• Photo: (c) Sayran | Dreamstime.com

Clearwater

In Clearwater itself, residential areas are a buffer between the commercial zone that centers on U.S. 19 and the beach, which is moderately quiet during winter but buzzing with life during spring break and in the busy summer season. There's a quaint downtown area on the mainland, just east of the beach, with a theater and a couple of small eateries.

On the beach itself, which is part of the city of Clearwater, you’ll find a nightly sunset celebration at Pier 60 and tons of options for dining and entertainment, not to mention the beautiful sand. Among this area’s celebrity residents is Winter, the dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic tail and depicted in the 2011 film Dolphin Tale, along with her friend Hope, her costar in the 2014 sequel.

The smaller towns surrounding Clearwater are generally more low-key. To the southwest, Indian Rocks Beach and its neighboring towns are less crowded alternatives to their busy neighbor to the north. To the north on U.S. 19 is Dunedin, a Scottish settlement that’s packed with cute shops, restaurants, and craft beer bars, as well as the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training facility. Farther north is Palm Harbor, a key destination for cyclists and craft beer enthusiasts. Charming Tarpon Springs has a highly Greek-influenced downtown; you’ll find historic sponge docks, a Greek restaurant or two, and some great beaches for watching the sunset.

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