We had the lovely pleasure to escape to Florida recently and it was amazing. The hubs and I both had work conferences in Orlando so we spent a few days there and then headed over to the gulf coast since he had another conference the following week. What did that mean? We had four days to occupy in a warm, sunny, beach location. No complaints here.

When we travel we often rent a vacation home, and were lucky to find one close to the beach. Because we stayed at the north end of the island, life was generally quieter, the beaches not so crowded and the accomodations a bit more basic than the south end of the island.

Where did we eat? On the beach mostly. There's a Publix just down the causeway which is where we purchased most of our food. This travel guide doesn't include food recommendations as we mostly ate between activities on the beach or snacked while hiking. There was only one dinner out the entire trip!

We tend to spend a lot of time exploring during our vacations, and this was no different. We've highlighted our favorite activities below, but if you need more ideas, this map of Clearwater Beach has it all!

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

If you've watched Dolphin Tale, you know who Winter is. And where better to see her than on her home turf! We spent the first day of our trip at the aquarium, and got to learn about all kinds of animals - sharks, river otters, sea turtles and dolphins. We went to as many animal talks as we could, which were held by the trainers who shared all kinds of details about each animal's story and each species as a whole.

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We took a behind the scenes tour and got to view Nicholas' tank from underwater, as well as see the animal quarantine and food prep areas. Our tour guide was fantastic and knew all kinds of information about the aquarium.

Caladesi Island State Park

On the second day, we adventured to Caladesi Island State Park. It's a great place to get away from the crowds and spend the day exploring nature right outside the city. The island is a barrier island that was connected to Honeymoon Island until 1921 when Hurricane Pass split the barrier island into two parts. In 1985 Hurricane Elena connected Caladesi Island with Clearwater Beach so now you can walk to the state park.

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We wanted to maximize our beach time, so parked as far north as we could and walked the 2.5 miles to Caladesi Island. Alternately, you can drive about 40 minutes from Clearwater Beach to Honeymoon Island and take the Caladesi Island Ferry.

During the walk to and from the island, we also saw SO MANY tiny shells! If you're a shell collector this walk is totally worth your time as there are thousands and thousands of shells to check out.

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We spent the majority of the day kayaking through the mangroves in the park, but of course I have no photos of that since I was too afraid to bring my phone/camera as I have a history of tipping canoes. You'll have to take our word for it that it as a great time, and check it out! The mangroves are an amazing ecosystem and the bird watching on the way back to the marina was incredible. Brown pelicans were fishing what felt like an arm's throw away from our kayaks.

Visit the Caladesi Island State Park website to plan your visit!

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South Beach

The last full day of our trip we rented bikes, and checked out the pier. G had a blast exploring, watching the bmx freestyle riders and playing on the bouncy rides. This part of town was a bit too crowded for us, but was still pretty cool.

We can't wait for our next adventure to the beach, this trip is going to be hard to beat!