Winter’s Friends Are All Grown Up at The Clearwater Beach Aquarium
Before this summer, the last time we visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium near Clearwater Beach was about in 2005. They were located in a cement structure that was a former wastewater plant donated by the City of Clearwater. That was well before the 2011 movie, Dolphin Tale was released which propelled the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) into the national spotlight.
The CMA is also known by locals as the Clearwater Beach Aquarium which survived from a time before the CMA got famous and big!
Our grandkids enjoyed the CMA in 2005 as a small little local attraction featuring sealife that needed rescuing and rehabilitation. A 6 or 7-year-old that can pet a stingray is a big deal! Now the same experience is bigger, better, and just as captivating for kids of all ages.
Dolphin Tale Movie Propels Clearwater Beach Aquarium into Stardom
Dolphin Tale was a tear-jerker of a movie that centered around a bottlenose dolphin that lost its tail and a little boy who formed a relationship with a rehabilitated dolphin given the name Winter.
Needless to say all children, and many adults, immediately became a fan of Winter and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter has passed away, but the legend lives on.
Winter propelled the CMA into fame (and fortune) as a rehabilitation center for dolphins, turtles and many other creatures of the Gulf.
In 2005 CMA was fortunate to get a few thousand visitors annually. With the opening of a new 80-million-dollar project, the CMA will exceed one million visitors in 2023. The Clearwater Aquarium is all grown up with about ten times the space, and so are Winter’s new friends.!
Winter’s Famous Tail Designed By Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Caught in crab trap ropes in 2005 and rescued by the CMA, Winter was given a prosthetic silicone tail so she could swim naturally again.
She swam with three other rescued dolphins in a marine aquarium the size of a small football field! You can view Winter’s friends underwater through the one-foot thick plastic glass as they frolic in their remodeled home. The viewing area under the tank is an amazing place to watch these majestic mammals.
The Clearwater Beach Aquarium is not like many aquariums where their goal is to show as many different species in somewhat of a normal setting. CMA is a rescue and rehab facility. They love to show you recent new arrivals and the treatment they can offer. They have a complete marine lab that includes the same equipment many human urgent care hospitals have.
The victims of various marine tragedies such as entanglements by fishermen, boat propeller wounds and diseases are rescued and treated by CMA. The goal is to release stingrays, dolphins, birds, fish, and turtles back into their natural habitat. The process is not unlike what a hospital would perform for humans.
Several Different Animals Rescued Regularly
Some animals cannot be rehabilitated, like Winter, who must live their life in a semi-protected environment to survive. The result is our ability to see, observe and marvel at these animals during their stay at CMA. The various viewing opportunities include a couple of otters, huge sea turtles, white pelicans, stingrays, and even a nurse shark named Thelma.
Tanks around the facility include the viewing of tarpon, redfish, black drum, and even a couple of clownfish.
You can spend hours with the exhibits, tours and various filmed educational opportunities. However, watching the animals play, eat, and perform can mesmerize. The gracefulness of the dolphins is a sight that will never leave you as you watch them glide through the water. The CMA also offers scuba experience and ecological boat tours of Clearwater Harbor.
The CMA offers a different perspective that focuses on injured animals and the dedication to rehabilitation. The perspective is refreshing, educational and unique.
Where is The Clearwater Beach Aquarium Located
It is worth the trip to Inland Estates at 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767. That is the address, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there.
There are four basic ways to get to the Clearwater Beach Aquarium;
- If you have a car, you can head off the island east past the marina on Route 60. About a half mile is a traffic light. Turn left. You will be on Island Estates. At the first traffic light turn left and go to the end of the street. You have found the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
- The second way to get there is to take a trolley. You will see the red and yellow trollies going up and down the streets on Clearwater Beach. They run 10 Amm to 10 PM daily. The trolley stops are identified by the round sunburst along the street. It will say Jolley Trolley. You can click on the link for a schedule. They run every 30 minutes.
- The third way to get there is by Uber of Lyft. It is no more than a ten-minute ride.
- The fourth way to get to the Clearwater Beach Aquarium is to walk. From the Clearwater Marina, the walk is 20-25 minutes across the causeway. It is a pleasant waterfront stroll.
Bring your camera and you can relax with the kids at their small cafe and gift shop. Nearby Clearwater Beach can make the perfect Florida day trip.
The Clearwater Beach Aquarium is just one of many things to see and do on Clearwater Beach. You may be interested in the best tiki bar on Clearwater Beach or the best restaurant on Clearwater Beach. The best of many things to do in the beach is here. For the best views on the beach, check out all the rooftop bars.