Friday, March 9, 2018

Clearwater Beach and Sand Key, Florida

Clearwater Beach (near Tampa and part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area) consists of three miles (4.8 km) of snowy-white sand beaches and serene Gulf of Mexico water.  With over 250 sunny days per year, the white sand reflects the sun and doesn't get too hot.  Temperatures during the year range from highs in the mid 80s (27°C) to lows in the mid 60s (16°C), with water temperatures roughly the same.

We're staying in the northern end of Sand Key, a barrier island that stretches roughly 15 miles (24 km) through several fabulous beach towns, including Madiera Beach, Redington Beach, Indian Shores, Indian Rocks, and Bellair Shore into Clearwater.  The hotel is a mile from Clearwater Beach, connected by Sand Key Bridge which replaced the original drawbridge with a 65 foot (20 meter) high span.  Crossing the bridge from our hotel, we enjoy the views and the climate and soon reach the white sand beaches of Clearwater Beach.

 Crossing the bridge from Sand Key

 Clearwater Beach

In the morning, heavy machinery is at work making the beach pristine again and ready for visitors.

 Making and keeping the beach pristine

And, on the way, the town of Clearwater brags (quite rightly) about the recognition the beach has received.

Well noted

After a stroll around the beach, we look for the best fish tacos and are referred to Pearly's Beach Eats, where we have grouper tacos fried, grilled, and blackened, with jicama coleslaw, fresh mango salsa, and shredded cheese.  These are really good!

Pearly's Beach Eats

Grouper tacos

After lunch, we walk back over the bridge to Sand Key and stop in at Sand Key Park, a beautiful stretch of beach and reef nurseries and home of the Pinellas Park Artificial Reef Program.

Sand Key Bridge

 Entering Sand Key Park

 Finding the beach

 Along the beach, are sand sculpture displays and entrepreneurs offering food and dring

 Sand sculpture display near the Beach Grill trailer

And, continuing along the beach, we find diversity in the life guard stands, perhaps for senior and junior life guards?

 Full-service, more-sun-loving life guard stands

And, of course, the warnings to watch our for alligators, snakes, and other wildlife, alongside instructions of what to do if our fishing hook snags a seabird.

Warning and helpful tips

For dinner, it's back over the bridge to Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, right on the beach, to enjoy the fabulous octopus appetizer (Rocktopus), grouper tacos, and a grouper sandwich, followed by a slice of key lime pie while listening to the band.  What a great way to end the day.

Frenchy's Rockaway Grill

View of sunset from Frenchy's

 Rocktapus, grouper sandwich and grouper tacos

Key Lime pie and the band

Walking back to Sand Key, the view from the bridge after sunset offers a whole different perspective of Clearwater Beach.

 View from the bridge walking back

This has been a great introduction to the beach and to several types of grouper tacos near Sand Key, Now it's time to explore more of the area.

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