Author: Kyle McCarthy
Tags : Autism Spectrum, Beach, Family-Friendly Hotels, Florida, Kids Club, Multigen, North America, USA, Watersports
Clearwater Beach, a newer community halfway between St. Petersburg and Tampa with about 4,000 hotel rooms, is rapidly growing in popularity. Clearwater delivers a great family beach experience because it’s cheaper than Florida’s East Coast beaches; and it’s on the Gulf of Mexico which is calmer, shallower and therefore, safer, than the Atlantic. Soft white sand, lifeguards and restrooms make it an ideal destination for families with young children. There’s the Nannies Who Care local childcare agency (although the nightlife is pretty much kid-friendly) and hotels come in every price range. The $1 Jolly Trolley and Clearwater ferry system ($4 adults, $2 kids) mean it’s easy and cheap to get around without a rental car. What more can you ask?
Whether you're interested in a luxury spa resort or a glitzy outpost of a major chain, small inns and motels or Airbnb's, you can find it in Clearwater Beach. Exploring the websites or calling each hotel directly is the best way to learn about their family packages, seasonal discounts, and children's programs. And if you're traveling with someone on the spectrum, swipe down for our review of the Tradewinds in St. Pete Beach.
On Clearwater Beach
Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
100 Coronado Drive
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, one of Clearwater's newest hotels, boasts the upscale, well-regarded Ocean Hai, a beachview Asian fusion restaurant which attracts diners from around town, as well as a pool bar and lobby Starbucks. The 343 rooms fill two 16?-story towers that bookend a large pool, sundeck and outdoor dining area. Bright guestrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows facing the ocean or Intracoastal Waterway, many with balconies that allow parents to talk, read or relax with a glass of wine while baby naps. It’s very stylish, with gentle azure colors adding a subtle marine touch. Although the double queen bedded rooms are spacious, parents will love the hotel’s bunk rooms with bunk beds for kids and a separate king bed for adults. Alternatively, there are two- and three-bedroom rental units with full kitchens. In addition to the pool, there’s a spa and 24-hour fitness center, plus easy access to the boat rental marina and Pier 60 for sunset watching.
Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa
301 South Gulfview Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33767
This Hyatt Regency is one of Clearwater Beach’s better luxury values because of its central location and enormous at-home style guestrooms. We loved the expansive one-bedroom suites starting from about $300, and all 287 suites and rooms, plus public areas, are being refreshed in time for the 2017 holiday season. In addition to a fully stocked, attractive and ultra-functional kitchen area with microwave and full fridge; the 10th floor suite we saw had a living room had two terraces -- with comfortable furniture -- overlooking the beach and Intracoastal Waterway; a pullout queen sofabed; flat screen TV for family viewing; dining table for four; closets and a full bathroom. The bedroom with two queen beds had a spa-like bathroom and its own full terrace. This Hyatt understands families; even the double rooms have pullout sofabeds. Families can enroll kids ages 3-12 in the supervised Camp Hyatt playroom, in 3, 4 or 7-hour sessions for a fee, with reservations. The 8th floor pool deck has plenty of playspace, a hot tub and fenced in play area, rental cabanas and a large sundeck. There’s a good spa, fitness room and bike rentals. During school holidays, the staff runs regularly scheduled family activities such as tie-dye T-shirt making. And don’t miss the views from the top floor Roof Bar.
Not sure? Check out our video review of these two great resorts.
The Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort
400 Mandalay Avenue
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
Located on 10 acres of sugary white beach, this Hilton is known for having the only tiki bar right on the sand (a legacy of another era) and for being closest to where Winter the dolphin sleeps. It's a comfortable place where guests can relax at one of two outdoor beachside pools or in the Jacuzzi. Wave runners, standup paddleboards, parasailing and deep-sea fishing gear are available for rent, and the Sand Bar and Grill will satisfy your craving for a drink or a light snack. The resort has a children's program called Kids Fun Factory. Staff trained in the arts of "funology" delight children with educating and entertaining activities such as arts and crafts and beach soccer. Private babysitting is available upon request for newborns through 3-year-olds, with a four-hour minimum.
Opal Sands Resort
430 S Gulfview Blvd
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
The luxurious Opal Sands is a whole other experience –- a contemporary oval white tower with blue tinted windows that look more Miami’s South Beach than Clearwater. This resort was built on a bend in the beach and is known for “million dollar views” because every guestroom has a Gulf of Mexico view. We love the posh touches: complimentary Butler Pantry on every floor stocked with fresh fruit, cookies and bottled water; warm comfy robes in the room; USB charging stations everywhere you turn; mint and aquamarine glass tile accents; art photography on the walls. Spacious rooms have balconies with seating, a pullout double sofabed and cozy seating area, coffeemaker and ironing setup. There’s a pretty spa where I enjoyed a soothing re-energizing massage thanks to a skillful therapist, Terri. The large, heated, zero entry pool and big, family-welcoming hot tub overlooking the beach are usable on cooler or overcast days. One level down, there’s a fun beach bar with seating on wooden Adirondack chairs on a “sand” floor. Our breakfast at the oceanfront Sea-Guini was worth a visit even if you’re not a guest.
Sheraton Sand Key Resort
1160 Gulf Boulevard
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
The Sheraton Sand Key is in a quieter part of Clearwater Beach, away from the souvenir shops of Gulfview Boulevard, adjacent to Sand Key Park and Preserve, and the wild Pinellas Trail. This Mediterranean-style resort boasts water sports, tennis, beach volleyball and a fitness center with sauna, making it a perfect homebase for your family vacation. The 390-room resort offers comfortable lodgings (all with balconies or patios), several restaurants, a lovely pool, whirlpool and kiddie pool; a children's playground; a kid's camp for 5 to 12-year-olds (from mid-June to mid-August) and an on-site convenience store. Babysitting services are available upon request. However, the two most impressive aspects of a stay here are the friendly, very helpful staff and the stunning 10 acres of exclusive beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
Two Special Hotels on St. Pete Beach
St. Petersburg is a bustling, increasingly artsy city whose hip beach area has deluxe resorts, chain hotels and some smaller properties. We want to highlight the TradeWinds Resorts nearby on the island of St. Pete Beach, because they've great for those traveling with family members on the spectrum.
TradeWinds - Island Grand & Guy Harvey Resorts
5500 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
This popular place is two resorts, rated as "Autism-Friendly," where staff have been trained by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) since 2010. Not only do they know how to work with guests on the spectrum, they provide “Safety Kits” with outlet covers, corner cushions for tables, and a hanging door alarm. Additionally, special diets are catered to with gluten-free and anti-allergen items, plus a Snack Attack gluten-free pack. Call 800/808-9834 to discuss your family's needs and make special arrangements at the kids club (727/363-2294) if you'll need supervised care. Your family can stay at TradeWinds Island Grand, with Victorian gingerbread trim on 25 acres of tropical landscaping, or the more contemporary Guy Harvey Outpost at 6000 Gulf Boulevard (866/324-4568), on pristine beach property. Choose from a variety rooms, parlors and family-style suites with kitchenettes in either location and enjoy the facilities and seven pools of both. The resort's shuttle service offers you the option of 14 dining and entertainment locations, miniature golf, fitness centers with spa and massage facilities, tennis, watersports and children's recreation programs located at each property. The KONK (Kids Only, No Kidding) Club, pirate-themed in summer, is fun for children 4-12 years and also offers organized activities that teens may join. Family entertainment programs include the Pirate Show, volleyball and ping-pong tournaments.