The Clearwater Beach Area
From the high water park rides in Busch Garden's Adventureland, Tampa rises from what seems to be a sea of green jungle with its many high rise buildings. Its quite a sight but a more awesome sight is when you begin crossing the Campbell Causeway (Hwy 60) from Clearwater into Clearwater Beach. The causeway is one of the main roads to this beach resort town and makes for an excellent stretch of many miles for biking, roller blading, skateboarding, jogging. The views are great and like everywhere in Florida, green from tropical rain. Taking I-275 south will put you in St. Petersburg, while 580 will take you north of Clearwater Beach.
When you say Clearwater, to some, it may mean the town only, not Clearwater Beach, which is like small suburb of it. Clearwater Beach is the stretch of beaches of white, powder-like sand lined with a few high rise hotels on the Gulf of Mexico. To get to it, you cross the smaller Memorial Causeway that connects Clearwater town to the beaches. Along the way you will pass the Marine Aquarium, Sea life Safari until you come to a large two lane and confusing round about. Traffic usually snarls around this. But know this, if you want shops and cafes, turn right on Mandalay Ave. Eventually this road will take you to less crowded beaches also. As you go around the turn about, you will see the pier, a welcome center. Soon, you will take a right onto Coronado Drive but know this, if you want to see the beaches and access beach parking, you make a right onto Gulfview Blvd. This mirrors the beach boardwalk and a few shops. Parking is both public @ $2.75 hr. or private (next to the Ritz Tower) for $20 all day.
Traffic crawls but it allows you to check it out. If you arrive after 11 am, parking will be a nightmare to find even on a weekday in the summer. If you are frustrated by the parking, you can continue to drive along this road for other parking areas and since the whole area is beach, large, wide beaches, sooner or later you will get lucky. Gulfview goes on for miles to Sand Key, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores etc. These are probably less busy areas than when you first turn onto Gulfview. Another great beach is Madeira Beach. Hey, they are all good! The issue is more of getting parking and hopefully, free parking! Keep in mind that Gulfview is also known as Road 699. It literally goes on for over 15 miles until crossing the water at St. Pete Beach, near Ft. De Soto park.
Like any beach towns, Clearwater Beach is buzzing and very casual. There are few decent souvenir shops like Ron Juan and Wings but along the beach boardwalk there are not many at all. One can rent chairs and umbrellas in the beach area in front of the Ritz for silly prices. Their is a Mcdonalds on the boardwalk and is good for a quick bite, but there are a few others of the non-fast food variety. FYI, rooms rent for $500\month and a one bedroom apt. is around $900. You can rent anything as far as water toys go at a variety of places but the best one stop shop is called Makin' Waves at 619 S. Gulfview (727-446-9373). Take a walk onto Pier 60 for a different perspective.
As to the ocean water, in the summertime, it is 84 degrees, in the Spring and Fall, it is 75, and in wintertime, 64. The air temp all year ranges from a cool 73 (winter) to 91 (summer) degrees. The summer is their wet season, so if it rains while you are on the beach, just stay there. It will pass and you are there to swim anyway! The rest of the year is dry with less than 3 inches in the other seasons. The local weather number is 727-645-2506.
Clearwater is 20 miles from Tampa and 183 miles to Daytona Beach, which is on the other side of the state on the Atlantic. Key West from here is 400 miles, Orlando is 90 miles and Miami is 285. You can fly into either Tampa or St. Petersburg International Airport. Tampa International is directly across by some 20 miles from Clearwater.
One cannot love Clearwater Beach. Better than Miami Beach because it is much less built up. I think the beaches are bigger and better and there is more of them. Enjoy!
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