Tourist-ing around Clearwater, Florida

When you’re visiting a place for the first time you have to play tourist and go to the most popular spots – just to see what all the rave is about. Clearwater, Florida is a gorgeous heavenly place. The beach is pristine, it’s got a bustling main strip, but man! There are a lot of people around. So are these spots worth braving the crowds?

+Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, 7 Rockaway St, Clearwater, FL 33767

Right on the beach, literally on the sand, sunset in view if you come at the right time. There’s live music daily. Sounds like a blast, romantic even, and absolutely vacation worthy. There are billboards all over the place and additional locations, seems like the place to be – and it was absolutely packed! Very loud, hard to hear conversation actually. So how is the food? We tried their two signature items starting with Frenchy’s garlic crab fries. The fries were delicious, because they are fries! However the half portion was too small to share and there wasn’t a whole lot of crab on them.

For the main we each got Frenchy’s world famous grouper sandwich.

It may be well known and it certainly was fresh, but I have to say that it lacked in flavor and there are better fish sandwiches to get elsewhere. We got the key lime pie for dessert and it was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Verdict: Skip it!

+Columbia Restaurant, 1241 Gulf Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33767

Florida’s oldest restaurant founded in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, still in the hands of the same family today – with multiple new locations. Known for Spanish style cuisine and tableside food preparation, is this is a gimmick or the real deal? The décor feels lovely – inside a beautiful Mediterranean vibe, outside waterfront seating. They start you off with a huge hunk of delicious Cuban bread – difficult not to devour it all.

We ordered the 1905 Salad, tossed at the table. Crisp iceberg lettuce, swiss, tomato, olives, turkey (instead of the normal ham), and a killer garlic dressing. A solid salad. For the main we ordered the tapeo – a sampler of tapas in a darling presentation.

The queso fundido tetilla cheese was something completely new to us, baked in a tomato sauce served with (more!) bread – it had a wealth of flavor. The gambas al ajillo had succulent local gulf shrimp in a fresh garlic and chili pepper oil. Last, but certainly not least were the scallops casimiro – one of our favorite bites in the whole region. They were baked perfectly and tasted like butter, topped with lemon, bread crumbs, and white wine.

Verdict: Make a reservation!

+Pier 60 Sunset, 10 Pier 60, Clearwater, FL 33767

What’s more romantic than a beach sunset on your vacation? Sharing it with hundreds of other people!

Wait. I think not. Walking onto the pier is an experience for sure. There are vendors selling their wares, street performers, you get a good view of beach,

there is a photo op with a dolphin, but to go out to the end you actually have to pay. You can get the same view on the sand, right next to the pier and it’s much quieter.

Verdict: Watch the sunset on almost any Gulf Coast beach!

+Shopping on Mandalay Ave

You’ll find your typical tourist beach haunts on the main strip – hotels, restaurants, fudge shops, t-shirt shops…however, one spot of interest is the Hogan’s Beach Shop [483 Mandalay Ave #108, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767] if you happen to be a wrestling fan. You’ll know you’re there when you see the hulking statue outside. Growing up during Hulkamania I spent a good portion of my childhood practicing the leg drop finisher on my brother. Perusing the merchandise in the store and reading up on the book in the back was a trip down memory lane. Since he lives in the area, Hulk Hogan does make appearances in the shop. Check the website events list to see if there are any autograph signings coming up! Right next door is the Beef Jerky Outlet – a perfect stop afterwords to pick up some snacks for your next road trip.

Verdict: When in Rome!

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