A vacation to Clearwater doesn’t have to break the bank if you know how and where you can save money. I’m sharing tips that can help make your vacation dreams a reality.
Thanks again to Clearwater Beach for hosting my visit. All opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links.
Enjoy the Gorgeous Turquoise Water and White Sandy Beaches
There are many reasons travelers come back to Clearwater, Florida year after year. One of the biggest is for gorgeous turquoise water of the Gulf and the white sugar sand beaches.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the beach and let’s be honest, it’s the biggest why you would visit Clearwater and it’s FREE.
Save on lunch by packing a cooler (just don’t pack alcohol or glass) and save on parking by walking instead of driving from where you are staying.
Did you know that Clearwater Beach has lifeguards on duty 365 days out of the year?
The water is warm enough to swim in comfortably. The “sugar sand” is even the theme used to create the incredible Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival in April.
There are plenty of free activities that go on as part of the festival. There is a kids’ play area, fireworks, live music, sand sculpting class, demos and more.
How to Save on Admission to The Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit
The 21,000 sq ft tent features works by sand sculptors from around the world.
Present a valid ID to receive a discount for:
- AAA Members
- Seniors (60 & up)
- Active & Retired Military Personnel
Chase the Sunrise and the Sunset
Each sunset and sunrise in Clearwater is so unique. I try to do my best to adjust my schedule so that I have time to watch them whenever I’m near the ocean.
I’ll even sacrifice sleep if it means getting up early to walk on the beach.
Keep your phone handy to capture the moment. I highly recommend enjoying the magnificent beauty of the golden hour each day.
Explore Pier 60
Walk down the pier for another perspective of the waterfront. You can pay an additional dollar to walk to the very edge of the pier. This is a great spot to get a closer look at the fishermen’s catch of the day.
Kids will also enjoy playing at the nearby covered playground and open green space.
Nightly Sunset Festival at Pier 60
364 days a year, weather permitting the Sunset Festival takes place at Pier 60. The Nightly Sunset Festival takes place two hours before and two hours after sunset.
The Pier 60 festival is free to the public. You might want to bring some cash in case you find a special item that you want to purchase from a local artisan or if you want to tip one of the street performers.
Stop at Clearwater Visitor Information Center at Pier 60
Whenever possible, I try to stop at the local Visitor Center when I’m visiting a destination for the first time. They are a great resource for local events, attractions, and local restaurants.
We asked for restaurant recommendations and the best way to make use of our time during the weekend. My husband and I booked a boat tour and dined at two restaurants based on his wonderful recommendations.
The Clearwater Visitor Center is conveniently located within close proximity to the pier. They are also a great resource for budget-friendly dining options and attraction discounts.
Watch a Movie for Free
Save on evening entertainment by watching a free movie at the Sunset Cinema, an outdoor movie theater under the stars located steps away from Pier 60.
(You can find dates and more information here)
A Lesser Known Beach in Clearwater
Most people are familiar with Clearwater Beach but there is another option if you prefer to get away from the crowds.
Spanning 95 acres, Sand Key Park provides guests with two parks in one which is the best of both worlds …and it has plenty of parking for only $5 a day!
You have access to the beach and there is also a separate park area that has a playground, dog park, two picnic shelters with grills, and a restroom if you want some additional recreation options beyond the beach.
There are 2 bathhouses with separate changing stalls and restrooms onsight and the beach vibe is more rustic in its surroundings absent of high concentration of shops and restaurants that you find at Clearwater Beach.
You can visit the concession, watch wildlife on benches at the salt marsh, walk the nature trail, or rent a kayak or bike.
Budget-Friendly Ways to Go Fishing in Clearwater
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to go fishing in Clearwater. There are several options available for your vacation style and budget.
Go Fishing off of Pier 60
If you want to go fishing shoreside it’s really affordable to go fishing at Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach.
Daily prices are $8 for adults, $5.25 for kids under 15. If you plan on going fishing several times during your visit, the weekly pass might be a better value. If you don’t have gear, you can rent a rod for $8.
Take an Off Shore Fishing Trip
An offshore deep sea fishing trip on the Super Queen fleet is a great option for families and novelty fisherman for so many reasons.
You can choose the option of half-day or full-day with Queen Fleet Deep Sea Fishing.
- You can purchase food and drinks on the boat or you can bring your own. The party boats can hold a larger amount of passengers which helps keep the costs down compared to a private charter.
- Everything that you need to fish is supplied for you including the fishing license.
- The half-day 4-hour trips go up to 10 miles offshore and you get about 2 hours to dedicate to fishing.
- There is a restroom onboard which isn’t always the case for smaller boats.
- The boat has seating with tables inside and benches to fish from on both sides of the boat.
- There is a sun deck with lounge chairs available for guests who want to soak up the sun.
