We visited a range of beaches throughout our time in Florida, but I thought it would be easier to incorporate them all into one lovely, sandy post.
On the Thursday, we set off early to drive to Clearwater beach on the west side of Florida. The drive through Tampa and on to Clearwater was so beautiful and surreal. There were points where it looked as though the sea would wash right over the edge of the road and pull us off into the ocean. After driving for hours through toll roads and little towns with tiny little bungalows and the odd gas station, this was so refreshing and we both started to get really excited about what Clearwater beach would have to offer.
We found a little place to park which was a couple of dollars for 2 hours (unfortunately this was the maximum amount of time you could stay in many of the car parks), which was almost right on the beach.
As we rounded past the beachfront hotels and onto the beach, we could immediately see what all the hype was about with Clearwater – it was stunning. The sand was so white, and the water was so clear, it was like a little slice of paradise, tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of the city.
The water was so warm too, we whiled away our time, shoes off, strolling along the water’s edge, pointing out the many jellyfish that had washed ashore, and people-watching. It was so idyllic, I wouldn’t often want to spend an entire day at the beach as it can become a bit boring, but I definitely could have spent a whole day here. We did return on Saturday evening, but more about that later!
From here, we decided to give Honeymoon Island State Park a try as we had also heard good things about it. We paid for entry and set off first on the nature trail with the prospect of seeing eagles at the far end of the trail. Unfortunately this proved to be a bit of a nightmare, for several reasons. Firstly, it was so hot, I was beginning to feel a bit sick and faint from the heat. We pushed onwards however, as we had now seen a few ospreys and even a tortoise just casually grazing on the path in front of us, with the hope of seeing the nesting eagles at the tip of the trail.
We made it to the nesting area and spent a bit of time scouting around trying to locate the nests. It was at this point that I noticed the first mosquito bite – and it was all downhill from there.
We got absolutely gorged upon by mosquitoes, and had to run, in the searing heat, through muddy paths, all the way back to the start of the trail. Needless to say we were both hot, sweaty and tired by the time we finally got clear of the mosquitoes and were in desperate need of an ice cold drink. We therefore deserted Honeymoon Island State Park and fled to the nearest McDonalds for a fountain Mountain Dew to replenish all those lost minerals! I think Honeymoon State Park would have had so much more to offer, I would just recommend taking some insect repellent with you if you visit!
The following day, after exploring the Kennedy Space Center, we went on to Cocoa Beach on the east coast. It was a very different vibe over this side of Florida, more rustic and surfy, which we also fell in love with.
Cocoa Beach was beautiful, but the sea was much choppier on this side, and we could see why this was surfer central.
I persuaded Jona to check out Ron Jon’s Surf Shop here too, which he regretted, as we spent over two hours browsing and spent over $100 (I don’t think that’s too bad really…). I absolutely fell in love with this shop. It had so many of my favourite brands under one roof, Billabong, Roxy, Toms, Vans, and loads of other gorgeous quirky items. I could easily have spent a day here as it was massive, but I would have also spent a lot more money!
On our penultimate day we visited Busch Gardens (post to follow), and decided to experience Clearwater one more time before we left. It took us a while to find parking as we obviously had arrived around dinner time and it was much busier, but we were patient and managed to find somebody just about to leave. As we rounded onto the beach, the sun was just beginning to set, and the view was absolutely breathtaking.
I was so glad that we decided to come back to experience this, it really felt like a bucket list evening. We paddled in the water and filmed the setting sun (and took absolutely way too many photographs!) and both just felt totally relaxed and peaceful.
If I can recommend anything as highly in Florida as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it would be watching the sun set at Clearwater Beach. Neither of us wanted to leave, and we definitely will come back to Clearwater if we visit Florida again.
Which are your favourite Florida beaches? I feel like we missed so many, and am quite sad that we didn’t see St Pete’s beach as I hear that this is also beautiful. Oh well, there’s always next time!
Check out our little video montage – aren’t the beaches stunning?