Destin vs. Clearwater

Which Florida Beach is Best for You?

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Many of our guests have chosen our highly hospitable vacation rental properties along Destin's Emerald Coast as their BEACH "home away from home" for over 37 years. Young kids who came down the first time for fun at the beach with their parents in yesteryear have children of their own today. Now they are sharing this golden tradition of enjoying a fabulous family vacation along the gorgeous gulf with their kids and new grandparents in tow. In the near future, this wonderful tradition will most likely be carried out by their children's children! Once you've resided along these sugary shores and experienced the glowing jewel-toned waters of the gulf you can't wait to come back. Wonder filled, marvelous memories are created here year-after-year with special loved ones and close friends.

However, for those of you who have never visited before and are planning a trip somewhere in Florida, there are other choices, and you may want to know how they compare to Destin. Clearwater, Florida is one such place so here's a comparison of the two.


The Landscape in Clearwater

Clearwater Florida

Clearwater is a heavily developed part of a barrier island just west of Tampa, Florida with a population of almost 120,000 year-round residents. It was incorporated in 1891 when the new city was connected by railroad to the mainland for tourists from "up north." This barrier island is only three miles in length with single-family homes, hotels, restaurants, and bars sandwiched between Tampa Bay and an Intracoastal canal. The actual beach itself is on yet another barrier island that extends two and one-half miles that's bordered by the open gulf towards the west and an Intracoastal canal towards the east. In 2008 a compact pedestrian zone Beach Walk Promenade and major facelift were completed that includes high-end hotels and condos.


The Landscape in Destin

Destin Florida

The powdery white sand beach in Destin adjoining Miramar Beach and the picturesque coastal villages along Scenic 30A in South Walton is far more expansive since it spreads across not just three but over twenty-six miles of sugary shoreline. State beach parks beside the gulf like Henderson, James Lee, Topsail Hill Preserve, Grayton Beach and Deer Lake provide thousands of acres of protected forests along the sugary shoreline that include rare precious coastal dune lakes which support abundant wildlife. Multiple public beach access points are found everywhere for those who are not staying right on the shores.


The Water in Clearwater

Clearwater Florida Water

Clearwater is an appropriate name for this old town and quite enticing. It has received national acclaim as being one of America's most beautiful beaches and listed among the top ten places to retire. Destin and Clearwater both earn excellent reviews for the gulf waters at each location. The gulf at Clearwater is usually warmer, which makes it a winter destination since it is much further south. Its close proximity to Tampa makes it a popular destination during the winter when it is frequented by "snowbirds" who fly in mostly from New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC. The Philadelphia Phillies Baseball team trains in Clearwater. Forty-three hotels and motels are located there. Resorts like the Hyatt Regency, Sheraton Sand Key, and Opal Beach start between from $250 to $350 per night for basic accommodations during the prime winter months.


The Water in Destin

Water in Destin

Numerous studies consistently rate Destin's Emerald Coast as having the best water clarity in Florida. This title of clarity includes Destin, Miramar Beach and the perfect coastal villages along Scenic 30A in South Walton. The water is usually "swimming pool clear" with a glowing emerald tone. Clarity is influenced by sediment from mainland drainage, and Destin has no rivers draining into the gulf. The closest rivers are the Apalachicola River 100 miles east which is filtered by a large bay and the Mississippi River 250 miles west which currents out towards Louisiana and Texas. Most Destin vacationers are from the south primarily from Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth. Ocean Reef Resorts has hundreds of private Destin vacation rental properties to choose from that include cozy cottages, luxury gulf front condominiums, villas on the beach and everything in between.


The Beach in Clearwater

Beach in Clearwater

The bright beach in Clearwater is comparable to those in Destin, and the glowing green gulf can be just as gorgeous. Unobstructed 180 degree westerly views can be quite stunning. However, due to the limited size of only three linear miles in length, it can be quite crowded. 


The Beach in Destin

Beach in Destin

The powdery white beach in Destin that adjoins Miramar Beach and the coastal villages along Scenic 30A spans across over twenty-six miles. It's reported as among the nation's top-rated beaches by Professor Stephen Leatherman aka "Dr. Beach" who writes for the Forbes Travel Guide as well as by USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, Coastal Living and Southern Living magazines. Southern Living magazine also consistently rates Destin as the #1 Best Place for a Family Beach Vacation. National Geographic Magazine recently recognized the Destin area shoreline as a top international destination for scuba divers since the nation's first underwater museum was recently completed here. It features giant sea sculptures off the coast beside Scenic 30A that double as an artificial reef system to create a thriving fish habitat. This same coastline continues to receive Blue Wave Beach status by a private research organization that has awarded only sixty-two of these certifications for excellence nationwide. Among other things, they measure cleanliness, water clarity, sand quality, and natural beauty. It's the only beach in the nation to receive such acclaim for a twenty-six mile long contiguous coastline.


