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Florida’s Left Coast

St. Petersburg and Clearwater are family-friendly cruising destinations.

February 25, 2020
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Clearwater, Florida
Balls and strikes are all part of the family-friendly fun here. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Ed Chesney wants owners of larger cruising boats to know not only that they are welcome to head to Florida’s west coast for the Major League Baseball’s spring training in February and March but also that his dock hands know exactly how to take care of them.

“We have 75-and 80-footers all the time,” says Chesney, the harbor master at Clearwater Harbor Marina. “The bigger boats are a trend. Ten years ago, 55 feet was the largest slip. We’ve outgrown that.”

Today, the city of Clearwater operates two marinas; the other is Clearwater Beach Marina. Between them, Chesney says, there are about 50 transient slips, and both locations can handle yachts as large as 100 feet.

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The marinas will let transient boaters stay for 30 days (or longer, if there’s no waiting list), which is plenty of time to take in spring-training games at Spectrum Field, where the Philadelphia Phillies play, or at Dunedin Stadium, where the Toronto Blue Jays tune up.

seafood paella
The Castile restaurant in nearby St. Pete Beach has a rooftop bar with views of the Intracoastal Waterway, Gulf of Mexico and downtown. Try the seafood paella, made with mussels, prawns and clams. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

And if anybody wants to skip the baseball in favor of Sunshine State sightseeing, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is within walking distance of the beach marina; the Clearwater Ferry water taxi runs to both marinas and to the aquarium. Kids who remember the 2011 film Dolphin Tale can meet Winter the Dolphin, see her prosthetic tail, and learn about the dangers that wayward monofilament lines pose.

And unlike some destinations at this time of year, Chesney says, Clearwater is short on bad influences.

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“We get spring breakers too, but our beach isn’t really a spring break kind of beach,” he says. “It’s a more family-oriented beach.”

Things to do

For spring-training games with Major League Baseball teams, head to Spectrum Field, where the Philadelphia Phillies play in February and March. A few days will have double-headers. Dunedin Stadium is where the Toronto Blue Jays host their spring ball, also in February and March. “Chad the Beer Guy” is the fan favorite who leads the seventh-inning stretch here. The Clearwater Ferry water taxi runs from both municipal marinas in Clearwater and has a Dunedin route Thursday through Sunday, so boaters can get from the marinas to the games there. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, in addition to being home to the film-famous Winter the Dolphin, has boat and kayak tours, animal-care experiences and a working hospital for injured animals.

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