap in a fun and trendy setting. Owners Eric Miller and Bill West are very hands-on and love to greet and mingle with their guests, offering suggestions such as their unique and delicious handspun milkshakes. They have truly paid attention to every detail. (badfins.com)

Badfins Food & Brew has something on tap for every taste.
 
Badfins Food & Brew’s owners have put thought and care into every aspect of their offerings. 

Pearly’s Beach Eats offers fresh tacos, salads, nachos, burgers and more … even a black bean burger. I tried their Baja Bowl with pork and it was delicious. All seating is outdoors and the atmosphere is perfect for the relaxed mood of one on vacation. Pearly’s is owned by five longtime friends and their pride in fresh ingredients and a pleasant dining experience are evident. (pearlysbeacheats.com)

Crabby’s Bar & Grill is another local favorite situated in Clearwater’s Beach Walk. Their menu includes some fantastic breakfast offerings, such as the Crabby Benedict. It’s a great place any time of day and is in a prime location to watch the sun slowly slip into the water while enjoying one of their signature cocktails. If trying the grouper is on one’s list, this is a great place to do it. (crabbysbarandgrill.com)

Bob Heilman's Beachcomber has been a steadfast Clearwater treasure since 1948. It’s an elegant, yet comfortable, fine-dining restaurant where the feeling of its nostalgic appeal from locals as well as repeat visitors from around the globe is felt as one enters. Our small group tried about a dozen different items on the menu and each one was a treat in itself. They offer appetizers that include Blue Point Oysters, Clams Casino, Escargot and Oysters Florentine. There’s an impressive array of shrimp and fish dishes, steak, veal, crabcakes, lobster and the list goes on. The only drawback is trying to decide what to order. Their Back-to-the-Farm Chicken first began luring repeat diners many decades ago, and it still has the same effect today. The chicken is fried in a Dutch oven skillet and served with mashed potatoes, pan gravy and the fresh vegetable of the day. Those partaking will also get the soup of the day and old-fashioned cream slaw. Be prepared to wait 30 to 40 minutes for this dish, as it is always made fresh to order. This place is really a must if visiting Clearwater Beach. And be sure to leave a little spot for dessert. (heilmansbeachcomber.com)

She Crab Soup at Cooters Restaurant & Bar.
 
Cozy cabana for a lazy day at the beach.
 

TO DO

Firstly, if all one desires is to relax and unwind with their toes in the sand, Clearwater offers the perfect setting. The beaches are beautiful, welcoming and a nice alternative to some of Florida’s crowd-heavy destinations. Beachgoers can bring their own chairs or easily rent those or a cozy cabana for a day of letting their cares erode away with the waves.

But white sand and great food are not all there is to enjoy. Clearwater is home to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a nonprofit, conservation-focused organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and, when possible, release of sick and injured marine animals. It’s the home of Winter, the Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin who became the ambassador for the aquarium after coming to fame in the movie, “Dolphin Tale.” Almost exactly five years after Winter’s arrival and from almost the same exact location, Hope, another Atlantic bottle nose, was found in need of rescue from the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast. She was a young calf found attempting to nurse from her deceased mother. She was very weak and dehydrated. The staff worked tirelessly around the clock nursing Hope back to health, and she and Winter became fast friends. Hope will continue to live at the aquarium with Winter, as she lacks the ability to survive in the wild having never learned the necessary skills from her mother. The two can be seen playing with one another and their favorite toys, delighting visitors. They’re a joy to see, along with numerous other animals convalescing at the aquarium. (seewinter.com)

The Rooftop Bar at the Edge Hotel.
 
 
Pearly’s Beach Eats is a fresh and delicious stop for hungry vacationer as well as the adventurous foodie.

Also fun are the day or evening cruises. The Starlite Majesty (starlitecruises.com) offers several options including a dinner cruise, with yet another chance to enjoy a lovely sunset. Numerous other cruises are also available, from a pirate-ship theme to dolphin watching.

St. Petersburg is also home to some wonderful museums. The Dali Museum boasts the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s work outside of Spain. The Museum of Fine Arts spans 5,000 years and more than 20,000 pieces of art. For the history buff, the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum and the Dunedin Historical Museum will scratch that itch. And for kids, The Great Explorations Children’s Museum offers great educational exhibits. For more on these and their other museums, visit visitstpeteclearwater.com/things-to-do/museums.

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