They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. The winter doldrums are no match for the rays of sunny Clearwater Beach, Florida. Whether you’re a native in need of an afternoon out of the office, or a visitor finding respite from the snow, Clearwater Beach has something for everyone. Here are some of our favorite local hot spots, plus a guide for making the most of your stay. (Just don’t forget the sunscreen!)
Dress the Part
Trend alert! Once sold out of the trunk of a car in South Florida, the Surf Style signature Interplanetary Windbreakers that launched a retail empire have now been seen on the likes of NBA superstar Russell Westbrook, singer/songwriter Dorian Electra, and the dancers of Major Lazer. Pick up a retro-styled neon treat for yourself at one of Surf Style’s four Clearwater Beach locations (315 South Gulfview Blvd., 442 Mandalay Ave., 660 South Gulfview Ave., 700 South Gulfview Blvd.), where you can also grab a variety of apparel for men, women, and kids. Find board shorts, rash guards, hoodies, and T-shirts, plus beach gear like backpacks, frisbees and hats. Don’t miss fun options like the “Namaste Beaches” muscle tank, racerback romper, or henna tattoos. And thanks to the convenient shore-side locations just steps from the beach, shopping ‘til you drop is more than acceptable (and can result in a killer tan).
Learn to Surf
No day spent in Clearwater Beach would be complete without a surfing session, but if you’re hesitant to hang ten on the open ocean, head inside the Surf Style shop at 315 South Gulfview Blvd. to check out the FlowRider. Supervised by pro trainers, visitors of all ability levels are able to catch a wave on this patented surf machine, at a cost of just $30 for each half-hour. Boards are free of charge, and those who take to surfing like a fish to water can even become a part of the membership program so you can get a fun workout in year-round. Surf’s up!
Stock Up on Snacks
Find a post-surf pick-me-up at one of Clearwater Beach’s two Island Markets. Stocked with everything from sandwiches and protein bars to fresh produce and juice, the convenient shops at 646 South Gulfview Blvd, and 315 South Gulfview Blvd, are perfect for a quick stop before your next activity. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the saltwater taffy, and health nuts can feel free to nosh on vegan- and paleo-friendly treats. Looking for something a little harder? Just blocks from the beach, the two Island Liquor locations at 321 Coronado Drive, and 660 South Gulfview Blvd has an extensive selection of beer, wine and liquor, including premium spirits.
Hit the Beach
You could spend your entire trip soaking up the sun just napping on the beach, but there are plenty of beach-centric activities to keep you busy. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself visiting Clearwater Beach in the spring, head to the annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival. Running this year from April 12 to 28, the celebration features a master sand sculpting competition, sculpting classes for inspired amateurs, a giant sandbox for kids, and free outdoor concerts and movies on the beach. Missing the fest? The daily Sunsets at Pier 60 festival brings free, family-friendly fun to Pier 60 Park 365 days a year. The party starts two hours before the sun goes down, and continues until two hours after, granting plenty of time for attendees to check out street performers and local artisans.
Have a Bite to Eat
Once you work up an appetite, head to one of Clearwater Beach’s top restaurants for a bite. Start with a stop at Lenny’s Restaurant, a Clearwater Beach mainstay since 1958 and home to the famous basket of Danish pastries. Another famed dish to try? The Super Grouper sandwich at Frenchy’s, featuring the fish served grilled, fried, or Cajun-style. (Or try the Grouper Reuben for a special twist.) For breakfast, lunch or dinner with a view—and live musical entertainment almost any night of the week—head to Clear Sky Beachside Cafe, where the award-winning menu features globally inspired dishes, plus a full bar. Need some hair of the dog the next morning? Grab a complimentary mimosa or glass of bubbly when you check out the Island Way Grill’s brunch, which has been voted #1 in Tampa Bay. With a bloody mary bar, fresh seafood, sushi, a waffle station and smoked salmon, it’s easy to see (and taste) why.
Put Your Feet Up
After a busy day exploring Clearwater Beach, recharge with a stay at one of the many beachside resorts. Consider Opal Sands Resort and its panoramic guest room and pool views of the Gulf of Mexico, beachside Tiki bar, and a full-service spa that features day packages of up to six hours worth of massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. The views inside are just as captivating, with original works of Christopher Still art commissioned specifically for the hotel. You can also find a collection of artwork at the Sandpearl Resort, which also boasts Caretta on the Gulf, Clearwater Beach’s only Four-Diamond restaurant. An environmentally friendly hotel, the first resort in the state to receive Silver LEED certification, Sandpearl also features a selection of organic food and wine tastings, enrichment programs, and dolphin encounters. No matter where you stay, let the sound of the ocean drift you off to sleep as you rest up for another fun-filled Clearwater Beach day tomorrow.