The “best beach in Florida” title sounds pretty great, considering the competition. But how about the best beach in the country? That’s the big honor that Clearwater just snagged in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards. Indeed, this idyllic paradise on the gulf averages 361 days of sunshine a year. But that isn’t the only reason it’s number one.
Reason 1: The Beach Is Immaculate
Yes, Clearwater Beach has that signature super-fine, sugar-white sand, which is special, but you can actually find that (or something close to it) at various other spots on the gulf. What truly separates Clearwater Beach’s from others is how well the city maintains it. “It’s raked every single day, very early in the morning, and it’s pretty pristine in terms of cleanliness, too. People really appreciate that,” says Nancy Cimney, Director of Sales & Marketing for Opal Sands Resort and Sandpearl Resort, Opal Collection’s two Clearwater Beach–based resorts. Its commitment to safety is notable as well, with lifeguards present year-round – the only beach in Pinellas County where that’s the case.
Reason 2: It’s Pedestrian Friendly
Lined by a boardwalk, Clearwater Beach was built around the idea of being accessible to pedestrians. “Pier 60, the long concrete pier that extends into the gulf, is the center of activity, and Sandpearl sits on the north side of it, while Opal Sands is on the south side,” says Cimney. “In general, though, wherever you’re coming from, the beach itself is so easy to access, whether by car, trolley, or water taxi,” Not to mention, the boardwalk is lined with restaurants, shops, and vendors.
Reason 3: Families Love It
There’s always a carnival-like atmosphere at Pier 60, which is frequented by street performers, musicians, and local artists selling their pieces. At the entrance of the pier on the beach, you’ll also find a bungee trampoline, giant inflatable slides into the water, and a rock-climbing wall. There’s even a Sunset Cinema series, showing free outdoor movies every weekend year-round, right beside the water.
Reason 4: The Gulf Coast Has Its Own Vibe
“The West Coast is the best coast,” says Cimney, noting Clearwater Beach’s laid-back ocean experience with consistently calm surf conditions (in comparison to the choppier Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s East Coast). “The Atlantic side also has sand that’s very granular and almost harsh, whereas the sand on the West Coast is softer and finer.” It works nicely for travelers, especially of the international variety, who fly into Orlando, visit the theme parks, then make the 1.5-hour, straight-shot drive over to Clearwater Beach and spend the rest of their vacation relaxing on the beach. So: If your experience in Florida is limited to Orlando and the Atlantic side of the state, remember that there’s reason to explore the other side.
Reason 5: The Sunsets
Sunsets in Key West’s Mallory Square are legendary, but they’re a big deal in Clearwater Beach, too. “Sandpearl has a sunset ritual in which our mascot, Ridley, rings the sunset bell the moment the sun touches the horizon,” says Cimney. Beyond that is the nightly sunset celebration that starts prior to sundown and lasts for two hours after, thanks to flame-throwers, break dancers, magicians, escape artists, and performers who all gather at Pier 60.