With SO many incredible things to do near Clearwater FL, here is a list of our favorites!
With St. Petersburg to the south, Clearwater to the west, and Tampa to the east, this region is defined by the trio of major cities and is the most popular tourist destination on the Gulf Coast.
While it is technically an island, the St. Pete and Clearwater area is officially situated on what’s called the Pinellas Peninsula, bounded on one side by the Gulf of Mexico and the other by Tampa Bay.
Incredibly, there are more people per square mile than Miami and it’s the most densely populated area in the state.
With that said, there is an absolutely tremendous amount of places to visit, sights to see, and things to do at Clearwater Beach and the surrounding area. Like many major areas, you could spend weeks (or even a lifetime!) here and not see everything that a gorgeous area such as this has to offer.
Our Favorite Things to Do Near Clearwater FL
We’ll cover some of the more interesting and off-the-beaten-path locations. We won’t be covering things like the major sports teams in the area or amusement parks like Busch Gardens.
Since you’re most likely coming to this area from the north, we’ll begin our exploration just before Clearwater at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.
Honeymoon Island is a natural barrier island that boasts four miles of sandy beaches, nature trails, and tons of wildlife. There’s even a designated Pet Beach area on the south end of the island for our dog, Bo.
The Osprey Trail on the north end of the island is a 2.5-mile walking trail that winds its way through pine fatwoods. There is a great opportunity to view some wildlife here including gopher tortoises, raccoons, and armadillos.
If you look skyward, large osprey nests located in the top of barren pine snags may be seen. Great horned owls nest there in late winter, and sometimes the chicks can be observed peeking over the edge of their nest or flapping their wings as they learn to fly.
Honeymoon Island State Park is also the launching-off point if you want to get to Caladesi Island State Park via the Caladesi Connection Ferry service. It’s $14 round-trip and about a 20-minute ride.
Caladesi Island is one of the only remaining undeveloped barrier islands in the state making it a remote, beautifully isolated location and ripe for exploring.
You can spend some time on the nearly 4 miles of pristine undeveloped beaches or rent a kayak and paddle through the three-mile mangrove trail along the southeastern edge of the island.
This island really is a treat and if you have some extra time we would absolutely recommend taking a day to explore it before heading to the hustle and bustle of Clearwater and St. Pete.
Heading further south, Clearwater is without a doubt a resort town, and Clearwater Beach is one of the most spectacular beach fronts in the entire state.
The star of Clearwater Beach, in our opinion, is Pier 60. Every day from two hours before until two hours after sunset, there is a festival called Sunsets at Pier 60 where you can enjoy artisans, crafters, street performers, and of course the sunset off the coast!
On Friday and Saturday nights, there is a free outdoor movie theater called Sunset Cinema set under the stars which
begins at dusk!
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is another great location right before you hit the beach, general admission is $25 and hours are 10am – 6pm daily.
Here you can visit sea turtles, otters, sharks, stingrays, and, of course, dolphins.
If you want to get involved, the aquarium also has Animal Care Experiences where you can assist one of the staff in feeding and daily caring for the resident sharks, dolphins, or otters.
The aquarium also doubles as a marine rescue hospital, helping to rescue sick and injured sea animals. The primary residents are sea turtles, many of who were not able to get from the egg to the ocean or adults who were struck by boats or ensnared in fishing lines.
Heading further south from Clearwater, we’ll venture into St. Pete. If Clearwater is the “resort town” of the area, then St. Pete is the cultural center.
Aside from the gorgeous white sands of crescent-shaped St. Pete Beach, the city itself hosts a number of iconic museums located right downtown.
More things to do near Clearwater Florida – Dalí Museum
In our opinion, the can’t-miss museum while you’re in this area is the Dalí Museum which holds one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of works and artifacts of Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí.
The collection includes over 2,400 works from every moment and in every medium of his artistic activity, including oil paintings, many original drawings, book illustrations, artists’ books, prints, sculptures, photos, manuscripts, and an extensive archive of documents.
Masterpieces in the collection include The Hallucinogenic Toreador and The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory.
The building itself is a work of art. There is a double-helix staircase in the center of the museum which was inspired by Dalí's fascination with DNA. Plus, a large glass geodesic bubble made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, nicknamed the Enigma, expands along the outside of the structure.
Nearby the Dalí Museum, you’ll find the Chihuly Collection, presented by the Morean Arts Center. Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned glass artist and this museum is a stunning, permanent collection of his unique artwork.
There are 18 installations here, spanning several of the artist’s most popular series. Highlights include the Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, created specifically for this collection, and the Mille Fiori.
On top of the Chihuly Collection, the Morean Arts Center also has rotating exhibits, a hot shop where you can watch live glass blowing demonstrations and the Morean Center for Clay which focuses on ceramic artists.
General admission tickets are $20 per person and hours are 10 am – 5 pm daily.
More things to do near Clearwater Florida – Sunken Gardens
The 100-year-old Sunken Gardens is a botanical oasis in the middle of bustling St. Petersburg. There are over 50,000
tropical plants and flowers as well as its trademark pink flamingos.
The lovingly cultivated Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo are an urban oasis. The garden grounds are comprised of nearly 30 acres and include interpretive trails and a variety of natural habitats.
There are 10+ themed gardens here each with its own distinct atmosphere including a tropical fruit garden, patio
garden, herb garden, vegetable garden, palm garden, succulent/cactus garden, native Florida plant garden, and
The grounds are open from 7 am-7 pm daily and admission is free.
The gardens also are near to Heritage Village which is a 21-acre living history museum with 33 historic buildings, including a variety of historic homes, a general store, a railroad depot, two schools, and a church.
More things near Clearwater Florida to explore
I also highly recommend you check out our Florida Adventure Guide Bundle for ready-to-go trip itineraries.
Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!
We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.
Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter.
That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys.
Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.
Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content!
FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers
What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?
The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.
Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?
One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities.
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.
Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?
Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.
But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?
Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.
Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?
While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.