On Florida’s Gulf Coast north of St. Petersburg, the city of Clearwater includes a beach community on a barrier island connected by a bridge to the mainland. Clearwater Beach, a short drive from downtown, is regularly recognized as one of America's top beaches and is the only one in the area that employs lifeguards year-round. Visitors who’d like to stay right on the beach have a number of options, with a choice of amenities and price point.
Best Western Sea Wake Beach Resort
With its own private beach, this six-story, 110-unit hotel offers accommodations that are more reasonably priced than some of its neighbors but still delivers most of the amenities beach-loving vacationers prefer. These include rental cabanas with complimentary towel service, a beachside tiki bar and a heated outdoor pool for those days when the gulf waters are too chilly. All hotel rooms feature a microwave oven, compact refrigerator and high-speed Internet access. For guests who’d like to dine in the hotel, the Blue Dolphin serves up traditional American cuisine in a casual setting.
Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort
This nine-story, 416-unit beachfront Hilton resort lies within an easy drive of the Tampa Bay area’s many attractions and only two hours from the theme parks of Central Florida. The hotel nestles on 10 acres of lushly landscaped property that includes a prime strip of white-sand beach. Watersports enthusiasts can rent kayaks, personal watercraft and parasailing gear on the Hilton’s private beach or just relax and enjoy the sun. The hotel’s Kids Club provides supervised activities for younger guests, and the fitness center offers a full complement of exercise equipment. For fine dining, try the Reflections restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a gulf view. The poolside Sand Bar & Grill offers lighter fare for lunch and dinner.
With a four-diamond rating from AAA and 700 feet of private beach, the Sandpearl offers an upscale vacation retreat that’s decidedly family-friendly. The hotel’s Camp Ridley provides a full schedule of activities for children, and the whole family can join in the nightly Sunset Celebration, where one lucky guest is tapped to ring the bell just as the sun sinks below the horizon. Frommer’s describes the hotel’s spa as “swank” and notes that it specializes in ocean therapy treatments. Recreational facilities include a lagoon-style pool, hot tubs and fitness center. Dining options include Caretta, which specializes in food that reflects the influences of the Caribbean and Latin America, and the Tate Island Grill for more casual fare in a poolside setting.
Sheraton Sand Key Resort
This nine-story, 390-unit hotel sits on 10 acres of prime beachfront property and offers its guests striking views of the gulf and Clearwater Harbor, which separates downtown Clearwater from the island. The hotel garners ratings of three stars from the Mobil Travel Guide and three diamonds from AAA. All rooms and suites have a balcony or patio. Guests can stay active by swimming laps in the hotel’s pool or working out in its fitness center. On-site dining options include Rusty’s Bistro, Island Grille, Poolside Cafe and room service.
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