I originally wrote this article for Bucketlistpublications.com where it was published on January 13. It’s a little different from my usual posts, but I have edited it slightly and added many more pictures for your enjoyment. See you in Florida soon 😉 Tiny
After having lived on three continents, and traveled the world for more than two decades for work and pleasure, I finally found my own little piece of paradise here on Sand Key, a barrier island on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast.
Don’t get me wrong, I still travel, but I no longer feel I have to get away. Simply because there’s so much to explore right here in my backyard. Outdoor activities for every taste, every age and ability.
I’m not going to tell you about all the excellent hotels, restaurants and bars that cater for visitors here. There’s an app or two for that. Instead, I’ve chosen to talk about a few activities and adventures for those who want an active, outdoorsy vacation.
Beaches. Beaches are of course the main attraction around here. Clearwater Beach offers everything beachgoers could ask for, a beautiful beach and lots of water related activities at the marina across the road – and throngs of company. Shopping and activities on Pier 60 every night at sunset, and lots of watering holes nearby.
For those who prefer a bit more quiet and space for their beach day, or maybe want to catch a fresh grouper for dinner, the Sand Key Park and beach just over the bridge from Clearwater Beach, will be ideal. It has all the necessary amenities, including food at nearby establishments.
Water sports. Jet skiing is probably the most popular water sport among visitors, and is available both on Clearwater Beach and on Sand key.
Kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding are available at the Community Sailing Center just opposite the Sand Key Park and the beach. They also offer summer camps and instructional courses where you can learn the basics of sailing or paddle boarding.
Kite surfing is popular on Sand Key when the winds are right. Parasailing and “sky-surfing” are also on offer for those who have a higher calling, or just seek the big picture.
Excursions on the water. Clearwater Beach marina is a busy place. That’s where you can book trips on the water. Again, the items on the menu are many. Anything from a Pirate Ship rides with kids, to dolphin tours, dinner cruises or sunset sails. Going slow or fast. Your choice.
But I’d like to mention one particular experience that all my guests regardless of age have loved, Captain Mike’s Dreamcatcher Explorations. Most tours (private or split between 5-6 people) go to the Three Rooker Bar, a small Barrier Island.
There is no better way to spend a morning or an afternoon. You can do tube riding and dolphin watching on your way there, fantastic shelling and snorkeling once you reach the island. It’s an untouched paradise, and if you’re lucky a dolphin might come to swim with you there.
Three Rooker Bar is also a protected nature preserve, which brings me to my final theme.
Wildlife and hiking. Many visitors enjoy the birds found on Florida shores. And you can watch/photograph many species right in the salt marsh of Sand Key Park, on the beach and on the bay side. I’ve photographed at least 40 different species there, maybe around 10-15 on any given day.
If you want to experience untouched Florida nature and are up for a hike, then I can recommend a visit to Honeymoon Island about 30 minutes north of Clearwater.
And if you are up for a really long hike and the weather is nice, you can walk to Caldesi, a pristine barrier island, on a sand bar all the way from Clearwater. Those who want to just enjoy the beach or hike the nature trail can also reach Caldesi Island by boat from Honeymoon Island.
Other nature related adventures are offered by Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is the home of Winter, the dolphin from two movies, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. The Aquarium, which is actually a hospital and rehabilitation center for marine animals, also offers excursions on the bay to examine the interesting marine life there.
Here’s to an outdoorsy vacation in the Clearwater area!