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Overview

Early pioneers to this peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico settled along “Clear Water Harbor,” which evolved into the city of Clearwater across the harbor from Clearwater Beach. Until the 1940s, these narrow barrier islands, protecting the coast from storms, provided pasture for hogs. Growth concentrated on the mainland, where the surrounding communities of Dunedin, Safety Harbor, and Largo took root in the 1800s. In 1895, the Belleview opened on the bluffs overlooking Sand Key; as the Belleview Biltmore, it’s the only remaining railroad destination hotel built by Henry Plant, and the largest occupied wooden structure in the ...

Early pioneers to this peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico settled along “Clear Water Harbor,” which evolved into the city of Clearwater across the harbor from Clearwater Beach. Until the 1940s, these narrow barrier islands, protecting the coast from storms, provided pasture for hogs. Growth concentrated on the mainland, where the surrounding communities of Dunedin, Safety Harbor, and Largo took root in the 1800s. In 1895, the Belleview opened on the bluffs overlooking Sand Key; as the Belleview Biltmore, it’s the only remaining railroad destination hotel built by Henry Plant, and the largest occupied wooden structure in the world. Although many of the mom and pop motels that defined Clearwater Beach have been replaced with high-rise beachfront condos, old-time Florida charm is still very alive along the harbor’s shore on Hamden Drive, lined with art deco motels with a touch of the tropics. Some of the best seafood around is within walking distance of Pier 60 Park at the roundabout, including the grouper sandwiches at Frenchy’s and at the historic Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill, built as a beachfront dance hall in 1926. The northern tip of Clearwater Beach now blends into Caladesi Island, a state park noted as the best beach in America thanks to its remoteness and soft sand. South of downtown Clearwater Beach, Sand Key is mostly residential but offers an enormous oceanfront park with affordable parking.

Sandra Friend
About the Expert

Sandra Friend has written 12 books about Florida, including the Explorer's Guide (Countryman Press) series to Florida.

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Sandra Friend for Triporati

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