Hello from Clearwater Beach, FL!! The drive from Savannah was pretty uneventful and by 6 pm we were checked into our hotel, changed into our bathing suits and swimming in the pool. We are staying at The Sheraton Sand Key Resort (1160 Gulf Boulevard, Clearwater Beach, FL). The resort is located on the barrier Sand Key Island right on the Gulf of Mexico, and has amazing views of both the gulf and the bay. The hotel itself if pretty well equipped with restaurants,conference center, fitness center, and children’s playground, although we have pretty much been in the room, the pool or on the beach, when we were at the hotel at all.
Although the hotel does offer some amazing views, our balcony does not have one of them! We can see the bay, but you have to look past some A/C units and roofs to see it. The room itself is nice. We have a king bed and had a roll away bed brought in for T. The bathroom is sufficient, if a little small. And the bed is the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper® so it is pretty comfortable. The pool and beach however are very nice. The pool is shaped like a Y and has 2 sets of steps to enter. It is a fairly deep pool (starting at 4 ½ feet and going to almost 9 ft) but they have pool noodles available for you to use, so most of the kids were able to float around everywhere. They also had a hot tub and a 1-foot pool for kids. There were also a lot of deck chairs and tables available for seating, and the pool staff was good about replacing wet towels with dry ones.
The pool is located right off the beach, which is very wide and very well maintained. They have 3 sand volleyball courts and a beanbag toss game available for guests free of charge. They also have beach chairs available, but there is a $25 per day charge to use them, so we chose not to. The water was kind of rough, and there were stingray warnings posted, so we decided to head back to the pool and play there instead. And in my book, any pool with palm trees is a good pool, so this one ranked up there! An added bonus – they had 2 showers to wash off the sand before heading into the pool or back up to your room.
The reason we decided to come to Clearwater Beach was actually inspired by a movie called Dolphin Tale. The movie is about a dolphin named Winter who loses her tail in an accident. The film is based on true events, and now Winter is living at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. My son T is a huge fan of the movie and has been asking for over a year to come and visit her. I am glad we made the trip!
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL) is a unique facility, specializing in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick or injured marine animals. The goal is to release the animals back into the wild, but if for some reason they cannot (extent of injuries, lack of hunting skills, etc), they have permanent homes at the center. Due to the popularity of the movie, they have recently opened a new facility that houses props and recreated sets from the film. It is called Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure (300 Cleveland Street, Downtown Clearwater), and that is where we started our day.
Being a fan of the movie, I enjoyed seeing the props and sets, and reading about how the movie was filmed at the Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure (WDTA). They even had a Hurricane simulator that recreated the hurricane from the film. In addition to the fictional story, they had information about the real rescue and how the artificial tail was created for Winter. From there, we took a free boat ride over to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). It was a beautiful day, and it was nice to be out on the water. The boat dropped us off right at the entrance, and we were able to walk right in. On the way back we decided to take the trolley, which dropped us right off at the entrance of the WDTA (where we had parked)
The CMA itself is not very large, and it is not a typical aquarium. They only have rescued animals there. On site now are 4 dolphins, 2 otters, some stingrays and sea turtles, and 2 pelicans. They have various “shows” throughout the day where they talk about how the animals are rescued and rehabilitated, and then you can see how the animals are fed and worked with to regain their strength. The facility does a lot of good work for these animals, and every penny earned from admissions is put right back into the care of the animals. I am very glad that we went.
For tickets and more information about the aquarium, you can visit www.seewinter.com. General Admission Pricing for CMA and WDTA is as follows, and includes free parking and transportation between the 2 facilities.
- Adults – $19.95
- Children (ages 3 – 12) – $14.95
- Seniors (60+) – $17.95
Tomorrow we head east to Orlando and the wonderful world of Disney!! Clearwater was definitely a nice place to visit, and I hear that a little team called the Phillies plays here in the spring, so we might have to come back!!