Hi, I’m Blake, a 14 year old homeschooler. My mom is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms and Homeschool Road Trips, so I generally get to travel quite a bit. I’ve only been to Florida twice in my life. My first trip I really don’t remember much because I was only four years old. But this trip I will remember, for sure – going to Clearwater Beach. I’ll be honest, I thought I might get bored – you know, hanging out with just my mom because my brothers were at a leadership camp on the other side of Florida at Deerfield Beach.
There are so many unique and fun things to do at Clearwater Beach, I thought I would share my favorites.
It goes without saying that the beach is one of the most fun things to do. For nearly my entire life I’ve only been to the North Carolina beaches (except that one trip to Florida when I was four years old – that I don’t remember), so the beautiful white sand was a nice change! But it is hot! I was outside in the sun for only about an hour and got sunburned! The water in the Gulf was a huge relief and it is so blue and pretty. But I did miss playing in the waves with my brothers. You can rent a small cabana on the beach to relax under and get some shade. The one we had was from Barefoot Beach House.
Dolphin Boat Tours
When we got to the marina in Clearwater Beach, there were many boat tours to choose from. We took a tour on a boat called Little Toot. They guarantee a sighting of a dolphin or you can come back for free within the next year! We were not disappointed though, we got to see multiple dolphins, and even some babies! But they sure are hard to get pictures of!
Clearwater Beach Marine Aquarium
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium was one of the most amazing places I visited on this trip. It was the movie set of the Dolphin Tale series and was not only an aquarium but the two stars from the movie, Winter and Hope, live there! It’s also a marine hospital. They had areas where they make food, study the animals, and even have a surgical table where you can watch what is happening. There was also a show put on by the aquarium’s only male dolphin resident, Nicholas, and he was amazing! That is him in the picture above.
The aquarium had a dolphin tour as well as a Sea Life Safari tour. We took their Sea Life Safari one and got to see the Marine Biologist do some studies in the bay. We even got to see dolphins on this boat trip too.
The Clearwater Beach Aquarium has so much to offer, my mom wrote a whole article about it. Read her article about the Clearwater Beach Aquarium by clicking here.
Photographing the Sky
Now I know this is more of a personal preference rather than something that everyone might enjoy, but the views at Clearwater were absolutely amazing. I took a class in photography a couple of years ago, but I took another one right before we went to Clearwater. This one was about our camera, so I could get the best pictures from it. And with the beach, the bay, the sky, and the cityscape it made me excited to try to get the best images. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and our view was perfect! We got to see the storms roll in and watch the sunsets. Speaking of sunsets, they were almost unreal. And even the storms were amazing.
I had fun getting some of these. I had learned about different exposures in my photography class, but this was the first time using them. This picture below is one of the results of just playing around with the settings. I love the feel and colors in this picture!
We rarely take panoramic images but with this view, we really had to. I think they all turned out great, so I had to share all of them with you!
Especially this one below. None of these pictures are edited at all, just cropped. See why we took so many panoramic pictures here?
We even got to see fireworks across the bay.
Learning On the Go
Being a homeschooler that travels a lot generally means I study on the road regularly. But not with textbooks usually but with visits to interesting places like Clearwater Marine Aquarium. My mom calls it learning on the go and she says I seem to remember the information better when I’m more involved with the lesson. I can tell you I like field trips and have way more fun on them than studying a textbook!
Dolphin Statue Scavenger Hunt
When we first got to the Hampton Inn at Clearwater Beach, we saw this dolphin painted with the Starry Night Sky (we painted that in our homeschool too – so I recognized it immediately) and wondered what the point of it was. But as we wandered around Clearwater Beach we started seeing them everywhere! We made a game out of finding the dolphin statues around town. Just like this one, not all of them were out on the street in front of the business, some were up in alleys or even inside, so I’m sure we didn’t find them all. But hunting for them was one of the many fun things we found to do while we were walking around the beach. I think we saw about 20 of them. After finding so many, we researched the dolphin statues back at the hotel. Artists decorate them for the businesses that bought them. There were a lot of interesting designs. If you stop by the visitor center they have dolphin trail guide to help you on the scavenger hunt! Here are just a few:
I cook all the time at home, so I can really appreciate a great meal. Especially one we didn’t have to cook! I ate at many great restaurants while in Clearwater Beach. My favorite breakfast was right across the street at The Donut Experiment. I love coffee and donuts, so we went there the first morning!
It was great getting to pick your own glaze, toppings and flavors. These two were our favorites, Raspberry Vanilla and Caramel Sea Salt. The coffee was yummy too!
My favorite lunch restaurant was Cooters (and apparently everybody else loves it too). This restaurant stayed packed the entire time we were there. We got our meal quickly but with that molasses bread and butter, we wouldn’t have minded waiting for our meal as long as they kept delivering that bread!
But my absolute favorite place was Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber for dinner.
Their steak soup was so good, I’m on the hunt for a similar recipe! My beef filet tenderloin tips Dinner was tender, juicy and so very delicious. This restaurant was really amazing, it felt very fancy, with the piano player and soft lighting, but mom said the price wasn’t bad at all.
My mom was so excited to learn that our waitress, Rhonda, is a homeschool mom too! They literally were high-fiving in the restaurant! My mom said to be sure to ask for Rhonda if you go there, she was very nice and took great care of us (even before she knew that we homeschool)! I highly recommend you go eat there!
All in all, this was one of the most fun trips I’ve been on, I was pleasantly surprised that mom and I actually had a great time! I’d definitely recommend going to Clearwater Beach!