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Clearwater Beach Uncorked Celebrates A Renewed Gulf Coast

Clearwater Beach Uncorked Celebrates A Renewed Gulf Coast

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Expect copious sampling under grand white tents set up on sugar white sands overlooking the Gulf Coast.

The Gulf of Mexico was under siege in June 2010. Black oil plumes from the Deep Horizon Oil Spill menacingly spread across vast swaths of ocean threatening marine life and shoreline ecosystems including beaches. Tourism plummeted and something had to be done to expedite cleanup efforts. Clearwater Florida vigorously rallied community support leading to many grass roots initiatives. One of them still existing today is Clearwater Beach Uncorked, now in its 3rd year promoting Florida's Gulf coast as a premier vacation and culinary mecca.

Evolving more into a celebration more than cause, weekend-long Clearwater Beach Uncorked (February 8-9th) now showcase local culinary talent paired with top wines, spirits and brews. Expect copious sampling under grand white tents set up on sugar white sands overlooking warm Gulf Coast waters fronting Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa.

VIP tickets are sold out but General Admission remain at $85 per day getting you into the Grand Tasting Village and Uncorked Spirits Beach Club as well as a Decadent Dessert Tent showcasing Bubbles on the Beach, a pairing party of bubbly wines, sweets, pastries and all things rich and gooey just in time for your pre-Valentine’s Day fling.

30% of your ticket price goes to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Hospitality & Technology Leadership.

Humpback whale makes rare appearance in Gulf of Mexico

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Nicholas Lynch was on the hunt for kingfish with his cousin. But on Tuesday, the lifelong recreational fisherman from Manatee County would capture something extremely rare.

"I was looking out on the horizon. I saw some white water, thinking it was fish," he told FOX 13. "As we started to turn around that way we saw a giant whale jump out of the water."

He put his fishing pole down and grabbed his cell phone. As he did, a humpback whale breached the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 

"I couldn&apost believe my eyes," Lynch said. 

The whale put on a show about 30 miles off Clearwater Beach.

"At one point we were trying to find it and it came up right behind the boat and followed us and went beneath us," he recalled. "In my opinion, we were only in 100 feet of water, we were 30 miles offshore and we saw probably about a 50-foot whale. Playing, slopping its tail, jumping out of the water. It’s pretty surreal. Once-in-a-lifetime experience." 

Raw video: Humpback whale breaches in Gulf of Mexico

Nicholas Lynch has been fishing his whole life, but on Tuesday, he witnessed something few people will ever see in the Gulf of Mexico: he captured this video of a humpback whale.

NOAA agrees. They say it truly is a rare experience in Florida. 

"We don’t know why they occasionally venture in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s certainly not typical of them to do that, but it does happen on a rare occasion," said Laura Englby, the marine mammal branch chief with the NOAA Fisheries southeast regional office.

The whales are distinctive with the hump on the back, long white flippers and a tail with white patches. The last time a humpback whale was spotted in Florida was in 2018 off Panama City. 

Englby said documenting the occurrences is vital. 

"We really appreciate people reporting this because it’s a data point that’s important. Over time these things become valuable," she said. 

For Lynch it&aposs a trip that won&apost be forgotten. He came home with a whale of a tale. 

"We watched it jump a few more times and it kind of meandered away and we went back to fishing," he added. 

Clearwater Beach Desserts

Whether you have a sweet tooth, you’re planning a great Clearwater Beach date night or a Valentine’s Day surprise, sometimes we just NEED some delicious sweets. Here are places to get some delicious Clearwater Beach desserts!

