Things to do in Clearwater, Florida: A luxurious budget weekend.

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

Where to stay, what to eat, and what to see.




Clearwater has been rated America’s number #1 beach 4 times in the past 6 years (2016, 2018, 2019 and now 2021)(1). So if you’re looking for a beautiful beach weekend without booking tickets to Hawaii this makes Clearwater an easy choice


We recently spent a weekend here and LOVED it!


We could easily go back and have tons to do, but if you’ve only got a weekend, here’s what I’d suggest:


Budget tip.

The good thing about weekend trips is that if you want to squeeze out more bang for your buck, you can book 1 night instead of 2.


How? Head out early Saturday morning and spend the day having fun before you check into your hotel that night.


This means you can make it a super budget friendly weekend away, or really go all out on your hotel choice for the night since you’re only paying once instead of twice.


You can spend your money where it matters: The food and the experiences!


Where to stay:

We ended up going with the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa right on the beach.


We used our Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book it for only $50 out of pocket. A resort fee and parking weren’t included, but 2 days right on the beach was totally worth it for us

 

Day 1:

Our route had us going over the Causeway to get to the beach, and we rolled down our windows to enjoy the drive over. Sea breeze in your hair, warm wind across your skin, a perfect entrance to a beach weekend getaway.


When you get into town, go ahead and drop off your car and your bags at the hotel. Even if you’ve only booked for 1 night, you can always check in those items early while you go enjoy the city.


Where we stayed, they had a really nice valet experience with the resort fee, which we definitely took advantage of. A nice luxurious start to the weekend.


Things to do:

Grab lunch on Mandalay Ave.

There are plenty of options to see up and down the main strip here. Some favorites include Beach Shanty Cafe, Jamminz, and Ryan’s Island Cafe


Check out a few of the shops along the way

It wouldn’t have that beach vibe without stores overflowing with beachy tees and ocean-themed decor. There’s plenty to see here as you stroll around!


Head to the beach

Go check out the soft white sand and turquoise clear water. Whether it’s right in front of your hotel, or over at Pier 60.



Dinner

My recommendation: Island Way Grill


Pro-tip: Google “Sunset time in Clearwater” and book your dinner reservation 30 minutes before that for a gorgeous sunset view to dinner. You’ll want to sit out on the back patio for that view. When you’re looking out over the water, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is on the right!


What to eat: We started off with their sushi roll of the day, which was wrapped in tuna that night. I followed it up with Bacon-Wrapped Scallops over Linguine which was just perfect; huge scallops seared just right, and not too much sauce over the pasta to overpower everything.


We finished up the night with 2 of their desserts. A chocolate cake with raspberry jam and chocolate ice cream and a key lime pie under the patio string lights.



Night Activities


Enjoy the pool on your own at night

I imagine that most people are out enjoying that nightlife, but that means you’ll probably have the heated pool all to yourself to relax after a long day. We loved how cozy and relaxed we felt after a day of exploring, to just float alone along the beach for a while


Walk the beach at night

Still feeling a bit restless? Take a relaxing stroll along the beach next to the crashing waves and under the stars before heading up to bed for the night.

 

Day 2:

If you had a relaxing night in on the beach, you'll have plenty of morning time to enjoy the area.


Things to do:

Explore the strip

Grab a coffee or a morning ice cream while you stroll along Mandalay Ave. and check out the shops.


My recommendation: Ice & Cream Creamery 🍦


A short walk from the beach and with plenty of unique flavors, we really enjoyed this little beach break. Cute seating outside along the strip meant that we got to people watch and enjoy the live musician at the bar next to us 🎵



What to eat: There are TONS of different flavors to choose from, but I went with the Sweet Peach Mermaid and loved it! Definitely a sweet pick me up after hours out in the sun 🏖️




Clearwater Marine Aquarium:

Pro-tip: This is a 20 minute walk, or a 5 minute drive. You may want to grab your car for this if you don’t want to deal with the heat. The walk is beautiful over the water though.


Our favorite activity while we were in Clearwater? Hands down our visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium 🐬 You might know it from the movie "A Dolphin's Tale" starring Winter the Dolphin! 🤩


All of the animals that are rescued are treated and released if it's deemed safe for them. If they aren't able to make it in the wild on their own, they're well taken care of here 💕


Watch Nicholas the Dolphin get his daily exercise while he plays and jumps, see Hope & Winter, hand feed some rays, or get an up-close view of some Pelicans 💓 It's worth dedicating an entire afternoon during your trip!


What does it feel like to feed a ray out of your hand? Like a little vacuum cleaner floating over you 🙈



Brunch:

My recommendation: Marina Cantina


Walk over to Marina Cantina for a beautiful rooftop view of the marina. If it’s too hot out to sit outside, don’t worry about missing out on a great view. The walls are basically all windows, and you can enjoy the views while fending off the heat of a Florida day with the help of some AC. Birds love being at the marina, so get ready for some sightings.


What to eat: Tres Leches French Toast & the Chorizo and Potatoes Skillet. A little bit of sweet and a little bit of savory 💕



We loved our Clearwater weekend, and hope that you do too. Check back in for more travel itineraries to come!


Thanks for reading!

 

References:

  1. https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/video/clearwater-beach-1-beach-us-again#:~:text=Clearwater%20Beach%20was%20named%20the,row%20in%202019%2C%20and%20St.


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