Stunning sunsets, sugary beaches, fresh seafood and world-class hotels: Clearwater, Florida, has all the ingredients of a great coastal meeting destination.
That’s what eight meeting planner readers of Small Market Meetings discovered during a site-inspection tour hosted by the city of Clearwater in August. Over the course of four days, participants explored eight diverse hotels and resorts in the area. They also got to experience many of the attractions, activities and restaurants that make Clearwater so appealing.
Located in central Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater and adjacent Clearwater Beach are surrounded by water. On the Gulf side, sugar white sand and calm waters make the city one of Florida’s most heralded beach destinations. Clearwater Bay sits between the beach island and downtown Clearwater on the mainland, and the much larger Tampa Bay borders the city on the east side.
With pristine public beaches and numerous resorts, Clearwater is among the more upscale destinations on Florida’s Gulf Coast. That makes it an excellent choice for small meetings and incentive events, and many groups report record attendance when they hold meetings there, since attendees often bring their families along for some vacation fun.
There’s also infrastructure and access to support these events. The area is served by two airports: Tampa International Airport is about 20 miles away, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, 10 miles from the beach, offers nonstop flights from 57 cities.
Clearwater Beach is easy to walk, and meeting attendees can also get around on the city’s Jolley Trolley. Planners can charter the trolleys for private transportation during events.
Follow along with the site inspection group in the coming pages to discover the opportunities Clearwater offers for your meetings.
Residence Inn/SpringHill Suites by Marriott Clearwater Beach
Rooms: There are 255 suites between the Marriott’s Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites brands.
Meeting Spaces: There are three small spaces, including Emerald for up to 35 guests, Coastal A&B with 800 square feet and the Coronado Board Room.
Dining: Guests enjoy a full hot breakfast every day of their stay, and the Coastal Bar and Grill is open for poolside drinks and dinner on weekdays, as well as lunch and dinner on weekends.
Recreation: A block away from the beach, the Residence Inn/SpringHill Suites complex is best suited for business travelers. It has an infinity pool and a sundeck on the fourth floor overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Residence Inn by Marriott and SpringHill Suites by Marriott at Clearwater Beach are one of the country’s first combined hotels. The property features two flags, with some rooms outfitted for extended stay guests and others configured as traditional hotel suites. The two brands share a lobby, a registration desk and common areas. Business-minded guests will find a variety of amenities and functional meeting spaces.
Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Clearwater Beach
Rooms: The hotel has 209 guest rooms, including one-bedroom suites with two bathrooms.
Meeting Spaces: The hotel has 8,500 square feet of event space, including the Duval Ballroom, a 4,000-square-foot room on the second floor of a freestanding building with balcony views of the Gulf.
Dining: Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar sits right on the water and offers a variety of seafood and other classic dishes in a casual environment with live entertainment and nightly sunset celebrations. The hotel also has a coffeehouse and an ice cream shop.
Recreation: The Holiday Inn features a pool area and an on-site watersports outfitter so guests can rent Jet Skis, paddleboards and other equipment for fun in the Gulf.
On the southern end of Clearwater Beach, Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites is a favorite destination for families and sports events groups in Clearwater. The casual, comfortable property offers waterfront views with frequent dolphin sightings and a detached ballroom facility, so events can go late into the night without noise restrictions.
Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort
Rooms: The resort has 287 guest rooms in a variety of configurations, including traditional singles and numerous multiroom suites.
Meeting Spaces: The Hyatt’s 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space includes two ballrooms that accommodate more than 200 guests each, six breakouts, and the Sky Terrace, an outdoor space on the 16th floor.
Dining: The hotel’s signature restaurant is Shor, an American seafood grill with upscale cuisine and an open kitchen. Guests also enjoy the Latin-inspired fare at Swim, the poolside bar and grill. Three beachfront restaurants will open soon on the ground floor.
Recreation: Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach is just steps from the Gulf, but many guests opt to spend their downtime gazing at the waves from the pool deck on the hotel’s eighth floor. The pool features a variety of private indoor/outdoor cabanas available for day rentals.
