Looking for a way to get up close and personal with Florida’s marine life? Want to meet the stars of Dolphin Tale in the place that inspired the hit movie? Clearwater Marine Aquarium is where you’ll see all of that and so much more!
Our family recently enjoyed a trip to CMA and had a wonderful experience. Clearwater is on Florida’s west coast, just west of Tampa and the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon. The CMA was and still functions as a marine animal rescue center. While visiting, you’ll notice that the layout is conducive to marine mammal research and rescue not necessarily a tourist attraction. I want to mention that because many people visit expecting a theme park, but this valued attraction is truly all about helping and saving animals, not necessarily entertaining tourists.
Because of the popularity of the Dolphin Tale movies, the aquarium has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years and attracts larger crowds. Of course, Winter and Hope are the main attractions at the aquarium and guests can visit the dolphins in their habitat throughout the day. You can also prearrange to have an up close and personal experience meeting the dolphins and having a photo taken, creating a lifelong memory!
We also enjoyed hanging out and watching the otters merrily frolic on their little beach and water area. My kids are completely fascinated with the underwater grace these animals display.
The second floor viewing areas, where the sea turtles, dolphins, and otters, along with other animals are displayed are un-airconditioned. I mention this in case you’re visiting in the especially HOT Summer months, please dress for the weather for maximum comfort. There are roofs/canopied areas to keep the direct sun off your family but it will still be warm and humid.
The 1st floor areas are air conditioned and provide several areas with benches so you can relax and observe the many tanks full of marine life, including the two nurse sharks, Thelma & Louise!
After you’re done at the aquarium, you can either hop aboard a trolley or a water taxi and head a couple miles away to the exciting Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure, included with your regular admission ticket at the CMA. Here you’ll find recreations of the movie sets, props, and another live touch tank as well as daily scheduled activities the entire family will enjoy. This portion is located entirely indoors and a great place to beat the heat.
Our family spent approximately 3.5-4 hours total between the CMA & the movie adventure area. We had a full day planned so we chose to drive from the aquarium to the movie exhibit(5 minutes and easy to find, well marked signs everywhere). You could easily pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it near the water at Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure before entering the building. Otherwise, no outside food or drink is permitted at the CMA or the exhibition hall. Parking is free at both sites.