Our future veterinarian turned 9 this week! Fiona had so much fun in Tampa and Clearwater when we went for Niall’s birthday that she decided she wanted to go back to celebrate hers.
Her birthday was on Wednesday, so our trip was a little mid-week getaway. We started the same way as Niall’s, with a stop at the Glazer Children’s Museum. They had a new Math exhibit open which entertained Colwyn and Lachlann for a good hour or so, but the museum is otherwise a bit young for them (especially for a repeat visit so soon). Fiona and Niall, on the other hand, had a fantastic time. We all got quite silly in the pretend-restaurant area, where Doug and I were the patrons and the kids served us all manner of interesting dishes.
The forecast originally included lots of rain, so our original plan was to try going to MOSI before a later dinner, then some downtime at the hotel, but the skies cleared unexpectedly, so we hustled over to Clearwater (after a quick stop at Party City to get rubber duckies – long story) to enjoy the beach while it was sunny.
We got lucky when we arrived at the beach and found a parking spot at Pier 60. This seems to be the most popular spot on Clearwater Beach. It’s got a pier (obviously) with a restaurant on it, and for $1 you can get to the end of the pier to do some fishing. There are two big playgrounds that are under cover, and a giant inflatable slide and one of those bungee jumping contraptions. The bathrooms are decent, though there aren’t changing rooms, just toilet stalls. There aren’t enclosed showers, just the outdoor variety, but the concession stand is pretty good. There are also beach rentals like cabanas, though they weren’t set up when we were there (presumably due to the rain).
After discovering that the beach is so much nicer with some shade (the umbrella we rented at Fort Desoto), we bought a Michael Josh Beach Tent. Unfortunately, it did not work well for us. It was way too windy, and the stupid thing would not stay upright. If you need a spacious tent for someplace that isn’t windy, it would probably be great – it worked wonderfully in our living room. But the beach was a no-go. We ended up sitting under the pier to get some shade, and that worked out fine.
The kids really wanted to do a Chinese/sushi buffet, so I spent a fair bit of time checking out options in the area and reading reviews. The one that seemed least likely to give us food poisoning was Oriental Super Buffet in Clearwater. I was a little nervous going in, but it was pretty decent, considering. Niall quickly fell in love with the Chinese donuts. The boys thought the sushi was fantastic (and there were one or two rolls that were quite good, but most of it was similar to what you might get at Publix.. and a little warm, to be honest). There were a few General Tso’s chicken type dishes that were pretty good, too. They had some American options, too, presumably for picky kids – pizza, mashed potatoes, fries, and chicken fingers.
After dinner, we picked up an ice cream cake at Dairy Queen and headed to our hotel!
Chart House Suites is a small hotel on Clearwater Bay, almost at the end of the island. There are only 30-40 rooms, as well as 26 boat slips. One interesting quirk – the registration desk closes at 7pm, so when we arrived at 8pm, we found an envelope pinned to a bulletin board with instructions on how to get our room key (an actual key!) from the lockbox. We had booked a suite, which had two queen beds and a pull-out sofa as well as an (almost) full kitchen. We were very happy when we got to our room and found we were facing the water. Check out the view from our balcony! It was especially pretty at night with the houses across the way lit up, and naturally, we went on Zillow to discover that the house that the dock is pointing at in the pic below is for sale.. if you happen to have $3 million to spend!
Chart House Suites does have its own pool, though it is on the smaller side. For the size of the hotel, it’s fine, though. The one real downside was that there was not much of a shallow end, so if you’re going with little kids, you’ve been warned. After swimming and showering, we sang and ate birthday cake, then crashed after such a busy day.
The next morning, we had a quick breakfast at IHOP, then headed to the beach again! This time we parked a little further south at the Barefoot Beach House area (the Pier 60 lot was full and closed). Doug dropped us off right at the beach house, using the super convenient drop-off areas, then parked in one of the garages nearby. We quickly secured a cabana, despite the $30 cost. The chairs and the shade were well worth it!
I think I like that area of Clearwater Beach better than the pier area. Getting dropped off was perfect – it was such a short walk to our spot, and the ocean was right there. But even if you have to walk from the garage (like we did when we were there for Niall’s birthday) it’s still not bad. The concession stand is nice, with plenty of umbrella’d picnic tables, and the souvenir/ice cream shop is really cute. The bathrooms are similar to the ones at Pier 60.
We had a really wonderful time and can’t wait to go back! Colwyn and Lachlann are already thinking they want to do the same thing for their birthdays, but we may try to encourage them to pick a beach we haven’t been to before – we have so many options all within a similar distance. And we’ve got Father’s Day coming up – we may go back to Cocoa, or else visit the Orlando Science Center (Doug hasn’t been yet). Keep watching!
Oh, and if you’d like to see more of our adventures in Clearwater, check out our YouTube video!