Near the center of Clearwater Beach, just across the street from Pier 60 Park, the rose-colored Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort is a local icon. Built in 2010, the hotel was remodeled in 2018. Its guest rooms all feature views of the water.
Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites
Rooms: The hotel has 220 all-suite accommodations with views of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Meeting Spaces: There are 11,700 square feet of space spread across 12 event rooms, among them the 3,300-square-foot Sand Key Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 340 guests.
Dining: The Watercolour Grillhouse offers fresh seafood and steak, as well as a full-service breakfast buffet. The hotel also has the Kokomos Bar and Grill, Bistro on the Bay and a Pizza Hut Express.
Recreation: The Clearwater Beach Marriott’s pool deck is among the most scenic in the area and features a man-made grotto and other water features. There’s also an on-site salon and day spa, and the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to a nearby beach area.
Located in the southern portion of Clearwater Beach on Sand Key, Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites offers accommodations and meeting space in a quieter environment. Renovated in 2017, the hotel’s claim to fame is its design: Every room has views of the Gulf and the Intracoastal Waterway so guests can experience both sunrise and sunset.
Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
Rooms: The hotel has 353 guest rooms and suites with views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Meeting Spaces: The resort features a total of 22,000 square feet of space, including the 10,632-square-foot Dunes Ballroom, with space for up to 700 guests, and 12 flexible breakout rooms and boardrooms.
Dining: There are five dining options at the Wyndham Grand, including Ocean Hai, Clearwater beach’s only Asian fusion restaurant. Other options include a coffee shop and a pool bar and restaurant.
Recreation: The recreation highlight at the Wyndham Grand is the expansive, beautiful pool deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Many guests also enjoy luxurious treatments in the hotel’s full-service Pallavi Spa.
When it debuted in 2017, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach opened the Clearwater market up to larger meetings than it had previously been able to accommodate. Home to the city’s largest ballroom, this property can easily host events for up to 700 people. It features a contemporary, breezy decor and all the resort amenities modern travelers appreciate. Corporate groups will especially appreciate the variety of multiroom suites.
Opal Sands Resort
Rooms: The resort has 230 guest rooms and suites, all with water views and private gulf-front balconies.
Meeting Spaces: The resort has 17,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, including the Opal Ballroom, with 7,650 square feet, and nine breakout rooms that feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Dining: The Opal Sands’ signature restaurant, Sea Guini, features fresh local seafood, handmade pasta and Neapolitan-style pizza. The resort also has a pool bar and a casual outdoor restaurant.
Recreation: The Opal Sands features its own beach access, as well as a zero-entry outdoor pool and sun deck. Guests can also take advantage of a full-service spa, a beach bar, fire pits and numerous retail shops on the premises.
The third Opal Collection property in the Clearwater area, the Opal Sands Resort opened in 2016 and features a fresh, contemporary design aesthetic reminiscent of South Beach styling. But its greatest asset is its location directly on the water: Every guest room and most meeting rooms feature stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Rooms: The resort has 249 guest rooms and suites.
Meeting Spaces: Groups can use the Hunter Ballroom, with 5,234 square feet; Harbor Ballroom, with 3,423 square feet; several boardrooms and breakout spaces; and nearly 10,000 square feet of outdoor meeting space.
Dining: Caretta on the Gulf offers seasonal fine dining. The Marketplace has coffee, pastries and snacks, and the Tate Island Grill serves poolside fare.
Recreation: Sandpearl has a large pool complex as well as a beachfront area, and the resort fee includes beach chair rentals. The Sandpearl Spa offers restorative treatments, and Camp Ridley provides child care for ages 5-11.
Sitting on 700 feet of beautiful beach, the Sandpearl Resort is the grand dame of Clearwater hotels and one of the few with its own access to the sand. It is one of three Opal Collection properties in the area and features casually elegant, Southern-inspired decor with coastal touches. Guest rooms and suites are finely appointed, and many feature balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The resort opened in 2007 and was the first property in the area to earn a LEED Silver certification for its sustainability efforts.
Rooms: The inn has 35 rooms, each uniquely laid out.