The Mint Fox Cookies & Ice Cream

Known For: Serious Cookie Sundae – 1/2 pound warm cookie topped with 2 scoops of ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream
Personal Favorite: Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

Spiralz Creamery

Known For: Handcrafted Ice Cream Rolls
Personal Favorite: Creme Brulee Ice Cream Roll

Ice&Cream Creamery

Known For: Ice Cream is freshly made with locally sourced ingredients
Personal Favorite: Dulce De Leche


Known For: Tuttles
Personal Favorite: Mackinac Island Fudge

Gelato Bello

Known For: Homemade Gelato from a 150+-year-old family recipe
Personal Favorite: Yogurt Fragola

Frenchy’s Original Cafe

Known For: Key Lime Pie
Personal Favorite: Key Lime Pie

Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber Restaurant

Known For: Freshly Baked Pies / Coconut Cream Pie
Personal Favorite: Alaska Meringue Ice Cream Pie

Sea Guini (Opal Sands Resort)

Known For: Zeppole – cinnamon and sugar, dark chocolate filling, Kahlua anglaise
Personal Favorite: Budino – dark chocolate and hazelnut mousse, chocolate sponge, sea salt, caramel crisp

Play on America’s Number One Beach

Clearwater Beach has been named America’s number one beach many times over, and there’s a good reason why. In addition to its pedestrian-friendly vibe, Clearwater Beach offers long, wide stretches of warm gentle waters perfect for swimming, cool powdered sugar like sand ideal for playing and walking on and a variety of casual waterfront eateries that happily welcome families donning swimsuit cover-ups and flip-flops (we told you this was a laid-back beach town). Whether you’re looking to dig your toes in the sand and chillax with a good book, catch a few Florida rays or swim, surf, parasail or jet ski, Clearwater Beach has something for everyone.

Psst! Along Beach Walk you will find a number of turtle showers to rinse off those sandy hands and toes.

Vacation Inspiration: Clearwater Beach in Florida (she: Allison)

Happy New Year! It&rsquos great to be back at Or So She Says, writing about favorite travel destinations and ideas. This is the time of year when I dream about beach vacations. So today I&rsquom spotlighting one of the best family beach destinations in the United States &ndash Clearwater, Florida.

Clearwater is a fun and family-friendly beach town located on Florida&rsquos gulf coast. It is a short drive from the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, and about two hours away from Orlando.

The sugary sands and blue-green water at Clearwater Beach are its biggest draw. Clearwater&rsquos beach is so good that readers of USA Today voted it &ldquoFlorida&rsquos Best Beach Town&rdquo in 2013 and the #1 Place to Watch a Sunset. It&rsquos a great place to play in the waves, build a sand castle, or relax under a beach umbrella with a good book.

The best way to enjoy Clearwater&rsquos famous sunsets is to stop by Pier 60 each evening to enjoy live music, local artisans and street performers sharing their talents at Sunsets at Pier 60. This free family event is held year-round.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the home of Winter, the dolphin whose inspiring story was told in the movie Dolphin Tale. You can see Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, along with other animal stars from the film.

Your admission to the aquarium also gets you into Winter&rsquos Dolphin Tale Adventure, which is a separate building filled with props and scenes from the movie Dolphin Tale. Visitors from the aquarium are provided with transportation by water taxi or trolley.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is still a rescue hospital first and a tourist attraction second. Admission fees and donations are being used to expand the hospital and build better facilities for future visitors.

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park lies at the far northern end of Clearwater Beach and can only be reached by boat. You can rent a kayak or take a ferry to reach the park. Once there, you can get an idea of what the Florida beaches looked like decades, or even centuries ago.

The beach is undeveloped. Mangrove forests are preserved. There are no roads. There are a few amenities, including a small café, restrooms, a playground and beach chair rentals, but most visitors bring their own chairs and picnic. It&rsquos a great place to get away from the crowds. It&rsquos also one of the best places around to collect sea shells.

You can&rsquot really say you&rsquove been to Clearwater Beach unless you&rsquove tried Frenchy&rsquos. There are four Frenchy&rsquos restaurants on Clearwater Beach. The menus vary, but Frenchy&rsquos famous grouper sandwich is on all of them, along with a tempting array of other seafood specialties. There is a kids&rsquo menu, with chicken tenders and grilled cheese sandwiches for picky eaters.

If you&rsquore feeling a little adventurous, try the poutine at Frenchy&rsquos Original Cafe. This dish of French fries topped with brown gravy and fresh cheese curds is a true guilty pleasure. Frenchy&rsquos atmosphere is casual and friendly, and the prices are reasonable.