What I love about this option is that it’s great for families and travelers who want to choose their own adventure.
If you want a taste of fishing but don’t want to commit your whole day, the half-day is a great option to get a taste of deep-sea fishing.
If you have a wide age range of kids, multi-gen travelers, a party that is split on wanting to fish, half-day fishing is a great way to make everyone happy.
If someone in your party doesn’t want to fish at all, they can just relax on the sun deck and enjoy the ride.
How long you choose to fish is also up to you. Staff members are very helpful and they tag your fish so that you can take them with you afterward.
Photo Pro Tip– Try to avoid what I did in the picture above…I obviously don’t fish a lot.
You want to keep your fingers under the fish and away from the camera so that your hand/fingers don’t look larger than the fish.
To make the fish look larger, hold the fish away from your body closer to the camera.
Other Ways to Save On Sightseeing Boat Tours and Attractions in Clearwater
Start looking for additional discounts on Groupon, TravelZoo, and LivingSocial as soon as you book your trip. You can find great deals on boat tours, kayak and paddleboat rentals and more if you start doing your research ahead of time.
Make sure that you pay close attention to the terms of service of each offer to make sure that it will be valid during your visit.
We enjoyed a sunset cruise with The Tropics Boat Tours that even included a special dolphin sighting.
If you plan on drinking more than the champagne toast, you might want to consider a drink package for additional savings.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the home of Winter the dolphin that is world-famous because of the movie Dolphin Tale.
For the best value, opt for a package that includes a tour add on. I recommend the Sea Life Safari that is both educational and interesting.
Sports fan can catch a Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia Phillies Class A Affiliate) game.
The tickets start around $10 and they offer different promotions throughout the season like dollar hotdog night and a summer concert series.
Most Affordable Sightseeing Tour by Boat
The most affordable way to have a boat experience is on the Clearwater Ferry.
With one way fares as low as $4 for adults and kids 3 and under FREE you can’t beat the price and it also doubles as a great way to get around the city with multiple route options (see here)
Enjoy Free Art Exhibits Around Clearwater
Dolphin fans will LOVE discovering more than 120 dolphin sculptures located throughout Clearwater on the Clearwater Dolphin Trail.
The creativity and personality that local artists designed on each dolphin sculpture make every dolphin sighting a joy and fun photo op.
How to Save Money on Dining in Clearwater
One of the first ways that you can save money is by choosing a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast. My teenage boys know how to EAT and this is always a cost saver.
For example, the Edge Hotel, Pier House 60 Clearwater Beach Marina Hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites & the Hyatt Regency offer complimentary breakfast.
Many hotels also stock their rooms with a mini-fridge and microwave and some of the hotels even offer kitchenettes (Hyatt Regency and Residence Inn Clearwater Downtown) so that you can save money by cooking your own meals.
If you like to be near the action and only want to park once try to find a hotel within close proximity to Clearwater Beach.
How to save money on a hotel in Clearwater, Florida
You can save on booking your hotel here.
I like to save money on dining by eating breakfast at the hotel and then packing a light lunch/snacks and go out to eat for dinner….because I’m still on vacation after all and I still really don’t want to cook.
Take Advantage of the Catch and Cook Program
Save money on your meal by supplying your own catch of the day to be prepared by a local restaurant.
You can find the list of participating Catch & Cook restaurants here.
We brought fish to Cooter’s where we had the option of fried or blackened with sides.
The fish was cooked perfectly and I highly recommend trying their beans as a side and their grouper cheeks as an appetizer.
Take Advantage of Happy Hour & Daily Specials
If you don’t mind eating a little earlier or a little later, you can take advantage of happy hours specials that will save you money on food and your drinks.
Rumba Bar & Grill and Salt Cracker Fish Camp offer happy hour specials on select drinks all-day, every-day.
Frenchy’s Original Café on Clearwater Beach run daily specials and you can also find the daily specials at Cooters here.
Read about more of my favorite places to eat from previous visits here.
Transportation Options in Clearwater
Clearwater is a very walkable city and you really don’t need a rental car if you are planning on staying close to the beach.
If you don’t want to worry about finding parking during your visit you have several affordable options.
The Jolley Trolley makes multiple stops along Clearwater Beach for a low fee, Florida Free Rides runs from 9am to 3am 7 days a week and operate on sponsors and tips, and the Clearwater Ferry is convenient for visiting the Aquarium.
You can save on flights to Clearwater by using discount airlines like Frontier and Allegiant to fly into Tampa.
Super Shuttle, Uber and Lyft are great options if you are flying to/from TPA (Tampa) and PIE (St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport) if you don’t have a vehicle.
The Best Time to Visit Clearwater Beach
You can save money on your vacation by visiting during the off-season from October-January.
More Information on Clearwater
Should guests need more information, they can visit www.visitclearwaterflorida.com.
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