Clearwater Beach, Florida and Pier 60

Clearwater Beach is a busy, visitor-oriented vacation destination. It has everything a visitor looking for entertainment could want, all contained within a few blocks. There is plenty of nightlife for singles too. In fact, Clearwater Beach attracts a much younger crowd overall than most of the Gulf Coast. It is clean, modern, and has lots to do. There are all types of boat tours, fishing charters, dolphin-watching cruises, dinner cruises, beach clothing stores, restaurants, souvenir shops, etc. Of course all this activity contributes to a substantial traffic and parking problem. One can use the Jolley Trolley to get around. Clearwater Beach Parking Information

Clearwater Beach, Florida as seen from Pier 60

View of Clearwater Beach from Pier 60. The large pink hotel at center is the Hyatt. Tall buildings at right are across Clearwater Pass on Sand Key.

Clearwater Beach is very swimmer friendly and has lifeguards.  The water is usually calm and reasonably clear. In the photo above, which was taken from the pier, the big hotel in the middle is the Hyatt Regency.

Getting to Clearwater Beach

If you are flying into Tampa, or driving through Tampa on your way from Orlando, Clearwater Beach is the closest beach. Highway 60 brings you right to the beach. Coming from most anywhere else, US 19 is the best choice, though it can get congested.

The beach is beautiful and white. The pier, called "Pier 60," affords a nice view and is THE place to be at sunset and the water is generally shallow and reasonably clear most of the time. There is entertainment on and around the pier at night with arts, crafts, music, and street performers. Busy place, Clearwater Beach. If you are looking for a quiet get-away, this is not the place for you.

Clearwater Beach and Gulf of Mexico

I was standing on Pier 60 when I took this photo, looking north toward the North Beach area and Caladesi Island in the far distance. The tall buildings at right include the Sand Pearl and The Hilton.

Hotel Ideas on Clearwater Beach

The landmark hotel of Clearwater Beach is the Hyatt Regency. It is front and center and within a few steps walking distance of everything you need. Two of the top hotels Clearwater Beach are the Sand Pearl and the Clearwater Beach Hilton, both within steps of Pier 60. Or, if you'd prefer a little distance from the hustle and bustle of Clearwater Beach, just across the bridge to the south is the Sheraton Sand Key, which is next to Sand Key Park, one of the best beach parks in the area. Sure, there are hotels of all price ranges, but for the best experience, go with one of the better hotels. It's worth the money.

Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach, Florida

This is a great view of Clearwater Beach and the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

If you are considering reserving a hotel in the city of Clearwater and making the drive out to the beach, that's probably not the best strategy for this area considering the traffic congestion. A better plan might be to look for a smaller hotel or rental in Indian Rocks Beach about 15 minutes south of Clearwater Beach. You could easily drive up to Clearwater Beach for the day every day if you prefer.

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The Beach

The main public access is at Pier 60. Parking and access is provided along the beach for several blocks south of the pier. The area along South Gulfview Blvd from Clearwater Pass to Pier 60 is where most of the parking, hotels, restaurants and shopping are concentrated. You can park your car and never need it again the rest of the day. If you are staying in one of the hotels close to the pier you could stay here for weeks without needing  a car.

Clearwater Beach, Florida with beach shelters

Clearwater Beach from the south end, looking north toward Pier 60.

North of the pier there are access trails at each street end, but parking is limited and is no longer free. Further north still, the beach gets very quiet because the beach access points do not provide parking spaces for cars. Although the beach access points are limited, the beach itself is open to the public everywhere. So you could walk from Pier 60 along the beach for about 5 and a half miles to the north tip of Caladesi Island.

Below is a video I created on how to use features of Google Maps to plan your hike from Pier 60 to Caladesi Island. It is best viewed in full-screen mode:

Clearwater Beach view of Sand Pearl and Hilton Hotels

Here's an evening view of Clearwater Beach hotels, taken from the pier.

The beach is white quartz sand and is regularly raked and manicured by the authorities. Excellent lifeguard protection is available during posted hours. There is also law-enforcement on site if needed. This is always a good idea when so many people congregate in one place. It is a safe, clean, family atmosphere, even after dark.

Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach, Florida

Pier 60 is the focal point for activity on Clearwater Beach.

Standing on Pier 60 gives you a great view of the beautiful white sand beach and it's a great place to go for a stroll and take photos. Vendors set up shop on the pier and sell all sorts of arts and crafts.

Clearwater Beach attracts quite a crowd.  Best practice is to get here early to find a parking spot, unless you happen to be staying right on the beach, in which case traffic and parking is no concern.

Pier 60 vendors, Clearwater Beach, FL

Vendors and browsers on Pier 60, right before sunset.

Right behind the beach is Gulfview Blvd, with all its shops and restaurants. You can walk just about anywhere in 10 minutes, so you don't even need a car to go shopping, or to have lunch, dinner, or drinks. There are plenty of wide sidewalks everywhere, so walking around is safe and easy.

The water here is great for swimming. It is usually calm and the beach is wide and flat--great for walking.

Shells on Clearwater Beach

Most all of the Gulf beaches have shells, and that includes Clearwater Beach. The best shelling occurs right after storms or strong winter cold fronts which wash lots of fresh new shells onto the beach. The first low tide after a strong cold front is usually the most productive time for shelling. The earlier you arrive on the beach, the more likely you are to get the best selection of shells.

Nature on Clearwater Beach

Although the Pier 60 area is highly developed, nature is not too far away. Both Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island are nearby and make a great day trip.

Clearwater Beach promenade along South Gulfview Blvd.

Strolling along the Clearwater Beach promenade with the beach to the left and South Gulfview Blvd to the right.

One of many cafe-style restaurants on Clearwater Beach, Florida

Crabby's Bar & Grille; just one of many cafe-style restaurants serving up food along Clearwater Beach.

Fisherman's view of Pier 60. You have to pay to walk beyond the bait shop on the pier, so the crowd thins out quite a bit.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just a few blocks off the beach, but you'll probably want to drive there, or take the trolley.

The Palm Pavilion provides on-the-beach food and drink on the north side of Pier 60.

This is the bridge over Clearwater Pass. I'm standing on the Sand Key side of the bridge looking at Clearwater Beach on the other side. You can walk across the bridge. The top of the bridge is a great place to snap photos.

Below is a video with some great tips for enjoying Clearwater Beach safely:

Copyright: David McRee,