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The best things for families to do in Clearwater and St Pete in Florida

The best things for families to do in Clearwater and St Pete in Florida

Family-friendly fun in America’s St Pete and Clearwater

If you’re heading to Florida and want to stay by the coast then consider St Pete and Clearwater.

With 35 miles of award-winning white, sandy beaches, warm blue sea and a fabulous choice of hotels, it’s a great place for a family holiday.

It’s also ideal if you’re mixing your holiday up a bit, perhaps starting with the busy parks of attractions like Universal and Disney World and then heading to the sea for a change of scenery.

Here is our list of top things for families to do in St Pete and Clearwater.

Clearwater Beach

Aerial picture of Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is regularly named the best beach in the US in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.

There are lots of activities to keep everyone entertained including swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, beach volleyball and biking along the Beach Walk promenade.

At sunset, Pier 60 hosts street performers, live music, craft stalls and food every evening, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill on the beachfront.

St Pete Beach

Enjoying the beach at RumFish Beach Resort, St Pete, Florida

Enjoying the beach at RumFish

St Pete Beach has also scooped America’s best beach honour – in 2021.

It boasts turquoise water and soft white sand. The sunset from the beach at our hotel Rumfish Beach Resort was stunning – here is our hotel review.

Little Toot Dolphin Adventure

Dolphin spotting with Little Toot Cruise

Dolphin spotting

Enjoy a Little Toot dolphin cruise from Clearwater beach with tours lasting 60 to 90 minutes.

The boats are built to provide maximum viewing areas for passengers with open netting.

Address: 25 Causeway Blvd, Slip 16, Clearwater Beach.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Looking after turtles at Clearwater Aquarium, Florida

Clearwater Aquarium

Clearwater Aquarium is famous as it was once home to Winter the Dolphin who was given a prosthetic tail and whose story was turned into a film, Dolphin Tale and its sequel.

It is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine animals.

Visitors can see dolphins, sea turtles and otters. There are educational games, moving dinosaur models and a cafe.

Address: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767, USA.

Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise, Clearwater, Florida

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

This child-friendly cruise on a pirate ship from Clearwater Beach includes entertainment like treasure hunts and water gun fights for the children and free beer and wine for adults.

Salvador Dalí Museum

Salvador Dali Museum in St Pete, Florida

Salvador Dali Museum

This art museum on the waterfront in St Petersburg is dedicated to the work of Salvador Dali.

It holds the largest collection of his work in the US.

Address: 1 Dali Blvd, St Petersburg, FL 33701.

Urban murals

A St Pete Mural, Sewing Seeds by Taj Tenfold

A St Pete Mural, Sewing Seeds by Taj Tenfold

St Pete is brought to life by more than 600 murals which adorn its walls.

You can take a guided tour of the colourful street art in the Downtown area.

There’s even an annual mural festival each October called Shine.

Morean Arts Centre

The Morean Arts Centre in St Petersburg displays works by local, national and international artists.

Its roots date back to 1917 when it was the Art Club of St Petersburg.

Address: 720 Central Ave St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

The Great Exploration’s Children’s Museum

This interactive museum is aimed at young children up to the age of around seven and is designed to make learning fun and active.

It is located next to the Sunken Gardens.

Address: 1925 4th St N, St Petersburg, FL 33704.

Sunken Gardens

Next to the children’s museum is this site – four acres of botanical gardens in St Petersburg, which have been around for over a century.

The gardens boast hundreds of plant species, cascading waterfalls and even a flock of flamingos.

Address: 1825 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704.

Watch a baseball game

Baseball at Tropicana Field

Baseball at Tropicana Field

To experience the excitement of an American baseball game, watch the Tampa Bay Rays at their home – the Tropicana Field stadium in downtown St Petersburg.

A great opportunity for baseball fans, The Rays play Major League Baseball games.

Address: One Tropicana Dr, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Kayak through Fort De Soto Park

A great way to explore this beautiful park is by renting a canoe or kayak.

Newbies and experienced paddlers are welcome at the Topwater Kayak Outpost and you might get to see local wildlife including manatees, egrets and dolphins.

Address: 3500 Pinellas Bayway St. Petersburg, FL 33715

St Pete Pier

Home to a range of restaurants and a state-of-the-art playground, the pier is a huge draw for travellers of all ages.

We dined at Doc Fords Rum Bar and Grille, which is in a fantastic position at the end of the pier overlooking the water.

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, St Pete restaurant, Florida

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, St Petersburg

Fairgrounds St Pete

Fairgrounds St Pete is an art and technology museum.

Made by 60 artists, it is described as an immersive world of playful art and technology exhibits based on original Florida stories.

Address: 800 28th St. South, St. Pete, Florida 33712

Getting to St Pete/Clearwater:

St Pete/Clearwater is easily accessible with British Airways offering daily flights between London and Tampa (30 minutes to Clearwater) and Virgin Atlantic operating daily flights from the capital. Or you can fly to Orlando Airport (90 minutes to Clearwater) from London and Manchester.