Sunsets in Clearwater

Sunsets Clearwater Florida

Clearwater has awesome sunsets that occur right over the gulf 365 days a year when it's not cloudy since the water is due west of its location. Many visitors to Clearwater flock to the revamped Pier 60 at sunset time, which features nightly festivals with musical concerts, craft arts, souvenir shops, and circus-like street performers. A Jazz festival is held there during the Christmas Holidays.


Sunrises & Sunsets in Destin

Sunsets in Destin

The Destin peninsula is like a long island with the gulf to the south and beautiful bay to the north. In Destin, the sun sets over the gulf during the months of October thru early March during its winter transit south. These sunsets over the gulf are equally stunning but occur only for five months of the year. However, Destin also features special serene sunrises over the gulf towards the east at this time of year, which is not possible in Clearwater since it's next to the mainland. From April till early September the sun sets in spectacular fashion over the wide expanse of Choctawhatchee Bay which often mirrors the heavenly display. Many gather at the Destin marina in HarborWalk Village and the charming Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin to experience this enchanting event. Magical full moons add a romantic perk for Destin visitors during the summer months since you may watch them both rise and set over the gulf.


Things to Do in Clearwater

Things to Do Clearwater Florida

Many visitors to Clearwater flock to Pier 60 for the sunset festivals, souvenir shops, and fishing. The newly completed Beach Walk Promenade has multiple beach access points, showers, and bathrooms nearby. Cabanas and beach chairs with umbrellas line the beach and attendants come by to take payments from those who take one. Water recreation rentals and amusements are also available. The area is also known for craft beer bars and New York-style dance clubs. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a short distance away with tours that feature rescued Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Stingrays, Nurse Sharks, and River Otters. There are twenty-three restaurants with bars in Clearwater Beach that mostly feature seafood but also include Italian, French, Steak and Japanese fare. They run the gamut from having urbane, sophisticated, elegant settings with gourmet food to laid back diner-type cafes and pizza places.     


Things to Do in Destin        

Things to Do in Destin

Besides the beautiful beach, the Destin area also offers abundant adventures and delightful diversions. They include sunset, dinner, dolphin, and even pirate cruises along with fishing. Destin is known as "The Luckiest Fishing Village in the World." In fact, it was founded on fishing almost 170 years ago and is now home to the largest private charter fishing fleet in North America. A lot of fishing excursions, recreational water sports, Jet Ski or pontoon boat rentals and cruises that are available provide complimentary reduced rates to Ocean Reef Resorts guests via the Reef Rewards program. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a five-minute drive away from Destin in Fort Walton Beach and features daily shows with Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Sea Lions, and Penguins. Championship golf on lush tropically landscaped fairways is also a favorite pastime with almost one dozen courses located in the area, most of which are available for public play. (Ocean Reef Resorts guests also receive exclusive discounts at several of them!) Destin and nearby Miramar Beach have about eighty restaurants that feature fresh Seafood, Cajun, Caribbean, French, Italian, Mexican, Greek, Mediterranean, Barbeque and Southern-style comfort food. Quite a few of these restaurants have received national acclaim for excellence as gourmet restaurants. They have been honored with Certificates of Excellence, Five Star Ratings and Gold Spoon Awards for fantastic food as well as fine wine selections. Numerous other restaurants are nearby on the lovely eighteen-mile forested route of Scenic 30A in South Walton. They include Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, Prominence, Alys Beach, Seacrest Beach, Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach. Each one of these fairly new perfectly planned picturesque coastal villages has a unique architectural look, lifestyle, and personality of its own. However, they are all right beside the bright crystalline beach, exemplify a gracious kind of charm and abound with friendly hospitality. Santa Rosa Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, and Rosemary Beach feature old fashioned family fun with seasonal festivals, outdoor amphitheater concerts and sometimes even fireworks. Many restaurants, lively bars, and specialty shops are located at the bustling Destin Marina in HarborWalk Village, the popular Disneyesque retail complex of Destin Commons as well as the enchanting Village of Baytowne Wharf at the Sandestin Resort. They all feature frequent fun festivals, regular live music, and amusements of all kinds. One of the largest discount designer retail centers in the nation known as the Silver Sands Premium Outlets in Miramar Beach features 110 world-class stores that offer bargain prices.

Enjoy taking some time to take a peek at Destin, especially if you haven't discovered this precious piece of paradise and look at all we have to offer. Our very user-friendly Ocean Reef Resorts website includes vibrant images, detailed descriptions, listed amenities, aerial location views, seasonal rates, and calendar availability for each one of our many properties.