If you love sea life, the Clearwater Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida, is definitely worth a visit! The Clearwater Aquarium is a great place to learn about sea life because it is not a zoo but rather an active hospital where sea life is rescued, rehabilitated, and released (when possible)!
Fun Facts About the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
The aquarium is dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation, and release of animals. It is an active hospital just like the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. This means that the animals you will see are rescues unable to survive on heir own in the wild. They are also committed to preserving quality of life for all of the non-releasable animals that permanently reside at the aquarium.
The aquarium recently spent $80 million on an expansion which opened in late 2020. The expansion allowed five times more space for guests as well as a food court and retail area. It also tripled the size of the dolphin habitat. Before the expansion, some of the animals had to be turned away due to space issues, so this is a great addition.
It is worth noting that the Clearwater Aquarium has some pretty spectacular views since it’s located right on the water.
You can watch the Clearwater Aquarium webcams if you aren’t able to visit yourself, or if you just want to see what is going on.
How to Get to the Clearwater Aquarium
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is located on Sea Island, which is located right next to Clearwater Beach, Florida. It’s a short drive from Tampa and about 90 minutes from Orlando.
Getting to the aquarium is easy. If you’re visiting the area, you can of course walk (depending on your location) or Uber. There are also some shuttle options. They also have plenty of parking in their parking garage on site.
Clearwater Aquarium Ticket Information
You can purchase tickets ahead of time or once you arrive at the aquarium. We purchased ours at the aquarium the day of our visit. The line looked long when we initially got there, but it moved quickly and we waited under 5 minutes.
Current admission prices are free for children under the age of two, $26.95 for children ages 3-12, $35.95 for adults, and $33.95 for seniors. These prices are for admission only and the aquarium has more activities at an additional cost. Those activities include boat tours, virtual reality programs, animal experiences, and more. We did the virtual reality experience while we were there but did not add on any of the other additional activities.
The aquarium is a non-profit organization and the admission fees helps fund the resources needed for the animals they rescue, so we felt good about our admission fees.
If you are planning on visiting some other attractions in the area like Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium (in Tampa), Lowry Park Zoo, or the Museum of Science and Industry, the cityPASS is worth considering. It offers entrance to each of these places at a discounted price.
Tampa’s cityPASS is an incredible deal. For one price, you get admission to the following:
- Busch Gardens
- The Florida Aquarium (this is the aquarium located in Tampa)
- Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park
- Plus your choice of admission to 2 of these options: Clearwater Marine Aquarium, The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin or Sunset Cruise, Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), or Glazer Children’s Museum.
The only “catch” is that it needs to be used within 9 consecutive days.
Animals at the Clearwater Aquarium
The Clearwater Aquarium was home to Winter the dolphin before she sadly passed in 2021. Before her death, Winter attracted tons of visitors.
I was fascinated to learn that the main observation window where the dolphins live was 52,000 pounds! It is also 12.5 inches thick. There are actually 9 different viewing windows where the dolphins can be seen, which really helps with crowds. We were able to get a really good view of the dolphins without having to navigate large groups of people.
The Clearwater Aquarium is not only home to dolphins. You can also see pelicans, turtles, otters, sharks, stingrays, and more. There are some shows and educational tanks throughout the aquarium which can be enjoyed at certain times. This is included in the cost of admission. My favorite exhibition was “petting” the stingrays!
As I mentioned earlier, there are things you can do at the Clearwater Aquarium for an additional cost. These are fun activities that give you unique experiences (like virtually swimming with whales!) or get you special treatment (like “meeting” the dolphins!).
There are many experiences to choose from, such as feeding stingrays, special photos with a dolphin, meeting the dolphins, helping on the farm that feeds the sea turtles, assisting in the care of the sharks, and more. The rates for each of these experiences vary but you can check them out here.
They also have two different boat tours – the dolphin and wildlife boat tour and a sea life safari tour.
When we were there, we swam with the whales using virtual reality goggles. That particular experiences is only at the aquarium temporarily as their exhibits do change; however, experiences with the animals are more consistent.