Location is an important consideration when shopping for hotels in Clearwater. Clearwater Beach is a barrier island which is connected to the city of Clearwater by a causeway. The island is only about three blocks wide, so any hotel you choose will be near the beach.

You can save money &ndash up to 50 percent &ndash by staying on the other side of the causeway in Clearwater. However, if you&rsquore visiting on a weekend or holiday, be aware that traffic jams on the causeway are common during peak times, and it may be challenging to find parking of any kind at Clearwater Beach.

For families on a budget, hotel rooms at Clearwater Beach can be found for under $200 per night in peak season. One of these is Frenchy&rsquos Oasis Motel, which is owned by the same company as the Frenchy&rsquos restaurants. My family stayed at this quirky retro motel last June and it was perfect for us. Our updated room had a full kitchen, a big-screen television and a patio with a view of the harbor and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Few places embody the family vacation better than Florida. And, when you&rsquore thinking of a Florida beach vacation, chances are that you are thinking of a place like Clearwater.


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An Island Time Home Page Feature

Watch for it on Gulf Blvd, and around Tampa Bay, and traveling the East Coast of the United States.

Coming or Going, this Island Cruiser is Distinctive!


Chris sells Real estate. Her years of experience & knowledge (1985) of the Pittsburgh area is exceptional. She is a Broker,Appraiser & owns her Real Estate Brokerage licensed in Pennsylvania & Florida. Just relocated Brokerage office to the North Hills area of Pittsburgh - 3283 Babcock Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 - have an artist, hairdresser and relaxation studio on lower level - keeps us smiling - well received.

Outgoing, Nature lover, Baseball & Football Fan, Enjoys Challenges, Exceptionally Family Oriented, Enthusiastic, Golf, Softball, Yoga, Walking, Great Cook, Celebrates Life, Wonderful Style of Home Decorating & Updating, Quiet Boating, Beaches & Yachts, Brings out the Best in People, Happiness - Reaches Beyond Normal Expectations, Makes things Happen-Every Day!

10 - Taco Bus (Best Quick Bite)

Taco Bus is where it's at if you want hot and fresh, authentic Mexican fare. You'll find large portions of reasonably priced delicious food that's made quickly and to order at Taco Bus. This is a great spot to walk to for lunch after a fun day at Clearwater Beach!

You can view the Taco Bus menu, here.

Plant-Based Options: You can order the portabello rancheros, vegan empanadas, vegan quesadilla, or tacos made with smoky chipotle-seasoned Plantfare protein, soy “steak” strips, or grilled butternut squash. They also have vegan VioLife cheese!

St. Pete Beach named best in America

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - Five of Tampa Bay’s beaches were ranked as some of the best in the U.S. by Tripadvisor, and one of them claimed the top spot: St. Pete Beach.

In years past, Clearwater Beach and Siesta Beach outranked St. Pete Beach, home of the Don CeSar, but this time it came out on top. Tripadvisor also ranked it as the fifth-best beach in the world.

"A great walking beach with white quartz sand, clear calm water, and seashells by the truckload," Tripadvisor wrote. "The most perfect place to watch the sun set."

Drone Zone: Tour the beaches, from Bradenton to Dunedin

We have some of the best beaches in the entire country and they look just as inviting from above. Here’s an aerial look at some of Florida’s Gulf Coast, from Manatee County on up through Pinellas.

Madeira Beach came in ninth place, Treasure Island came in 16th place, followed by Siesta Beach and Clearwater Beach. In previous years, Clearwater Beach came in first place. 

In 2019, it ranked as the top U.S. beach for the third time within four years. 

"It is wonderful news to see that not only our local residents now know why our destination is the best to not only reside, but also play," Robin Miller, CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

Last year, Pinellasਊnd Sarasota counties were among those that closed beaches during the early months of the pandemic. After more than a month, they reopened for locals and visitors to hit the sandy shores and soak in the Florida sun.