Meeting Spaces: The Tiffany Ballroom, an intimate space for groups of up to 60, features 24 original pieces of Tiffany stained glass.
Dining: The inn delivers a “breakfast basket” daily to each guest room. Morton’s Reading Room, a wood-paneled study, can be set up for bar service.
Recreation: The Belleview Inn is best suited for intimate conversation and quiet relaxation but does offer some recreation options. Its comfortable back porch offers seating that overlooks a small pool. Guests also have access to golf at the Belleair Country Club.
A short drive from Clearwater Beach in the residential community of Belleair, the Belleview Inn has a history that stretches back more than 120 years. The Queen Ann-style structure has had several names and was at one point among the largest properties in the Clearwater area. Its current iteration reopened in late 2018 as an intimate, historic inn suitable for board meetings and executive retreats. It is also part of the Opal Collection.
Meetings in Clearwater come with abundant activity options. From the soft white beaches to major attractions, meeting planners enjoyed these recreation experiences during their site inspection tour in Clearwater.
• Beach Activities — The entire shoreline of Clearwater Beach is owned by the city and open to the public, and a city concessionaire offers umbrella and cabana rentals. Meeting planners can work with their host properties to arrange beach activities and team-building opportunities. beachchamber.com
• Pier 60 Park— Near the center of Clearwater Beach, Pier 60 extends 1,000 feet into the gulf and makes an excellent spot for walking, birding and fishing. The surrounding park offers games, inflatables and other fun to keep family members entertained during a meeting. myclearwater.com
• Sugar Sand Festival — For 17 days in April, Clearwater Beach hosts the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, a celebration of the area’s fine sands and amazing sunsets. Visitors can explore dozens of sand sculptures created by world-renowned sand artists. sugarsandfestival.com
• Clearwater Marine Aquarium — Made famous by the movie “A Dolphin’s Tale,” the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is an animal rescue and rehabilitation center where guests can see famous residents such as the dolphins Hope and Winter. A major expansion opening next year will bring more than 6,000 square feet of meeting and event space. seewinter.com
• Spectrum Field — Clearwater’s resident ballpark is home to two professional teams: the minor league Clearwater Threshers in summer and the major league Philadelphia Phillies during spring training. Groups can rent hospitality suites and other large spaces for games. Catering and bar services are available. milb.com/clearwater
In addition to catering options and on-site dining at the area’s resorts, meeting attendees in Clearwater will want to get out and sample the fresh local seafood at some of the city’s top restaurants. Here are a few great spots meeting planners visited during their site inspection tour.
• Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber — Since it opened in 1948, Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber has been a leader in upscale dining at Clearwater Beach. The restaurant specializes in seafood and refined approaches to traditional Southern favorites. It has also led the way in establishing the Ocean Allies sustainability program. heilmansbeachcomber.com
• Island Way Grill — In a beautiful secluded spot overlooking Clearwater Bay, the Island Way Grill offers worldly decor and Asian-inspired seafood. Don’t miss its exceptional sushi, tiki cocktails and candied bacon. The restaurant offers outdoor event space overlooking the water. islandwaygrill.com
• Marina Cantina — At the center of the action at Clearwater Beach, Marina Cantina is a relatively new restaurant that fuses seafood with Latin flavors such as ceviche, plantains and specialty tequila cocktails. The beautiful rooftop patio bar can accommodate more than 200 guests for events. marinacantina.com
• Cooter’s Restaurant and Bar — Family owned and operated since 1993, Cooter’s Restaurant on Clearwater Beach is named for a local species of turtle. It features classic beach fare such as grouper, snow crab, fish and chips, and daily drink specials. cooters.com
• Salty’s Island Bar and Grill — One of the newer restaurants at Clearwater Beach, Salty’s features a breezy indoor-outdoor space and a full menu of favorite beach foods. The upstairs area can be rented out for events, and the restaurant offers the option of private breakfasts. saltysisland.com
For more information on planning a meeting in Clearwater contact:
City of Clearwater/ Bandwagon PR
If you are interested in hosting a FAM for readers of Small Market Meetings, call Kyle Anderson at 866-356-5128 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.