Surely you’ve heard about Winter the Dolphin, star of the Dolphin Tale movies, right? Did you know that she resides in nearby Clearwater, Florida? She does! The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) houses many aquatic animals who have been helped by the CMA and who now call it home.
This week we’re putting the spotlight on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and all of the amazing experiences you and your family can have here during your Florida beach vacation. The aquarium is only about a 20-minute drive from your Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores vacation rental, so it’s the perfect addition to your Florida Gulf Coast vacation itinerary. It’s a must-see local attraction, just don’t forget your Tampa Bay CityPass for the best deal on admission.
Here are a few more reasons you’ll want to visit the CMA. There’s a lot to see and do, so here’s a preview of the best of this locally loved attraction.
Winter’s Dolphin Tale Summer
Come see Winter and the real-life stars that inspired the popular Dolphin Tale movies, along with other cool things you can experience when you visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium during Winter’s Dolphin Tale Summer.
All summer long, the aquarium is giving out limited edition, collectible, posters to each CMA visitor age 15 years and under. The posters feature rescued and resident animal stars. Visit all summer to collect each design while they are available and supplies last.
Enjoy summer at CMA with the Sundown Special which offers extended hours, evening family fun, and $9.99 admission from 4-8p.m. through September 3, 2018. During the summer Sundown Special hours, you can also enjoy a fun and family-friendly, tropical boat tour around beautiful Clearwater Bay! Get the opportunity to see local wildlife during the evening hours, participate in educational trivia games, and enjoy a relaxing voyage on the water with music and fun for the whole family.
Meet Winter & Hope the Dolphins
Get up close and personal with your favorite dolphins. Meet Winter and Hope and have an experience of a lifetime.
Awesome Aquarium Exhibits
The Winter Zone is home to resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Winter and Hope. This was the filming area for Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. You can see Winter and Hope any time of the day when the CMA is open. You can walk up to the stanchions by their pool for a viewing all day long. Go downstairs for an underwater view, where you might see Winter and Hope swimming by or coming up to the windows to say hello!
Make sure to visit Shipwreck Alley, the underwater viewing tunnel, where you can look into the Winter Zone and share the fascinating spectacle of Winter and Hope playing. It is the perfect location to get those great up-close pictures.
Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway
Named after the Dolphin Tale 2 character “Mavis,” a rescued, rehabilitated and released sea turtle, the new habitat was made to house the animal actor who played him, Harold. Currently, Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway is home to sea turtles, stingrays, redfish, hogfish and tarpon.
The stranding deck is currently home to the male resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Nicholas. This area was built as a place to accept newly rescued animals for immediate care and quarantine from our resident animals. There are several state-of-the-art design elements that make these pools ideal places for caring for sick and injured dolphins and small whales. Nicholas is currently residing at the stranding deck as we work to expand the aquarium. This location also offers beautiful views of Clearwater Bay.
Rufus Beach is now in the new aviary and home to the aquarium’s resident great white pelicans. Ricky, who played the part of “Rufus” in Dolphin Tale, can be found here along with three other pelicans, Skylar, Matthew and Tyndall. Viewing windows for the aviary can be found across from the main pool upstairs in the Winter Zone.
Otter Oasis is home to North American river otter Walle. Sand, water and toys create the perfect haven for this active otter.
Turtle Bayou is a large pool on the second level of CMA and home to green sea turtle, Cocoa, and two Kemp’s ridley sea turtles named Max and Rob.
Shark Pass gives you a whole different view of the resident nurse sharks, Thelma and Louise. These bottom dwellers can grow to be 14 feet in length and can live up to 25 years or older. Look down into this large pool where these nurse sharks and other local marine fish eat and swim.
Stingray Beach is home to the cow-nose stingrays. This shallow pool gives you the opportunity to hand-feed these amazing stingrays. During stingray presentations, you will learn the techniques to use if you should encounter a stingray in the wild. Stingray Beach also provides a replication of sea turtle nesting.
Turtle Cove is currently home to green sea turtle, Bailey. It consists of three pools that are deep and spacious, with plenty of room to submerge and swim freely. The cove is a great living space for resident turtles.