Where to stay

We stayed at Winter The Dolphin’s Beach Club in Clearwater, where rooms are around £165 a night, read our review.

We also stayed on the heart of St. Pete Beach at RumFish Beach Resort, where rooms are around £230, here’s our review.

More information

For more information visit the area’s official travel website – www.visitstpeteclearwater.com

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*Photo credit: Thanks to VisitStPeteClearwater.com for some of the images used.

 

We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator

We take our children across the North Sea on an overnight ferry from England to Amsterdam

Ferry operator

DFDS

Our journey

Newcastle to Amsterdam

The service

This route runs every day linking England and Holland/The Netherlands, with overnight crossings both ways. The ports are North Shields near Newcastle and Ijmuiden ferry port in the Netherlands.

Journey time

15 hours 30 minutes.

The ship leaves at 5pm from Newcastle and arrives in Holland at 9.45am local time. Returning, the ship leaves Holland at 5.30pm and returns to Newcastle at 9.15am.

The ferry

There are two ships which operate this crossing – we sailed out with the ship Princess Seaways and back with King Seaways.

DFDS calls them cruise ferries because of the facilities and entertainment on board.

They each have 140 crew. The King takes 1,300 passengers and the Princess 1,250.

We thought that they were great ships and our children loved exploring them. There is plenty to occupy a family between boarding time and bedtime.

Facilities

The ships each have two restaurants, a cinema, play areas, games rooms, a small casino, bars, a club and a shop.

There is good entertainment on board. Our children took part in children’s entertainment on King Seaways and enjoyed it. The play areas and games rooms were slightly bigger on the King.

A play area on the King Seaways ship

A play area on the King Seaways ship

Food (same on both)

*Explorer’s Kitchen – a buffet restaurant for breakfast and dinner which we tried on King Seaways. Perfect for families, not too formal with lots of choice.

Ice cream bar in the Explorer's Kitchen on King Seaways

For dinner, there is a variety of foods from different parts of the world including Chinese, Indian, German, Dutch, Italian and British. There’s an ice cream bar, where you can order your own soft scoop flavour with a selection of toppings.

*North Sea Bistro – we ate here on Princess Seaways. It is formal with table service – the food was more expensive but delicious.

North Sea Bistro

North Sea Bistro

There is a three-course menu for adults featuring steak, sea bass and other upmarket options.

The children’s menu offers two courses for £11.95 from a starter, main and dessert. Main course options included spaghetti Bolognese and a burger. Pancakes for pudding went down well with our pair.

My dessert at North Sea Bistro

My delicious dessert at North Sea Bistro

*Coffee Crew – a café next to the play areas which serves snacks.

Our cabin

All the cabins are en suite, ours were five-berth – with two bunk beds – a double on one side and triple on the other! The bathroom has a shower. Towels and bedding are provided.

Our 5-berth cabin on Princess Seaways

Our cabin on Princess Seaways

Cabins are well located away from all the communal areas.

Who can travel?

Cars, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles, motorhomes and lorries can all use the ferry or foot passengers without a vehicle.

How does it work?

You check-in at the port in North Shields near Newcastle, at least 45 minutes before departure – and if you are in a car or other vehicle, drive to a vehicle check-in booth, open the window and hand over your passports to be checked.

You are given boarding cards which are also your cabin keys. There are lots of crew around to direct you into a lane and then on to the ship. You are told exactly where to park, the crew guide you as far forward as possible in your lane in order to fit all the cars on board. Remember your deck number so you can find your car quickly again in the morning!

Foot passengers check in at the passenger terminal.

Disabled facilities

There are six disabled cabins on King Seaways and three on the Princess. There are lifts and disabled toilets.

Benefits

It may take longer than flying but there are lots of benefits to the ferry:

*You have your own car, so you don’t need to rent or worry about children’s car seats in Holland.

*You can pack more luggage – there is unlimited baggage on board.

*You can take bikes and scooters.

*You can take pets. Pets can travel on board in their own area or there are even pet-friendly cabins. Make sure you are up-to-date on requirements for pet passports and vaccinations.

*The mini-cruise is a fun experience, part of the holiday rather than the journey.

Top tips

*We headed for the ports both ends early to make sure we arrived in time and then stretched our legs on a beach – at Long Sands beach in Tynemouth near Newcastle and Zandvoort beach on the way to Ijmuiden port in Holland.

Long Sands Beach, Tynemouth

Long Sands Beach, Tynemouth

*Keep an eye on young children outside on the ships, it can get very windy. Also, the doors to outside are very heavy to open and may slam shut.

*The car deck is locked once the ship sets sail. You can’t return to your car then so make sure you have everything with you that you need. We packed a separate bag for the cruise so we didn’t have too much to carry.

*Don’t book a restaurant time until half an hour after sailing time if you want to enjoy the ship setting off.

*There are a lot of stairs but lifts are available if you have a buggy or a pram and there would be room for a pushchair in the five-berth cabins we had.

*The restaurants are fantastic but bring water/drinks and food from the car for your cabin to save money. You are not allowed to take your own alcohol.

