A trip to the beach is relaxing at any time, but living in the snow belt, a few days at the beach in the middle of winter is especially restorative. We usually travel in the summer or over the kids’ Spring Break and somehow managed not to schedule a winter respite in a warm destination for a few years but rectified that mistake this year by booking flights to Tampa in February. My husband and I had never visited the Tampa area and particularly enjoy traveling to new places. Our three kids (aged 10, 7 and 3) are always up for any adventure, especially if it involves sand and sun.
We decided to spend our long weekend on the barrier island just outside Tampa. While we stayed in Treasure Island, we spent an afternoon at Clearwater Beach, and scoped it out in anticipation of future visits. It’s no surprise that Clearwater Beach is consistently named as one of the best beaches in the US. With beautiful white sand beaches and clear Gulf waters lined with resorts, this truly is an amazing beach to visit. In 2016, Clearwater Beach received the Traveler’s Choice Award for the best beach in the US by Trip Advisor and is currently ranked #4.
Parking in Clearwater is limited, but we scored a spot in the hourly beach parking lot right next to Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, where we had a magnificent lunch. Frenchy’s chain of restaurants in Clearwater have been an institution since 1981. Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill is so popular that there was a short wait for a table. Luckily, we had an amazing “waiting room” on the impeccable sand beach. As we were rinsing off our feet after a few minutes wading in the Gulf, the host called our name and led us to on the patio with a perfect beachfront view.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals, which started with grouper nuggets and Frenchy’s garlic crab fries as appetizers. My husband enjoyed the grouper nuggets so much that he ordered a second basket as his entrée. I had the delicious Caribbean jerk chicken sandwich, and my oldest son pretty much polished off his Angus tip sirloin. The kids’ menu was perfect for our two youngest, and the hurricanes were absolutely divine.
After lunch, we pulled the kids’ beach toys out of the trunk and headed back to the beach where we rented an umbrella and two beach chairs for the afternoon from the Palm Pavilion Beachside Bar. We were able to take advantage of the Palm Pavilion’s live musician featured as part of their Music on the Deck series.
It was heavenly to just kick back and relax while the kids engaged in some hard-core sand play. I may or may not have taken a short nap.
Although the temperatures were in the high 70s, the water was a bit too chilly for me to do much more than dip my toes. But, there were people in the somewhat frigid water. My husband and sons braved the cold to join them and wandered out into the Golf at least waist deep. The waves were calm, and the water was crystal blue.
Clearwater Beach has such pristine white sand that feels like powder and was so comfortable under our feet. However, it was much busier than the beach at our resort and not ideal for collecting shells. The kids still found a few to add to our collection right at the water’s edge.
We didn’t check out the Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival that offers music and artisans, street performers 364 nights a year (weather permitting) but certainly enjoyed watching the sunset over the Gulf every night and the sky light up in brilliant colors afterwards.
On our way back to our resort, we stopped at Ice & Cream Creamery for $3 hand spun milkshakes. that were the perfect ending to a magical day at the beach. As an added touch, the owner posts his personal mobile number in the store. Based on our pleasant experience, I’m guessing he doesn’t get many cries of outrage.
Clearwater Beach was definitely more lively than our resort in Treasure Island, and it very well may be our next Florida beach destination.
Every so often, we encounter a place that is so fabulous for those traveling with kids that it is worthy of being featured on its own. For more fabulous locations, please check out our other Spotlight features! Also, be sure to check out our post on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and our entire category of posts on things to do and places to visit in Florida.