Closest beach to Orlando


Clearwater Beach Pier 60

Clearwater Beach Pier 60 panoramic image

GPS Coordinates: 27.976144, -82.828848

Directions: From the Orlando area driving time should be about 2 hours or so. Take I-4 toward Tampa (about 80 miles). Follow the signs to get on I-275 South/Tampa International Airport/St. Petersburg (5 miles). From I-275, take exit 39 to merge onto Highway 60 West toward Tampa Airport/Clearwater (toll). Follow Highway 60 (about 15 miles) all the way to Clearwater Beach. At the roundabout,  circle counterclockwise and follow signs for beach parking.

Hours: Beach parking lots are closed from 1 a.m. till 7 a.m.

Clearwater Beach with umbrellas and lifeguard

Clearwater Beach packs a lot into a small area. Within just a few blocks you’ll find a fishing pier, full public beach facilities and extensive parking, a variety of restaurants and shopping, a marina and hotels of all price ranges.

The main beach access is at Pier 60, where the focal point is a concrete fishing pier that reaches hundreds of feet into the Gulf of Mexico. During the evening, vendors line the pier hawking their wares (mostly arts and crafts), live music fills the air and buskers entertain. It’s a real scene.

Strolling up the beach or along South Gulfview Boulevard you’ll see retirees, young families with kids, and teenagers, watched over by well-equipped lifeguards.  The police maintain a presence, but seem to blend inconspicuously into the crowd unless needed to quiet some unruly beach patrons or to usher a misplaced vagrant to a more appropriate location.

A wide paved beach promenade separates the beach from the commercial activity (restaurants and shopping) across the street. Another promenade of brick pavers adds an element of contemporary design while providing a “shoppers walk” past the vast array of restaurants and shops on S. Gulf Blvd.

Pier 60, Clearwater Beach, Florida

The beach at Pier 60 has excellent lifeguard coverage, though the water is shallow and usually very calm. In 2010, no drownings occurred during hours that lifeguards were on duty. Because the Gulf waters are so calm and shallow on the west coast of Florida, lifeguards spend most of their time finding lost children, enforcing beach regulations, and answering questions from beach patrons. Still, they are highly trained and very capable when duty calls.

The sand is brilliant white quartz crystals and the water is usually reasonably clear. There is a smattering of shells to be found. This beach is safe and child-friendly but is quite busy. There is quite a bit of parking available, but expect some traffic congestion on weekends and holidays especially. This is where Tampa and Clearwater goes to the beach.

For the best chance of finding parking, arrive before 11 a.m. on weekdays and before 10 a.m. on weekends. Parking is $2.75 per hour or $16.00 for the entire day. Meters will accept quarters, bills, and credit/debit cards. I find that using a debit or credit card usually works the best.

Lifeguards: On duty from 9:30 a.m. till 4:30 p.m.

Clearwater Beach from Pier 60

Beach Rules:

  • Alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
  • Pets are not allowed on the beach.
  • No fires, no glass containers, no camping, no soliciting, no skateboarding, no bicycles on beach, no surfing or skim boarding, no boats or windsurfing, no fishing or cast netting (except from pier).

In the past I’ve been critical of Clearwater Beach because it is so heavily developed and traffic can become quite congested. However, a recently completed $30 million renovation has completely restructured the traffic and pedestrian flow along Clearwater Beach. In short, it is beautiful, and very suited to walking around rather than driving.

Clearwater Beach beachwalk at Pier 60


  • 2 snack bar type restaurants
  • Restrooms with changing areas
  • Outdoor rinse-off showers
  • Lifeguards
  • Metered Parking
  • Sales of beach gear
  • Rental of umbrellas and chairs
  • Fishing pier with pole rentals
  • Playground  (covered) with equipment for kids.
  • Evening entertainment and live music
  • Restaurants and shopping within walking distance
  • Hotels within walking distance
  • ADA access and beach wheelchairs

Yes, it is a busy place, but literally EVERYTHING you and your family could need is right at your fingertips, whether it is beach toys or gear, clothing, or a wide choice of food and drink. Unless you are looking for a quiet beach with a lot of trees and nature, I highly recommend Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60 public beach access. All you have to do is show up, park your car, rent some beach chairs and umbrellas and relax on one of the Florida’s top beaches. For lunch, visit the snack bars or walk across the street to one of the excellent restaurants. Forget your hat or sunscreen? Need a new bathing suit or beach bag? Just walk across the street and buy it. Rinse off and change into dry clothes and spend some time shopping if you like, then have dinner and stay for the sunset before heading back to Orlando or on to your next destination.

Clearwater Beachfront shopping and restaurants

One thing noticeably lacking at pier 60 is the presence of picnic tables. I think this is for two reasons: It takes away a favorite resting spot for vagrants and also encourages people to eat in the area’s many restaurants.

Nearby is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which I highly recommend, especially for kids.

Snack bar and restrooms at Pier 60, Clearwater Beach

Where to Stay on Clearwater Beach

The top choice would be the Hyatt, directly across the street and tightly integrated with the beach. Rooms start at about $300/night. Two other top hotels that are right on the beach would be the Sand Pearl and the Hilton. There are plenty of other hotels across the street and/or within a short block or two of the beach. They come in all price ranges.

Hotels on Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Hotels

View from Pier 60, Clearwater Beach

Fishing on Pier 60, Clearwater Beach

Anglers showing off fish caught from Pier 60, Clearwater Beach, FL

Vendors on Pier 60 in the evening

Walking on Pier 60 during the sunset hour

Children's covered playground at Pier 60

Beachfront restaurant on Clearwater Beach


Swimmin at Clearwater Beach in the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Outdoor rinse-off showers on Clearwater Beach.

Restroom facilities on Clearwater Beach.


Parking pay station on Clearwater Beach, FL

Above: The armless bandit of Clearwater Beach.