After a few months of hard work, it was finally time for a holiday. I’ve just returned from a two-week long adventure over in the Sunshine State of Florida in the USA. My family and I decided to take a vacation in Clearwater to explore some new, as well as familiar, places in one of my favourite American states. Having been pretty lucky over the years, this was my fourth time visiting Florida. Although I do love to explore new places in the world that I’ve never seen, there’s something pretty comforting about knowing exactly what to expect when you arrive at your destination.
Arriving in Clearwater, Florida
Our adventure began at Gatwick Airport. After a pretty relaxing 8 hour flight with Virgin Atlantic, we arrived at Orlando International.
Our first port of call was Clearwater Beach down on the west coast of Florida. Clearwater is famed for its warm waters thanks to its positioning on the tropical Gulf of Mexico. Despite feeling pretty tired upon arrival, we were set to take a 2-hour drive across to the west coast. We were, however, pretty excited to go and discover a new place.
Due to a flight delay and lots of faffing around with our hire car (try playing Tetris with 4 giant suitcases), we didn’t arrive at our hotel until late. Feeling a little jet lagged and arriving into the resort at night time, we pretty much headed straight to bed. Although frustrating because we wanted to have a snoop round and begin our vacation in Clearwater, there’s nothing quite like waking up in a new place. Having only visited Clearwater briefly back in 2003, we woke feeling ready to explore, and excited see some of Clearwater’s iconic sunsets.
Sheraton Sand Key Resort
We were staying at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort, a waterfront hotel based on the exclusive Sand Key beach. An excellent resort, it’s just a stone’s throw from the nature trails of Sand Key Park, and the surfing beaches of Clearwater. Unfortunately, when we woke up, the weather was pretty stormy and our view over the Gulf of Mexico was grey and miserable.
Not quite what we had hoped for on our first morning, but the stormy weather didn’t last for long. Before we knew it, the sun had popped out in full force. We headed straight out to explore the resort.
The Sheraton Sand Key Resort boasts its own private beach access, and various outdoor pools, a fitness, centre, and tennis courts. It’s pretty perfect for a vacation in Clearwater. There are also several restaurant options, and a wonderful choice of rooms.
We sunbathed for most of the day, lapping up the Florida sun on one of the sun loungers. I dipped between the swimming pools, tanning on the sun beds, and walking across Clearwater Beach into the ocean.
After a long relax in the wonderful jacuzzi, we went back into our rooms to freshen up. Ready for dinner, we headed up towards Clearwater Beach for some food and entertainment that evening.
An Evening in Clearwater
The Sheraton Sand Key Resort is conveniently positioned near to Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. There are also several family attractions including Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. You simply walk from the resort across Sand Key Bridge to reach Clearwater.
Keep an eye out while you’re crossing the bridge, because you may spot some dolphins bobbing about.
Clearwater Beach has the most beautiful beach and warm, clear waters that likely give the beach its name. In 2018, TripAdvisor ranked Clearwater Beach the USA’s #1 beach, so it’s definitely one that’s worth visiting. We entered the area and passed mini golf and some beautiful tropical flowers.
As well as the stunning stretch of beaches at Clearwater Beach, there are many other features that make the area perfect for a vacation in Clearwater. There’s a fun and welcoming seaside town vibe, and plenty of things to see and do. Check out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for Winter the dolphin, who swims impressively with a prosthetic tail. There’s also a great range of restaurants, resorts, and beach activities.
We enjoyed the sunset on the Clearwater Strip by taking a table at a seafood restaurant for dinner. Grabbing some icy cold drinks, we sat down to watch the skies change over food.
Just look at those palm tree silhouettes on the amazing colours in the Florida sky.
We ended our evening by walking back across Sand Key Bridge for a good night’s sleep. The next day, we’d be back to do it all again.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
After a little lie in, we woke up and prepped for the beach once again. It was a glorious day, with a deep blue sky over the white sands of Clearwater Beach.
After a little sunbathing in the blazing sun, we went to cool off in the water.
The sea is fairly shallow for a way back at Clearwater, which is perfect for relaxing in, and it’s super clear. It’s the perfect beach for a vacation in Clearwater.
Dinner at Crabby Bill’s
If there’s one thing my family and I look forward to on a vacation, it’s food. Dinner is the highlight of the day, as it should be! One of the most popular beach cafes in Clearwater that’s worth a visit is Crabby Bill’s. I love the relaxed vibe of Floridian seafood restaurants, and the food is always delicious. We stopped off for a bite on the main sunset strip.
Crabby Bill’s is famed for its gator bites and steaming buckets of fresh crab and lobster. With such tasty fresh fish and steaks, it’s easy to see why you have to wait to get a table. I went for the bacon-wrapped steak and lobster tail – can you name a better combination? With crunchy broccoli and perfectly seasoned, double cooked fries, I was anything but ‘crabby’.
The rest of my family opted for fresh tuna steaks. Having never really been too into tuna steak, I was amazed at how tasty it was. I even had food envy. All round, the food at Crabby Bill’s was delicious.
I had to finish it off with a Floridian essential – a generous slice of Key Lime Pie. Zingy yet creamy with a ‘buttery biscuit base’, the slices are definitely large enough to share. That’s also helpful so you don’t feel so guilty after!
Of course – it all had to be washed down with a pina colada, my favourite cocktail. As I sipped, the sun started to set.
Sunset over Clearwater Beach
We went for a walk back over to Clearwater Beach to watch the sun go down. The ocean twinkled as sunbathers caught their last few rays of the day. Visitors and families began to head to Pier 60.
Pier 60 is one of the star attractions of Clearwater Beach. It has a vibrant atmosphere around dusk, as people gather to watch the sunset. You’ll find live entertainment and stalls selling souvenirs. It reminds me a little of Santa Monica Pier with its bustling, family vibe.
It’s now been a tradition to gather at Pier 60 for the sunset for over 20 years. The pier is over 1,000 feet long, and it extends right into the Gulf of Mexico. From the pier, you get great views of the ocean and beyond. Each Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, you can see fireworks from the pier.
It’s a great spot to visit during a vacation in Clearwater, particularly after a long day lounging at the beach. There are some restaurants and cafes on Pier 60 too, in case you get hungry, and there’s an awesome view. We watched the sun set while paragliders floated along in the distance, and the nightlife began to come alive.
After a walk along Pier 60, we headed out back towards the beach to watch the sun’s disc dip beneath the waves. Gotta love golden hour.
The sunset on Clearwater Beach is so dramatic – one of the best I’ve ever seen. We sat around and watched it, before going to take a dip in the sea.
It took its time to disappear, but we all chatted while we waited.
We waded into the ocean and got some nice photos of the sunset.
When it finally disappeared into the horizon, we walked back along past Clearwater Beach and Pier 60. I watched as the golden streaks filled the blue sky, with palm trees in the foreground.
Once the sun had disappeared into the marbled sky, we headed back to our hotel for cocktails. The perfect end to a lovely day in the Clearwater sun.
Clearwater – the perfect destination for a family vacation.
Have you visited Clearwater Beach for a vacation? What did you get up to? Let me know in the comments below.