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Clearwater Beach, Gulf of Mexico, Florida

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Clearwater Beach, and had visions of it being a rather tired and worn-out seaside town.  However, despite the drizzling rain and dull skies (unusual for Florida) on our arrival, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Clearwater Beach is a wide, 2.5 miles long, clean and inviting stretch of sparkling white, soft sand.

BCU-2In former times, it was best know as a second more relaxing destination for visitors to the Orlando theme parks. However, over recent years it has become a destination in its own right and has witnessed a genuine renaissance. The city’s ‘Beach by Design’ improvement project has seen the sea front around Pier 60 greatly enhanced by the creation of the Beach Walk promenade.

And while the regeneration of Clearwater Beach continues, the best of the traditional and iconic beach style bars and diners remain.BCU-3

Pride of place

Standing tall and taking pride of place amongst the quality hotels that line the paved, winding sea front walkway is the grand Hyatt Regency.  This is where we stayed during our visit.

Check-in was swift and courteous– all Hyatt staff are expertly trained – and we were quickly shown to our stunning room.

A two bedroom suite, beautifully furnished in a West Indies-inspired style, with a kitchen, dining and lounge area with large, comfy sofas.

The kingsize beds were extremely comfortable and bathrooms spacious with quality toiletries and bathrobes – always a welcome touch.  Recycling bins can be found in all rooms and unwanted soap and shampoo are sent to third world countries through Clean the World.

Best of all was the balcony, with tables, chairs and fabulous views across the Gulf of Mexico.BCU-4

A fine dining restaurant

And our dinner at SHOR American Seafood Grill was a real highlight of the stay.

The award winning crab cakes were delicious – not too big and very nicely presented, and the calamari steak, cut into strips, soaked in buttermilk and fried in a light, tempura batter – delicious.

We also enjoyed the specialities of house – lobster ravioli with a vermouth cream and the chilli lime mahi mahi with coconut jasmine rice and a tropical fruit salsa.

Our meal was complemented by a delicious sauvignon blanc from the Napa valley and rounded off with selection of light, but delightful desserts, the favourite being a coconut flan.

With its relaxing spa, fine dining restaurant, cocktail bar, bustling coffee shop (I had the best coffee here), elegant pool deck, local restaurants and Clearwater Beach itself, there is no reason to travel far from the Hyatt Regency.

www.clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com

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While in the area 

Clearwater Beach, located on a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico in west central Florida is ideally placed for touring what is a fascinating part of Florida.

While there, visit the ‘Scottish’ town of Dunedan and ‘Greek’ Tarpon Springs, the sponge capital.

Cycle and walking trails start at the city limits and there are fishing, dolphin watch and sunset cruises from the marina.

And finally we come back, as one invariably does, to Florida’s glorious sub-tropical climate.

Except for the height of summer, when it can be on the very hot side, the sunshine state is a year-round location.BCU-6

The Clearwater’s Dolphin Trail

Clearwater’s Dolphins Trail is an artistic initiative featuring a growing pod of more than 101 6-foot tall fibreglass dolphins, each individually designed by a local artist and sponsored by an area business.

​www.visitclearwaterflorida.com/dolphintrail

BCU-7Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island State Park, just north of Clearwater Beach, is one of the last remaining un-touched natural islands in Florida, looking just as it did a hundred years ago.

The park is accessible on foot during low tide and by boat at other times.

Caladesi is home to a three mile long trail in the shade of tangling mangroves and provides a glimpse into Florida’s natural rustic beauty.

There’s also kayaking through the mangroves.BCU-8

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is nationally recognised for its work in marine rescue, rehabilitation and release, as well as education and animal assisted therapy research.

More than an aquarium, the CMA is also a non-profit organization working to conserve aquatic environments and animals.

Their most famous resident, Winter the Dolphin, was caught in a crab trap and nursed back to health after she lost her tail.

She was fitted with a prosthetic tail to allow her to swim once again, and Winter’s story of survival and perseverance has been inspiring children, especially those with disabilities, around the world.

Winter’s life has been the focus of the 3D Warner Brothers’ film Dolphin Tale, filmed entirely on location in Clearwater.

www.seewinter.com

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www.visitclearwaterflorida.com