Sun, surf, and sugar-white sand beaches create great ideas for making Clearwater, Florida your vacation destination. When you add in an abundance of area attractions and awesome vacation rentals, those ideas become rock-solid reasons. How would you like to step out the door of your vacation rental on the beach before the kids wake up, stroll casually down to the surf, and slip into the sparkling waters for a refreshing morning swim? When everyone is up, you can visit the first underwater state park in America or just hang out in a botanical garden for an afternoon. While you think about your to-do list, here’s a list of the top 11 Clearwater vacation rental locations.

1. Clearwater

clearwater
Source: Flickr/mattmangum

Clearwater vacations give you so much more than sand between your toes. Sunsets at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach feature daily festivities with artisans, crafters, and street performers from two hours before until two hours after sunset. There’s another ongoing celebration in the sea, and your family can get there via Little Toot Dolphin Adventures dolphin and whale watching tours. The boat leaves a large wake that invites dolphins to jump in and party. Soft drinks, water, and beer are available, and the boat is safe for kids of all ages.

2. Tarpon Springs

tarpon springs

You’ve used sponges, but have you ever seen them being harvested? Tarpon Springs is home to the historic Sponge Docks that helped build the Greek community with its world-class Greek Restaurants, markets, and bakeries. You can enjoy lots of shopping, sightseeing, and learning about sponge diving. This is your ideal vantage point to go island hopping, exploring undeveloped barrier islands by charter tour boat. You can hang out and sunbathe on one island, or explore several while looking for sea shells, snorkeling, and taking amazing photographs.

3. Largo

abbyst christ
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Botanical Gardens showcases plant life, animals, and natural resources; a lush oasis in the city of Largo. Largo is also home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in America. You can view the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, or get up close and personal by scuba diving or snorkeling. Among the sites in the 70 nautical square miles of an underwater park is the statue, Christ of the Abyss. The coral reefs and their associated marine creatures that draw most visitors.

4. Indian Rocks Beach

kite boarding

It’s as natural as breathing to step out of your vacation rental and spread out your beach blanket for some sun time while the kids frolic in the surf on Indian Rocks Beach. If you want to get moving, you can spend a morning helping the kids construct a sandcastle, or join a game of beach volleyball. To kick your adventures into high gear, you can go kiteboarding or para-sailing.

5. Clearwater Beach

pirate ship
Source: Flickr/nilotec

Clearwater Beach just might summon your inner pirate, which is okay since there’s an outlet for that. Pirate’s Ransom Pirate Cruise takes visitors on a tour to bask in the sun and enjoy the picturesque shoreline while searching for dolphins. It’s a two-hour odyssey that features a treasure hunt, face painting, stories, and dancing. On another day, ye might want to take yer mateys on a deep sea fishing excursion—you’ll all be talking like pirates the rest of the vacation, so you might as well go out on one more ship.

6. Dunedin

swamp trail
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s a normal day in Dunedin to see locals and visitors leisurely meandering around the downtown area, browsing the shops, sitting in one of the parks, or enjoying an ice cream cone. Highlands Hammock State Park is one of those lazy-day parks where you might see alligators along with the birds and other animals. You can bike the three-mile loop or walk along the nature trails, including the raised catwalk, before heading back to your vacation rental to watch the sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.

7. Safety Harbor

bowling ball house

Safety Harbor gives you easy access to the Clearwater area beaches, and you can also make quick trips to Tampa and St. Petersburg for dining and shopping. Locals take the time to direct visitors to visit Whimzeyland, which they also call the Bowling Ball House. The owners are a couple of artists who have put over 20 years into decorating their house and property with sculptures, bottle trees, and bowling balls. If you want to catch your own dinner, you can head over to the Safety Harbor Fishing Pier to see what’s biting.

8. Palm Harbor

monkey

Palm Harbor is home to a couple of animal sanctuaries that invite visitors. The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Foundation houses over 100 animals including chimpanzees, orangutans, monkeys, reptiles, tropical birds, and more. Animals come to the sanctuary when retiring from scientific labs or film industries, or when private owners can no longer care for them. You can see animals in their natural habitats at the John Chestnut Sr. Park, which is home to alligators, turtles, raccoons, hawks, and more.

9. Northwest Tampa

underwater

You can explore the wetlands trail at Northwest Tampa’s Florida Aquarium. The facility houses more than 20,000 aquatic animals, fish, and plants from all over the world. The trail tour takes you through swamps where alligators live and by streams where the otters play. For an unusual look at the town, the two-hour sunset segways tour by Nation Tours shows visitors some of the most famous attractions, including the Gasparilla Pirate Ship, the Hillsborough River, and the Tampa Convention Center.

10. Indian Shore

indian shores

Coastal towns host some iconic landmarks, and Indian Shore’s featured site is Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf. The 18 holes take you through caves, pirate ships, waterfalls, and 20 to 30 live alligators. You can even feed the alligators using can fishing poles. Oh, you can play miniature golf, too.

11. St. Petersburg

golf club

You can do all of the regular beach vacation activities in St. Petersburg, including swimming, surfing, sailing, and fishing. If you want something different, you can reserve tee for two—or more—at Tides Golf Club. Five holes offer breathtaking views, bordering directly on Boca Ciega Bay. A new set of forwarding tees is perfect for young juniors and seniors. Appease the avid golfers in your family with a vacation rental within walking distance of the course.