Which Is Better, Sand Key Or Clearwater Beach?

The name clearwater is derived from the natural freshwater springs which used to flow in the early development, which was due to become the city of Clearwater. Since that time, the area has seen remarkable growth and has become a firm favorite of tourists from around the globe.

With its pristine white, soft sand, Clearwater beach has an international reputation and is often scored as one of the highest-rated beaches in America. Although a ½ mile bridge only separates it, the sand consistency is different, and the beaches at Sand Key are relatively unknown. 

If you are researching whether Sand Key Or Clearwater Beach is the better destination, it will not be difficult because each offers a different experience. Clearwater beach is renowned for its silky white and soft beaches but is busier and offers less relaxation, whereas Sand Key is less frantic and more deserted.

Where Are The Sand Key Or Clearwater Beach?

The Sand Key and Clearwater Beaches are situated on Florida’s Westcoast,  17 miles North of Saint Petersburg and 21 miles West of Tampa.

Both the Sand Key and Clearwater Beaches fall under Pinellas County.

The beaches butt up against each other and are connected by the half-mile-long Gulf Boulevard bridge.

The Sand Key

Sand Key is the antithesis of Clear Water beach.

It is a huge park that includes

The beaches are on the Northern portion of the key.

The beach is quieter around the pier side of Clearwater beach.

Interestingly, despite being located almost next to each other, the composition of the sand at Sand Key is different from that found on Clearwater Beach.

The large pieces of shell mixed in with the sand means walking with bare feet is very uncomfortable, so appropriate shoes are recommended.

Clearwater Beach

Access to Clearwater beach is via Sand Key and over Gulf Boulevard bridge in the South or from Chestnut Street and across the Causeway Byway on the West.

The experience at Clearwater Beach will depend on which part of the beach you visit.

The most popular section of the Clearwater beach is around the Pier 60 complex, which has the most foot traffic and can be a little crowded.

The beach has a length of 2.5 miles long, and there are several hotels, resorts, and other visitor attractions along the beach.

The Pier 60 complex has daily live entertainment, and at sunset each day, it closes with music, dancing, and other fun activities for the whole family. At night some stalls sell nick-nacks and locally produced goods. “Sunsets at Clearwater Beach” are spectacular, particularly in the winter months.

The area has the most restaurants and other entertainment activities on the whole key.

The beaches at Clearwater have picturesque soft white sand and are the perfect example of a typical postcard-type Florida beach.

There is a kiddy playground and lounge chair, and cabana rentals are available.

Of you walk a little further North, the crowds soon thin out, and sand remains as good as elsewhere. There are also lounge chairs and Cabanas to rent whoever there are no shops or restaurants.

At the northernmost point is a public pool with a spray park and a small water slide which are perfect for little children.

How Do The Beaches Compare?

What are the beaches like and how do they compare with each other.

The Sand Key

The Sand Key beaches are not as busy as the Clearwater areas; however, the sand is mixed up with broken shells making it much less pleasant to walk on in bare feet.

The beaches are sparsely populated, and it is not much available in terms of attractions.

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach has pristine white, soft sand and offers a variety of experiences from beach and entertainment in the South through to quieter, more remote sections towards the North.

What Is There To Do At Each Beach?

Different sets of activities are available at each beach to appeal to different demographics.

The Sand KeyClearwater Beach
Number of restaurants1041
Number of bars820
Number of coffee shops1021

The Sand Key

There are not many visitor attractions other than Sand Key Park.

The park consists of the park and beach and offers spectacular scenery and less populated beaches.

Activities available include.

  • Swim and surf in the sea
  • Kayaking.
  • Enjoy the amazing Gulf of Mexico views.

There are rentals available for umbrellas, bicycles, and kayaks.

There is a dog park onsite for four-legged pooches who love the sea.

In the salt marsh, there are a large variety of birds to spot.

Clearwater Beach

Along the whole waterfront, Clearwater has a large number of local restaurants, which are almost as well-known as the city’s pristine white sands and water.

Apart from eating and drinking, there are several other attractions.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The Clearwater marine aquarium offers a wide range of aquatic experiences, including.

  • A dolphin exhibition and viewing area
  • The opportunity to dive with dolphins.
  • Free daily boat tours, which last for 30 minutes.
  • Guided Kayak Tours.
  • Opportunity to meet rescued animals that are under treatment.

Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise

Book a cruise on a red and black pirate ship.

Cruises are approximately two hours long and take place four times a day.

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park is situated at the Northern end of Clearwater Beach and offers some unique activities in the mangrove swamp including:

  • Swimming.
  • Snorkeling.
  • Fishing.
  • Kayaking.

It is a long walk if you approach it from Pier 60, but it can be reached by boat.

Because it requires a long trek to get to it, the beaches are almost empty.

Pier 60

Take a walk out to sea on the 300-yard-long pier 60.

It is a popular attraction for people out for a stroll as well as anglers.

Clearwater Beach Marina

If you are interested in leisure boats, the clearwater beach marina is an important place to visit.

With over two hundred moorings, there is a massive range of boats on view.

At the marina, you can arrange to.

  • Go on deep sea fishing cruises.
  • Board Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise.
  • Arrange to hire jet skis.
  • Organize a parasailing adventure.
  • Book to go on dolphin-watching tours.
  • Book to go on waterborne sightseeing trips.