SkyFOX drone shows sky-high view of empty Pinellas beaches

When Pinellas County shut down its beaches, the popular gathering areas were eerily empty. SkyFOX Drone gave a view of the beaches from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach.

DRIVING FLORIDA’S GULF COAST: From the Big Bend to the Everglades


Generally running about 400 or more meandering miles along the coastline from the “Big Bend” at Apalachee Bay to Everglades National Park, a road trip along Florida’s Gulf Coast provides a variety of water-focused scenery, activities, dining (think fresh seafood!), and more. From bustling or quiet beaches to lots of nature, Florida’s Gulf Coast makes for yet another great Sunshine State road trip.

While it would be tempting to rush through the region on Interstate 75 and other busy highways closer to the Gulf of Mexico, varied roads (like US 19, US 41, and even smaller coast-hugging roads) right along the coastline create a much better way to explore the area.

The adventure begins in the Apalachee Bay area and the town of St. Marks. Stops here can include excursions to St. Marks Lighthouse (the oldest lighthouse on the Gulf Coast), San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park (a Spanish colonial fort and more) and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (about 70,000-plus sprawling acres of wildlife habitat along 45 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline and inland). Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee is also just a half-hour north on Florida 363.

The town of Perry, about 45 minutes due east of St. Marks on US 98, is next. Perry’s highlight is definitely the Forest Capital State Park Museum. It celebrates Florida’s forest industry, which dates to the 1800s. There’s an excellent museum, an authentic 19 th century Florida Cracker homestead, ranger-led tours, special events, and lots of fabled Florida longleaf pines.

The road heading southwest inland from the Gulf of Mexico proper is a combination of US 19, 98, and ALT 27, but Gulf Coast road trippers will want to turn toward the water just south of Perry to head to idyllic coast towns like Dekle Beach, Keaton Beach, and Steinhatchee, providing the first of many excursions to roads, activities, attractions, and dining right on—and sometimes in—the water.

Situated about a half hour or so from Perry down a heavily forested road, Dekle Beach and Keaton Beach are both quiet waterfront communities with little commercial activity. Next, after another half hour through the lush Tide Swamp Wildlife Management Area and Big Bend Wildlife Management (look for many turnoffs for the popular Great Florida Birding Trail), the riverfront town of Steinhatchee (located near Deadman Bay) has more retail shops and seafood stops like Kathi’s Krab Seafood.

After heading across the Steinhatchee River, the road (FLA 358) leads back out to US 98 at Tennille to continue the drive down the coast. This part of the drive offers many “out-and-back” possibilities to various points of interest toward and on the Gulf Coast (including Horseshoe Beach, Suwannee, Cedar Key, and more).

Cross City is 15 minutes from Tennille and a meal at historic Putnam Lodge is well worth the stop. Next, Fanning Springs (and Fanning Springs State Park) on the Suwannee River—just another 15 minutes from Cross City—provides a jumping off point to picturesque Manatee Springs State Park (manatee sightings, kayaking, and much more) and the quaint coastal town of Suwannee.

Boat tour in the mangrove waterways at Flamingo, Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida. Image courtesy of Seldon Ink.

From Fanning Springs, Route 24 at the US 98 town of Otter Creek leads east about 25 minutes to popular Cedar Key, the Cedar Keys, and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. Other highlights here include the Cedar Key State Museum, a small beach and grassy waterfront area with benches and views, a large fishing pier, classic coastal shopping (look for Island Trading Post and Sugar Shack), and restaurants like this historic Island Hotel and Restaurant that feature fresh local seafood and more.

Back out on US 98 and passing through huge swaths of protected public lands, the next major stop is the town of Crystal River (about 35 minutes from Otter Creek). Crystal River Preserve State Park and lots of water-based activities on the crystal-clear Crystal River like kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and more await.

Homosassa Springs, 10 minutes south of Crystal River, is the next stop, with Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park among its many attractions. Next, the town of Weeki Wachee and famed Weeki Wachee Springs State Park await. The must-see attraction of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park has been an “Old Florida” classic since 1947, thanks to famous mermaid shows, riverboat cruises, swimming in Buccaneer Bay, paddling on the Weeki Wachee River, and more.

