By Joanna Citarella
On November 14 more than 1,800 athletes (plus myself and countless other spectators) will converge on Clearwater Beach, FL for the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship triathlon.
This race is the real deal, the holy grail of triathlons and the stakes are high with a purse of $100,000 split between the top 10 athletes. Participants will travel from all over the world and must complete a 1.2-mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, a 56-mile bike ride through Pinellas County and 13.1-mile run through downtown Clearwater and the neighboring beach communities—all within 8 hours.
Admittedly this does sound like hard work, and not for everyone, but as I pondered my own upcoming Clearwater, Florida vacation (and by the way, the fall is a great time to visit Clearwater with average temperatures in the high 70- to low 80-degree range—perfect for enjoying the great outdoors) I thought it might be useful to share a few suggestions that will hopefully inspire you should you decide to reconnect with your inner athlete on your next vacation (yes, there is one hidden inside each of us!).
Swimming, skimming and sailing
The award-winning beaches of Clearwater and St. Petersburg, lend themselves to a little more than just sunbathing and paddling. Year round, the Gulf of Mexico enjoys warm and generally calm waters—excellent for a family vacation. The translucent waters of Caladesi Island State Park are great for swimming, and at Fort Desoto Park, there are two well-marked swimming beaches. While the gentle swells of the Gulf of Mexico aren’t entirely conducive with traditional surfing, there is plenty on offer for the water sports enthusiast. Children spend endless hours skimming on boards along the shallows, and for the more daring, kite surfing is extremely popular. If you want to venture a little further offshore, try your hand at sailing, with several schools in the area offering everything from basic skills training to advanced certification.
Paddling in Paradise
Whether you’re looking for an intense workout or prefer a more leisurely pace, renting a kayak is a unique way to see the sites. Hit the beach and paddle along the shoreline or kayak or canoe one of Tampa Bay’s numerous state parks. A personal favorite of mine is Weedon Island, offering two trails including a four-mile mangrove-lined loop, where you can expect to see plenty of wildlife (tip: If you like to fish, this area is a favorite with anglers).
Enjoy biking, running, hiking or even inline skating? The Pinellas Trail offers 40 miles of greenway through parks, small towns and varied scenery and is a favorite with cyclists and runners as it offers a safe place to exercise and plenty of amenities along the way. Fort De Soto Park has a paved trail running the length of the park and its off-road trails are popular with wildlife enthusiasts (tip: Bring a camera, this is a great opportunity to snap some of the local wildlife in action). If you want to keep it simple, enjoy a nice stroll or a jog along Clearwater Beach or the newly remodeled “beach walk” and catch a legendary sunset.
With more than 50 golf courses in the area, Clearwater makes for a memorable golf vacation and you can experience something different every day if you so choose and whatever your skill level and preference, you are sure to find a range of courses to fit the bill.
One of the most important choices you will make as you plan your Clearwater vacation will doubtless be where to stay. Clearwater has an abundance of hotels, from budget-conscious value properties to luxury hotels, beachfront resorts and everything in between. Check out Orbitz.com for some of the best deals and remember that with Price Assurance, when you book your hotel on Orbitz, if the price drops and another guest books the same itinerary at a lower rate, Orbitz will send you a check for the difference.
Joanna Citarella is a market manager for Orbitz Worldwide. She grew up in England and moved to Naples Florida 9 years ago, favoring the perpetual sunshine over the unpredictable British weather. Joanna likes to stay active and enjoys participating in races and triathlons in her free time.