The home of nurse sharks and wide variety of fish, Sea Cavern can help educate you on the many marine animals found in the local area, as well as your impact on the environment. Touch tanks mean you can get up close and personal with local marine life, including sea urchins, sea stars and crabs. Get the opportunity to meet and even feed the puffer fish! Spot, a tessalata moray eel, can also be found inside the Sea Cavern. From this exciting cave, you can also look into the Shark Pass habitat to take a closer underwater look at Thelma and Louise, the CMA’s resident nurse sharks.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a working animal hospital with veterinarian technicians on staff to care for all injured animals that come through our doors. At the Surgical Suite, you have the opportunity to witness the work of our medical professionals. Everything from routine physicals of resident otters to emergency surgeries on injured sea turtles takes place right here in this surgical suite.
While you are visiting Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway, don’t forget to view the Safe Harbor Surgical Suite, the former location for on-site animal care, now used as the Water Quality Lab and preserved as a movie set from Dolphin Tale.
In this round, air-conditioned theater, you can enjoy special screenings, events and exhibits seasonally. Make sure to stop by and see what fun is there to be had during your visit.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium Activities & Things To Do
You are more than welcome to wander the facility at your leisure, but we recommend taking part in some of the activities to learn more about what the Clearwater Marine Aquarium does, enhance your experience, and get the most from your visit. While some activities require an additional fee, many are free and included with your general admission ticket.
Animal Care Experiences
Get up-close with the resident animals and learn about caring for them, feeding, enrichment and husbandry behavior with one of the CMA’s Animal Care Specialists.
Behind the Scenes Tours
Dive into all of the action at CMA and receive an elite tour showcasing the aquarium’s mission at work.
Boat & Kayak Tours
Make your trip extraordinary and let the CMA team provide you with an unforgettable boating experience that showcases Clearwater, Florida’s natural splendor. They have multiple guided kayak and boat tour options available.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers a variety of educational presentations throughout the day. Check the schedule when you arrive for daily times and locations.
Immerse your child in CMA’s renowned camp programs educating ages Pre-K through 8th grade.
Have your picture taken with an otter or one of the resident dolphins! This includes a souvenir photo you can take home with you. Most of the Animal Experiences also include a souvenir photo, so you can capture these special moments for posterity.
How to Get Discounted Admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
We’ve already mentioned these but they’re worth repeating. Why pay full price when you can take advantage of these great deals on admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium? You shouldn’t! Here are the two best ways to save money on admission for the whole family this summer.
Enjoy summer at CMA with extended hours, evening family fun, and $9.99 admission from 4-8 p.m. starting May 25.
Bring the family after a day at Clearwater Beach — voted TripAdvisor’s #1 beach in the U.S. for 2018 — and visit Winter and all the rescued animals at Clearwater Marine Aquarium during Sundown Special hours! Catch a sunset with Nicholas the dolphin, and learn about our mission to rescue, rehab and release marine life with special evening presentations. Admission is only $9.99 from 4-8 p.m.
For extra family fun on the water, book the Tropical Family Cruise Package!
Tampa Bay CityPass
Get your Tampa Bay CityPass and save 51% off of the top Tampa Bay attractions including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, plus skip the ticket lines. The CityPass is valid for 9 days and the cost is: Adult $99 (value $202); Child (3-9) $89.
Visit citypass.com for more information and to purchase booklets or printable vouchers. Tampa Bay CityPASS includes admission to:
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- Busch Gardens Tampa
- The Florida Aquarium
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- Chihuly Collection OR Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI)
How to See Winter the Dolphin & Visit the CMA When You’re Not in Florida
When you can’t be here, you can still watch many of the animals with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium live web cams offered for your viewing pleasure. Watch all three Winter Cams as well as otter, pelican, sea turtle and the rehab cams from the comfort of your own home. Get your daily dose of cuteness by watching the animals live even when you can’t be here in person. The kids will love it! It’s almost as good as being here—almost.
We hope this post has motivated you to put the CMA on your Florida Gulf Coast vacation bucket list. One visit is not enough, by the way, so come back as often as you can to see what’s new and exciting. Like and follow the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Facebook for more of the latest and greatest updates. Enjoy!
Have you been to the CMA?
If so, what do you love most about it?