BEST BEACH

Clearwater Beach

The elitists hate it. The frat boys love it. Development and tacky tourism aside, Clearwater Beach is so sprawling and pristine that the eyesores don't come close to compromising its beauty. Vast expanses of sugar-white sand, emerald green waters, sea gulls, sandpipers, pelicans — the natural wonders survive in spite of the high-rises and neon-lighted T-shirts shops. Among the eyesores, you can find establishments that have helped shape Clearwater Beach as a bona fide community: the Beachcomber restaurant, Domenic's Capri, Palm Pavilion and the Frenchy's grouper dynasty. In the past couple of decades, the community has grown with more amenities and activities than ever. You have the public pool and playground on the north beach, the mega-complex of Pier 60, bustling with beachcombers, merchants and performers every evening. Past the tall condominium building called 880 Mandalay are some of the quietest, undeveloped shores in the county, with mounds of sea oats and turtle sanctuaries. Clearwater Beach is something to be cherished by Tampa Bay residents, and you naysayers out there — you know who you are — stop being so uptight and spend a day among us pleasure-loving philistines by the Rockaway Grill.

Clearwater Beach is at the westernmost end of State Road 60 in Clearwater, 727-447-7600.

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