Shropshire Star

Travel Review: Leaving theme parks behind for fun at top Floridian beach

The sun sets along the pier, dolphins frolic in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and buskers fill the air with music on a white sand beach.

Walking through a market at sunset in Clearwater

This is a Florida far from the crowds of Disney World or Sea World.

But the area of St Petersburg and Clearwater is most definitely a world where the sea is at the centre of its charms.

Clearwater, our first stop, feels authentically American – casual seafood restaurants, country and western singers, flags and trucks bigger than a British house.

The big pull here is the beach – one of the best in America – the sea and the dolphins.

Even our hotel is named after the resort’s most famous dolphin – Winter.

Rescued and rehabilitated at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and given a prosthetic tail, her story was turned into the Hollywood film A Dolphin’s Tale.

Our hotel – Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club – has images, artefacts and stories about the sea creatures, making it a fun place for families.

The view from a hotel room at Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club, Clearwater

The location is great with a private beach, small warm pool and tasty grill restaurant.

Our room overlooks the famous sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico.

But it’s soon time to go and find some dolphins and we head for the aquarium.

Winter sadly died in 2021 but you can see the current sea creatures being rehabilitated, do interactive games and a virtual reality trip underwater.

In fact the only way to get closer to the dolphins is to take a ride on the sea. And within minutes of our cruise leaving the harbour, we see a bottlenose leap out of the waves beside us.

However our children are soon distracted by the entertainment on board Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise – a two-hour trip with treasure hunts, water gun fights and games for the little ones, and free beer and wine for the adults.

Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise

The only way to end your days in Clearwater is to see the sunset from Pier 60 where buskers and market stalls create a lovely atmosphere.

You can even eat on the beach with lots of grill restaurants serving seafood. We stopped by Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and sampled its famous run runner cocktail alongside fresh shrimp.

You would imagine you’d have to go a long way to find a beach as good as Clearwater’s. In fact you only need to head half an hour south to St Pete Beach.

Same scorching sun, same warm, shallow waters, same white sand, but a different ambience.

St Petersburg or St Pete, as it’s known, is a bit more laid back than bustling Clearwater.

It is certainly relaxing at our hotel, the Rumfish Beach Resort.

Our ground floor room opens on to the sand, inside the room there is lots of space with two queen beds, a bathroom, kitchenette, dining and lounge area.

It’s hard to spend too long in our rooms though when there are so many children’s activities on offer.

Water slides, zip wires, pedalos, family games and magic shows are all available at the resort.

We try to do as many of them as we can and also spend time relaxing on our own cabana.

St Pete definitely has that relaxing vibe, which continues when we head downtown into the city.

We take in bustling markets, accessible museums and a chilled out pier with stalls, playground and great restaurants.

Our final lunch is at Doc Ford’s Bar and Grille on the pier overlooking the water.

And for our last evening here we make sure to savour the sunset on St Pete beach.

As the golden globe lowers, becoming first a crescent, then a pin prick and finally sinks below the horizon we’re left in the dark but with some amazing memories to take with us back to England.

Winter The Dolphin’s Beach Club - Clearwater Beach Hotel FL (

RumFish Beach Resort - TradeWinds Island Resorts (

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