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Key West, Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater area or The Florida Keys

Me and my girlfriend are in our mid 20s are vacationing in Florida in a few months. We are thinking about going to either the Florida Keys or Clearwater area. We like to go to a good beach and see attractions. I hear Clearwater and the surrounding cities have the best beaches and the Keys have the attractions you want to see. Like to do some shopping as well. Some help on deciding would be much appreciated.

9 Answers

answered first by
Missy from Newport

Hi, there are plenty of beaches in the Florida Keys, and definitely, in my opinion, the Keys have far more to offer for general interest, boutique shopping, and just plain fun and attractions. Just watching the sunset at Mallory Square, is a great local experience.  Clearwater is lovely, but completely different from Key West.  If you choose Key West, you may want to rent a car, as local Key West is best enjoyed by staying in the thick of things for day and night life, while then driving to the nearby beaches.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Florida Keys (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Rachel from New York City

WHEN are you going? We went in summer months to the Keys and it wasn't just hot, it was unbearable. You think "oh it's hot everywhere in the summer" The humidity in the Keys is it's own monster. A heavy force that doesn't want you outside because the pool water is bathtub warm, the cats at the Hemingway house are all inside b/c of the heat.  ALL THAT SAID we had a great time. There were terrific restaurants and bars, fun shopping and a snorkeling trip we almost took (the water was too choppy). But, humidity...stroke-inducing.  Clearwater beaches are lovely and fun and may not be as humid. The gulf side of Florida has better beaches than the east IMHO. The bars and nightlife are not as upscale as other parts. But if you're in your early 20s it cannot be anything but fun. But....have you thought about Sarasota? It's a bit more upscale than Tampa and Longboat Key & Siesta Key beaches are some of the best in the country. And they have attractions.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Florida (attraction)
  2. Sarasota (city)
  3. Tampa (city)
  4. Longboat Key (attraction)
  5. Siesta Key (city)

answered by
Claudia from New York City

Hi Keenan,

There are so many good answers here! The Florida Keys consist of Key Largo, Islamorada, and Key West.

Key West is like the Caribbean islands and has the Caribbean vibe. The only difference is you don't need to bring your passport, and you're still traveling in the US. However, I lived in Tampa for nine years, and would agree that Clearwaters beaches are better than Key West. You'll find decent beaches in the Florida Keys as well.

To answer your question, I would choose Key West for the attractions, food, shopping and the Caribbean vibe.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Key Largo (city)
  2. Islamorada (city)
  3. Key West (city)
  4. Tampa (city)
  5. Clearwater (city)

answered by

Depends on what you are looking for really!  Keys are an experience all by itself...can't compare it to other beaches because it is just such a unique place, population, etc.  Clearwater beaches are gorgeous though, sugar white sand and always packed....what type of experience are you after?

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Clearwater (city)

answered by
Gregory from Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Florida Keys are definitely a great place to go. A bit more travel or expense to get there, but a great vibe. Clearwater Beach is one of the best beaches in Florida, although if you are really wanting super white sand, the Destin area has some of the whitest beaches (Fort Walton Beach) nearby has decent expanses.

For attractions, Clearwater Beach does not have a lot that is not touristy, unless you are also willing to drive a bit. You do have Tarpon Springs for the Greek community, Safety Harbor for some really interesting divey looking places that are fun to visit and downtown Dunedin (Florida) for a great restaurant row, including some really good gastro pubs. Downtown is also very nicely cleaned up with lots of nice restaurants and quant shops. You can also head down to Sarasota for things like the Ringling Brothers Museum or Venice (Florida) to the shark's tooth beach to collect (not the best beach for swimming or sunning, but you can find shark's teeth there, which is interesting - and Venice is an interesting old town to drive through).

But Key West is Key West and some of the other keys are nice, as well. So, it really depends on your personal vibe.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Florida Keys (attraction)
  2. Clearwater Beach (city)
  3. Destin (city)
  4. Fort Walton Beach (city)
  5. Tarpon Springs (city)
  6. Safety Harbor (city)
  7. Dunedin (Florida) (city)
  8. Downtown (attraction)
  9. Sarasota (city)
  10. Venice (Florida) (attraction)
  11. Key West (city)

answered by
Crystal from Anchorage

If it where me I would choose the Florida Keys over Clearwater any day. It just has that real Caribbean vibe. Lot's of people like Clearwater, but I just don't think the scenery compares. Clearwater is a little more family focused as well, so far that reason as well I would prefer the Keys.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Florida Keys (attraction)

answered by
Kevin from Hermosa Beach

Either one is fine. Clearwater/St. Pete is much more of a city than the Keys and Key West. There's probably more to do in St. Pete/Clearwater (and Florida putt-putt courses are a must!) while the Keys has a unique character. If you choose the Keys, the drive there is great – IF you know where to make all the good stops! Here's an article on 5 things to know about traveling in the Florida Keys; just watch out for Keys Disease!Florida Keys

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Florida Keys (attraction)

answered by
Erica from Kansas City (Missouri)

Key West is an awesome place for an adult-centered vacation. It's not very family oriented. Their are a lot of great things to do, but if you are interested in making the beach the center of your trip, you may want to go with the Clearwater area. We stayed at Anna Maria Island a few years ago, and the beach was truly amazing.
If you think Key West may be a good fit for you, I recommend the following:
1) Stay in a B&B - we stayed at Chelsea House Pool and Gardens last time (get a king room), and are staying at Artist House on Fleming next month.

2) Rent some bikes, and if you fly in direct, you will not need a car rental. Taking Lloyds Bike Tour ( was a highlight... a Jersey-hipster that gives awesome tours around town. It's a great way to get your bearings!

3) We took a day long kayaking and sunset cruise - all you can drink as well. The company we used was Fury ( They offer a variety of tours every day.

4) Mallory square and Duval St- This is really the beaten path. This area is saturated with souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants. And Mallory Square is a great place to see street performers and catch the sunset.

You can always bike over the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park , and hang out on the beach there.

I hope you have a great trip! Good luck deciding!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chelsea House Pool and Gardens (hotel)
  2. Artist House on Fleming (hotel)
  3. Mallory square (attraction)
  4. Duval St (attraction)
  5. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (attraction)

answered by
Kevin from Indianapolis

No question. The Keys!

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