*Breakfast can get very busy. There is an announcement at 8am to wake everyone up so lots of passengers eat after that. The quiet period, where you are more likely to get a window seat to enjoy the sea view, is 7am to 7.45am. Also 9am is quieter – but you are called to your car as soon as the ship docks, around 9.15am.

*Don’t feel you need to rush to your car as soon as they announce it as you will be sitting in it for some time, wait a few minutes, but not too long!

In conclusion

A great experience for the children and a fun way to travel to Amsterdam. This really makes the journey a fun part of the holiday rather than a chore.

Prices from £81, via the DFDS website.

Read about our holiday in Amsterdam here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out

Our visit to the Netherlands was in two parts, read about our second adventure here: Deserts, fairytales and glamping – a family trip to Efteling and the Brabant region of Holland.

DFDS ferry/mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam, crossing the North Sea

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(We received a free ferry trip for the purposes of this review, all views, as ever, are our own).

Can you go on a cruise pregnant? Read our full guide

Can you go on a cruise pregnant? Read our full guide

Once past the dreaded morning sickness stage, a cruise sounds like a blissful holiday when pregnant.

Lots of rest, swimming, food prepared for you, afternoon naps in the cabin.

But as a Mumsnet poster found out this week: “I’ve just discovered that many cruise liners don’t let you sail if you are over 24 weeks (pregnant).

“I’m going on a cruise in 11 days’ time (cost a fortune), will be 24 weeks the day before disembarkation, have checked their T&Cs and sure enough it’s a no no.”

So is a cruise a fabulous, relaxing holiday while pregnant or a danger to mother and baby and what are the rules? The Family Holiday Guide investigates.

The pregnancy policy of cruise lines

Cruise ships have strict pregnancy policies.

Women having a healthy pregnancy, in the first or second trimester are usually allowed to sail.

They must inform the cruise line before, or risk being turned away.

The cruise line usually wants to see (sometimes two months before), a doctor or midwife’s letter confirming the mother and baby are in good health, fit to travel and the pregnancy is not high risk, plus the estimated due date.

Most cruise lines will not let passengers sail who will be in or past the 24th week of pregnancy at any stage during the journey. These include P&O, TUI, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

It may sound strict but when you think about it, this makes sense. Ships do not have the specialist facilities to deal with pregnancy complications or a new premature baby out at sea.

There are some ships which sail close to land or river cruises, which may allow women in later pregnancy, with a doctor’s approval.

But make sure you check and follow the rules – you may be asked to sign a health form when booking or boarding to agree that you are aware of the pregnancy policy.

You find out you are pregnant after you have booked a cruise and no longer want to go?

If you no longer want to go and have only paid a deposit, you can normally cancel the cruise and get a refund.

If you have paid in full, you will need to check the company’s cancellation policies and you may not get a full refund.

If you have travel insurance in place then you should be able to cancel or reschedule sailing.

You will be in the first or second trimester but aren’t sure whether to go?

Check with your doctor. If you have had any complications, are expecting more than one baby or have had preterm deliveries before, it may be safer to stay on land where medical facilities are close by.

Also, fully research and consider the health risks at all the destinations you will be visiting as well as the health care available at them.

There will normally be doctor-led medical facilities on the ship which can handle minor emergencies. If there is an emergency, patients are transferred to hospital (often for a fee – have insurance), but this could take a long time.

If you do sail while pregnant

*You must have travel insurance – make sure you disclose your pregnancy and check it covers you in the event of an emergency. Also make sure it covers your unborn baby.

*Always travel with your maternity notes and doctor’s letter and carry copies of prescriptions and the emergency contact number for your doctor with you too.

*Be wary of drinking the ship’s water.

*Always use hand sanitizer regularly as viruses can spread quickly on cruise ships. Take care to avoid food and water-borne conditions like stomach upsets and remember some medicines for treating things like diarrhoea aren’t suitable when pregnant.

*Don’t feel you have to do all shore excursions, stay safe and listen to your body. Sometimes pregnant passengers are not allowed on some excursions for their own safety.

*Remember, seasickness may be worse when pregnant.

*Many cruise ships have launderettes so you don’t have to splash out on lots of maternity holiday clothes.

*Be careful in the sun, keep cool and check your sun cream is suitable for pregnant women.

*You can enjoy the swimming pools but avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms.

*Take a list of what you can and can’t eat as you may not be able to ‘Google it’. And be wary of buffet food which has been out a while.

*If you are flying to the cruise port, check the airline’s policy too.

In conclusion

Thoroughly consider all the issues before deciding whether to sail and choose a cruise which isn’t at sea for days on end.

If you go, pack a maternity swimsuit, enjoy the restful side of cruising including afternoon naps in your cabin, don’t overdo it and have a great time!

What about ferries?

Ferry companies have their own restrictions and usually won’t take pregnant women past 32 weeks. Check the company’s policy before booking as restrictions vary.

Brittany Ferries, for example, accept pregnant passengers under 32 weeks except on their high-speed sailings when they must be less than 28 weeks.

It also depends on the route and in some cases, the weather – if the sea is very rough, a pregnant traveller may not be allowed on board.