Things have changed.

The non-profit Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened on Clearwater Beach in 1972 in a former water treatment plant. They opened as a research and learning center and by 1980 they started rehabilitating dolphins. I don’t remember going there as a child when we use to come down to Clearwater to visit my grandparents but I do remember visiting a few times with my parents when they retired down here in the early 90’s. When Brett and I moved down here 19 years ago I got an annual pass and took my Mom there to see the dolphins a lot. She was in a retirement home and was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She lived close by and it made for a fun morning out for her. She loved just sitting and watching the dolphins and turtles swimming around. Back then you could park at the front door and walk right in. No parking decks or lines to get in, You could also get pretty close up to the dolphins.

The aquarium is home to Winter (the movie star from A Dolphin’s Tale). Winter lost his tail years ago and the aquarium was able to get a prosthetic tail to help him swim better. It’s been several years since I had been and they recently had a big addition built on (they added a 1.5 million gallon tank) so I decided to head over to the beach to see Winter on a rare Monday off. I had to pay to park in a deck, stand in a line (small one though) to get in on a Monday. I’m glad they are doing so well though. They do a lot with injured sea life here. Not just rehabilitating them here but they send teams out to rescue as well.

You walk in on the upper level and can see into the pool. I didn’t take many pictures up here since it was dark inside and the dolphins were swimming lower down in the water. This is not a dolphin show like in the old days. These are injured dolphins that are being rehabilitated that you get to see up close. Although if you hit it right at feeding time, the dolphins do perform specific behaviors as part of feeding but no jumping out of the water and flipping over.

Here’s were you want to be. There are windows all around the tank so you can walk around and see different dolphins. Winter and his girlfriend Hope are in the main tank.

Winter did not have on his prostetic tail while I was there. You can see he is missing his flipper. He came pretty close to the window.

On the other side there were several other dolphins swimming close to the window. The glare from the window did not make it easy to get pictures. The dolphins in the main tank live here full time now. They all have some type of injury including vision loss, hearing loss and other illnesses where they would not survive being released back into the wild. The main goal is to release the dolphins back out and most of them do get set free after they recover.

There are also many other types of animals here including lots of turtles. All were injured at some time. You can see in that (blurry) picture on the bottom that the turtle is missing his front feet.

The new building from the upper parking deck.

Pano across the intercoastal waterway looking towards Clearwater.

Looking toward the beach from the aquarium. I should have gone over for a quick swim but the beach was packed in April, even on a Monday. Parking on the beach is also tough and expensive so there’s that. And, I was starving so it was time to head home for lunch.

Yes, masks were still required in April here. Even though a lot of it is outside, people crowd in front of the windows. Hoping my next trip is maskless.

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Our World Tuesday Graphic

Storms rolling in.

It looked like there were some good storms heading toward the beach in late September so I headed out after work to Clearwater Beach and Sand Key Beach. Stopping along the causeway I could see rain across the intercoastal waterway.

I got over to Sand Key and there were a few people on the beach but it was pretty deserted. It was late in the day so without the sun out for a sunset, most people went home. There were some cool clouds out in the water but I didn’t see any lightening at all. Another reason to stay close to the bathrooms in the parking lot. Those bolts could have hit at any time. There were still a few people sitting out right in front of the water.

The sun peaked out a few times and I turned around hoping to see a rainbow but that didn’t happen as well.

The storm was moving quickly so I headed back to my car.

I stopped at the marina that sits next to the bridge to walk around and watch the storm move in. It was nice to get out and walk around before dinner.

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Just being out at Sand Key Park

A nice warm windy day in late July. The beach wasn’t crowded early in the morning. Plus there was a storm heading our way so most people probably were staying home this morning. The wind was blasting but the sun was out early before the clouds moved in at lunchtime.

Looking across the channel at Clearwater Beach. Most of the tourist were over there.

I walked over to the fishing piers that sit near the bridge and found a few birds waiting for handouts from the people fishing.

A typical scene looking across at Clearwater beach. The pirate ship passed under the bridge but turned around just outside the channel and headed back into the intercoastal waterway. I’m assuming they stayed inside the intercoastal this morning since the water was choppy. There were a few people on it but I’m sure not nearly as crowded as past summers.

This looks like fun but you would need a lot of upper body strength on a windy day like this was. They stayed inside the channel as well.

SkyWatch Friday

A sight I thought I’d never see

Last Sunday Brett and I headed over to Clearwater to go to Costco and we decided to cruise over to Clearwater beach to see how weirdly empty it would be. We rarely go over to this beach even though it’s only 30 minutes from our house with no traffic. The problem is that there is never “no traffic” so it actually takes at least close to an hour. With the exception of a rainy day in the winter, the beach is always crowded and the parking is minimal and expensive. This is the beach that was on the news in late March due to all of the ‘spring breakers” on it. So now, even the locals who live close by can’t go for a walk in the mornings. We just drove through and left so I took these with my phone through the window. All of the parking lots were closed and we saw police cruising around. It was weird to see not a single person on it. Even in the rainy winter you might see people jogging on it. It was a sad sight to see and after running our errands we went home and disinfected everything and then plopped down on the couch for a movie fest.

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Being a tourist in my own town.

When you’ve eating too much over Thanksgiving weekend and you have family in town, you head to the beach. Since the actual beach was too crowded and parking was impossible, my sister and I stopped at the Clearwater Beach marina and walked around for while. Looking at the big boats and enjoying the afternoon. I don’t get over to this area often, too crowded and congested. But, it’s fun to stop by once in a blue moon. It reminds me of coming to visit my grandparents as a child with my family.

We also stopped at Sand Key beach for a quick walk and found these above. They are going to submerge them in the gulf so the coral can grow on them.

SkyWatch Friday

Another episode of “Being a Tourist on the Beach”

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I rarely go to Clearwater Beach anymore.  It’s very crowded and cost a fortune to park, if you can get a parking spot. Although, it is fun to go over every once in while to see what’s going on.  Right after I picked up my sister from the airport we headed over to the beach to walk around. She had not been in several years.  We were hoping to get a good sunset but dark clouds had moved in.  I guess the weather had kept most people indoors because it wasn’t too crowded the Tuesday before Christmas. It was fun walking around the beach and marina.

SkyWatch Friday

Being a tourist on the beach

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Clearwater Beach sure has changed since we moved down to the area almost 15 years ago. The beach was still mostly Mom & Pop motels and now it’s all high-rise hotels and condos. Traffic and parking are insane so we rarely go over there.  On Christmas afternoon we wanted to get out for a walk so we went to Sand Key beach which is just across the bridge from Clearwater beach. It was such a beautiful day that all of the beaches were crowded. All of the above were taken from Sand Key Park looking across at Clearwater beach and downtown Clearwater.

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A few of the fun finds at the beach.

SkyWatch Friday

Christmas night sunset

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We headed over to the beach for a sunset walk on Christmas night.  Clearwater beach was so packed that we didn’t stay long. We drove past the beach after a walk on Sand Key beach and then stopped along the causeway to take some pictures before heading home.

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It was a beautiful night. Yes, that’s you standing in front of the water taking a picture Debbie.