Ibis at Eco Pond at Everglades National park, Everglades, Florida. Image courtesy of Seldon Ink.

The coastal road, which is now US 19, then leads toward a myriad of Gulf Coast towns like Hudson and Port Richey, before entering the historical popular sponging town of Greek-leaning Tarpon Springs. Here, long-time sponge diving operations offer tours, photo ops, and everything “sponge” (along with many other retail shops). The Greek population of Tarpon Springs, also means there are great Greek restaurants, like Hellas, Mykonos, and many more.

US 19 and US 19 ALT continue down the coast, west of the bustling city of Tampa and vibrant Tampa Bay, through Clearwater (Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the wide Clearwater Beach—complete with colorful lifeguard stands, and Palm Pavilion Beachside Grille & Bar are highly recommended) and lots more beach towns all the way to St. Pete Beach, west of St. Petersburg.

Here, beach-loving road trippers will find the classic Don Cesar Resort & Spa (including wonderful waterfront dining), the Gulfway Walkway, lots of waterfront parking with many “Beach Access” points), and fresh seafood at many waterfront restaurants, including casual Paradise Grill.

Waterfront dining at Paradise Grill, St. Pete Beach. Image courtesy of Seldon Ink.

The road then turns east and inland to cross wide Tampa Bay on the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, before turning south again to head toward Gulf Coast cities like Bradenton (look for its South Florida Museum, including the Parker Manatee Aquarium and Bishop Planetarium, The Marina at Riverwalk, ArtCenter Manatee, and Motorworks Brewing) and Sarasota (featuring the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art), plus quiet Gulf of Mexico beach towns like Longboat Key, Siesta Key, and more. Along the way, it’s easy to hop on and off US 41 and I-75 for out-and-back outings to attractions on or near the water.

Divided by the peaceful Peace River, Port Charlotte and historic Punta Gorda are next (just 80 miles as the crow flies from the base of Sunshine Skyway Bridge). Along with great waterfront dining at popular Punta Gorda hotspots like Laishley Crab House, Punta Gorda was once known for its Punta Gorda Hotel, which hosted hosts of luminaries in its heyday—including Clarence Darrow, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Andrew Mellon, and many others.

The Riverwalk, Bradenton, Florida

Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, soothing Sanibel Island, and more are just an hour or so from Punta Gorda. Highlights here have to include the Edison and Ford Winter Estates and several other museums and attractions, lots of watersports (parasailing is quite popular), lots of magical banyan trees, and more.

Another hour south, Naples and its nearby beaches and attractions are next, after passing through Bonita Springs and other classic coastal towns. Naples is known for its dramatic Gulf Coast sunsets—especially at the Naples Pier, great beaches (including nearby Marco Island), dining, and shopping.

Heading south out of Naples, the “end” of the Gulf Coast drive gets quite remote quite quickly. The drive on US 41 out to Everglades City, Big Cypress National Preserve, and fabled Everglades National Park provides an introduction to the wildness of the area (including ever-popular airboat tours). Once in Everglades City proper, the Gulf Coast Visitor Center of Everglades National Park, the historic Collier County Courthouse (now City Hall), the Museum of the Everglades/Collier County Museum (in the Old Laundry building that once housed the Everglades Women’s Club), and more await.

Everglades City and nearby Chokoloskee mark the end (or beginning) of a Florida Gulf Coast drive, but the Greater Miami area and the famed Florida Keys are just a pretty two-hour drive east on US 41 through Everglades National Park. It’s a great way to extend this Florida road trip!

Whether it’s hugging the Gulf Coast to the west, cutting across Central Florida to theme parks and so much more, or heading over to the Atlantic Ocean to the east, all the way down to the Florida Keys, a Gulf Coast road trip is just the beginning of a Sunshine State adventure. Visit for even more camping possibilities!

Look for even more Florida road trip features in TrailBlazerMagazine in 2019!

Watch the video: How To Catch Snook from the Beach in 3 Easy Steps! Tutorial (June 2022).