Which Beaches Are More Crowded?

The difference between the number of visitors to each beach is significant.

Clearwater Beach Are More Crowded

Clearwater Beach is definitely the most crowded as it attracts five million visitors annually, which is understandable as the beach is more friendly to bare feet walking over the sand or bodies lying down and sunning.

The Clearwater Beach tourism market draws over five million visitors each year.

Around pier 60, there are many more people who will be visiting the various restaurants, hotels, and shopping venues.

The Sand Key

Sand Key only attracts one million visitors per annum.

The beaches at Sand Key are often referred to as Florida’s hidden gem. There are less entertainment and retail options than at Clearwater beach, and the beach sand consistency is less comfortable to walk on.

The advantage of this is that there are fewer people, and to a person who doesn’t enjoy crowds, the Sand Key is the perfect option.

Do Lifeguards Protect The Sand Key And Clearwater Beach?

Pinellas County has 25 lifeguards employed to protect the people swimming at the beaches during the beach season.

  • Fort De Soto
  • Sand Key
  • Fred Howard parks

The Sand Key

The sand key beaches enjoy lifeguard protection services only during the peak season, from Memorial Day through to Labor Day.

Clearwater Beach

A beach patrol provides lifeguard assistance year round at specially marked areas on Clearwater Beach.

The main purpose of the patrol is to protect the lives of everyone enjoying the beach, whether the visitors are in the water or on the sand.

The lifeguards who perform the patrol are multi-skilled, and they are trained to

  • Recognizing dangerous activities or conditions preventing them.
  • Rescuing bathers in distress.
  • Performing CPR and first aid.
  • Helping find missing persons (usually children)

The area watched over includes the shoreline to approximately a distance of one hundred yards offshore.

Between the Memorial Day celebration and Labor Day, the number of lifeguards is increased so that six guard towers are staffed during the season.

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Air Quality At Each Beach

The AQI index is 43. The number is scored out of a total possible score from 0 to 500.

The lower the score, the better the air quality, and so a score of 43 is considered good.

Pollen from trees is the most prevalent pollutant.

Can You Grill On Clearwater Beach And Sand Key?

As a rule, Florida has tightened up on the beach regulations, the main reasons being to provide improved safety and also to protect the habitat.

Clearwater Beach Grilling Regulations

In an attempt to protect the clear white sand, the authorities actively prohibit lighting any type of open or closed fire on Clearwater beach.

Sand Key Grilling Regulations

Visitors are not allowed to grill or light any type of closed or open fire on the Sand Key beaches.

There are covered shelters that are available to rent near the beach, which provide a grill and seating benches.

What Is It Like To Live At Each Of The Areas?

The experience at each site is very different, and even though itehy are only separated by a ½ mile long bridge, they offer completely different activities.

Clearwater Beach

The Clearwater Beach area is a busy beach town with a variety of accommodation styles, including:

  • Residential Suburbs.
  • Apartments.
  • Secure Estates.
  • Luxurious waterfront penthouses.
  • Intracoastal and gulf front homes.

Sand Key

Sand Key is mainly a residential key that has a small strip mall and very few restaurants.

There is one convenience store and a novelty items store.

Residences are essentially only available in condominiums. There are no residences built on the beaches, and getting to them is generally quite a walk, or you could use the beach shuttle ride.

MetricSand KeyClearwater BeachSand Key and Clearwater Beach DifferenceAverage FloridaFlorida most expensiveFlorida Lowest Cost (Homosassa Springs)National Average
Median House Price$1,445,500$390,000$1,055,500 (73%)$397,280$173 million$152,500$374,900
Median House Rental$2,350 per month$1,749 per month$601 (25%)$1,527 per month$150,000 per month$875 per month$1,900 per month
Energy Bill$197.00 per month$197.00 per month$0.00 (0%)$170.87 per monthN/AN/A$117.00 per month
Average Earnings$143,679 per annum$75,569 per annum$69,110 (47%)$71,299 per annumN/A$28,000 per annum$57,013 per annum

Sand Key Or Clearwater Beach’s Most Popular Months

Clearwater Beach attracts five million, and Sand Key has one million visitors annually.

The best time to visit both beaches is between October and December when humidity levels are lower, and there are fewer tourists.

MonthTourism Score At Sand Key beach over the yearTourism Score At Clearwater Beach over the year

Does The Weather Compare Between Sand Key Or Clearwater Beach?

Both beaches have identical weather conditions, as listed below.

 Sand Key / Clearwater Beach
Average high temperature81.3°F (27.4°C)
Average low temperature63.9°F (17.7°C)
Hottest MonthMay/June  97°F (36°C)
Average Humidity65.7%
Highest Humidity70.8% (August)
Lowest Humidity59.3% (March)
High Ocean Temp               88 °F (31.7°C) August
Low Ocean Temp61.3°F (15.1 °C) January
Average precipitation52.6 inches (134 mm)
Number of rainy days104.9 days
Highest rainfall monthJuly/August 9.5 inches (24mm)
Number of sunny days205 days


The sand key area is much less touristy, is more remote, and as a result, has less traffic and crows. The sand on Clearwater Beach is beautiful, and it is a busy cosmopolitan area; and for the visitor looking for a place that is a hive of activity, it is ideal.

Each of the beach’s experiences will suit a different demographic as they have completely different attractions and “vibe.”