A Guide To Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Florida - Updated 2023

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Florida

A popular tourist destination on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida is the CMA or Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This, however, is not your run off the mill aquarium, What sets it apart from other aquariums you ask?It is a water treatment plant transformed into a rehabilitating center for ailing aquatic species. Run by an NGO, Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers aquatic species a sanctuary where they are taken care of. This aquarium is teeming with a wide variety of marine creatures and is a great spot to head to with family and friends. Children especially enjoy a visit to the CMA as they watch marine mammals with rapture. Along with the world-famous Florida beaches, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is among the most sought-after tourist spots in the state. Here’s a guide to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Florida, to give you an idea of what to do when visiting here.

Things to do / Highlights

Bottlenose dolphin, Nicholas, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Clearwater, Florida 1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Beyond My Ken used under CC BY-SA 4.0

A popular tourist haunt, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the perfect spot to spend a fun-filled day with family and friends. Here’s a look at some things to do at this aquarium in Florida.

Say hello to Hollywood stars

Ricky is the pelican who played the role of Rufus in the movie Dolphin Tale and a wonder to watch. Meet Mandy, from Dolphin Tale 2. You can even espy Nicholas, an Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin who is the only male dolphin at CMA. You can also watch the dolphin Winter swim without a tail, which she lost in an accident. However, that did not stop her from featuring both in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. Rescued in 2005, she swims today with a prosthetic tail. You also get to greet Hope, who was rescued as a two-month calf and co-stars in Dolphin Tale 2.

Watch incredible water species

It is not only the Hollywood stars that you can see in CMA but also many magnificent unsung aquatic spectacles like Thelma and Louise, two nurse sharks, who will make the trip enjoyable. Also, seven green sea turtles, one loggerhead turtle, and three Kemps Ridley sea turtles will make children scream with joy as they spot them in the Turtle Cove or Turtle Bayou and Mavis Hideaway exhibits. CMA also houses colorful aquatic species like red grouper, white grunt, black sea bass, mangrove snapper, clownfish, crabs, common snook, pinfish, lookdown, otters, rays, and many others.

Visit Hollywood shooting spots

Visit the Winter Zone housing Winter and Hope which is the place where the Dolphin Tale movies were filmed. Going into the Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure will take you back in time to the filming days of Dolphin Tale, which resembles many of its scenes. There can be many images all around the place to bring back nostalgic memories of the film.

Become a dolphin trainer

By signing up for Dolphin Encounter, you can accompany CMA’s dolphin trainer. You can feed them and learn about how they get training to perform so well in the movies.

Let children join summer camps

If you are busy training the dolphins, enroll your children for a half-day of full-day summer camp. The CMA staff will bring the marine biological engineering skills of your children by exploring the aquatic animals there.

Explore CMA

The CMA administration and star hotels arrange a lot of activities inside and outside the aquarium to make the best of it. Find out how the caring CMA staff takes motherly care of the aquatic species. Find out what is happening behind the scenes like with the prosthetic tail for Winter to swim and act among others. Also, take a kayak or boat ride around the aquarium.

What to eat

Situated approximately 2 km (1.2 mi) from the world-famous Florida Beach, all the best cuisine worldwide is readily available near Clearwater Marine Aquarium. More than 53 fantastic restaurants are around it. Seafood is the first choice for many travelers as the delicious recipes are made from fresh fish caught from the Florida seas.

Island Way Grill

CMA visitors are offered various discounts and gifts from Island Way Grill, which is just across the road. Do not forget to have the CMA wristband with you to avail of the benefits, which include a collectible poster with each kid’s meal. The fresh food grilled at high temperatures from oak- and citrus-fired open-pit adds to the delicious smokiness. Apart from the fresh fish caught by their fishing boats venturing daily into the sea, the world’s finest oysters are flown from worldwide to make mouthwatering dishes.

Shark Bites Café

Another food joint to head to is Shark Bites Café. Enjoy discounted prices as you savor snacks and sip on refreshing tea or coffee. They also offer a range of ice creams with their unique snacks, including the ice-cold ones.

Travelers tips

Boats of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - panoramio (1)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user qwesy qwesy used under CC BY 3.0

Be mindful of visiting hours during the holiday season

Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, CMA is open all through the year. The regular timings are from 10am to 6pm, with extended hours until 8pm from February 14 to April 26. There is also a special admission from 4pm. On Christmas and New Year’s Eve days, CMA closes at 2pm and 4pm, respectively.

Entry free for toddlers

Since CMA is a rehabilitation center for aquatic species, children below two years get in free.

Save entry fee by booking tickets online

You can save 2 USD per ticket by booking online. The entry fees at the counter for adults is 26.95 USD, while for kids aged 3 to 12 it is 21.95 USD, and for those above 60, it is 24.95 USD. For visiting throughout the year free, you have to become a member by paying only 39 USD, and for seniors, it is only 35 USD, and for the whole family, it is 99 USD.

Is photography free?

To take an individual photo with Nicholas or Winter, it will cost you 49.99 USD and you have 5 minutes to the pose with these Hollywood stars. It is advisable to arrive 15 minutes before the CMA opens and book the photo program (on the first floor of the parking garage) to avoid disappointment.

Other activities' costs

You need to shell out 399 USD for becoming an animal care assistant for 3 hours and need to be above 10 years. The 45-minute long behind the scenes tour costs 17.99 USD for adults, 12.99 USD for kids, and 15.99 USD for seniors.

Visitor's guide

Before your trip to the CMA, it is advised that you download the visitor’s guide from their official website.

How to get there

View of Clearwater Marine Aquarium - panoramio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user qwesy qwesy used under CC BY 3.0

Florida’s Clearwater Beach is accessible from anywhere in the world by air, water, and road. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just five minutes’ drive or less than 20 minutes’ walk from the beach as it is only 2.2 km (1.4 mi) away.

By air

Tampa International Airport, ranking high in convenience and ease of travel in the US, makes coming to Clearwater Marine Aquarium possible from most cities. Another airport which is closer to the aquarium is the St. Pete – Clearwater International Airport. Tampa is 32 km (20 mi) away and St. Petersburg Airport is 20 km (12 mi) away from the aquarium.

There is no direct bus from TPA or Tampa Airport to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The best way to reach is to take a westbound bus to Memorial Causeway Boulevard to Island Way and St.Terminal Platform-A. Though it is tedious and takes more than 2 hours and 15 minutes, it costs only 7 USD.

By cab from TPA to CMA

The best but most expensive way from TPA to CMA is by a cab that takes less than half an hour and costs approximately 120 USD to 150 USD.

How to get tickets (from USD 35.95)

clearwater marine aquarium florida | how to get tickets

You can purchase tickets for Clearwater Marine Aquarium from its official website or websites that offer skip-the-line passes. You can also buy tickets at the CMA itself.

Clearwater: Eco-Certified Marine Aquarium General Admission

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Clearwater Marine Aquarium information

View of Clearwater Marine Aquarium - panoramio (1)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user qwesy qwesy used under CC BY 3.0

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Address: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767

Opening hours: 10am – 6pm (daily)

Cost: 26.95 USD (adults); 24.95 (aged 60 above); 21.95 USD (aged 3 to 12); Free (aged 2 below)

Official website: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Department of tourism: Visit Florida

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Anupama Passary has written for several online publications and loves all things tech and travel related. She is a self-confessed chocoholic, stargazer and dreamer who loves to pen down poems.

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