Always On The Shore contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase, we make a small commission at no cost to you. For more information, please read the disclaimer page.
Are you planning a Florida vacation? Trying to decide between Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach? If so, you’ve landed on the right article.
As a beach lover and sunshine state traveler, I know how important it is to find the top destination to match your preferences and travel style.
If you’re traveling as a couple or with kids, there are extra things to consider. I’m here to help!
We’re going to take a look at both of these popular beach destinations, comparing the available activities, costs, restaurants, events, family-friendly attractions, and overall vibe.
Let’s start with my quick take on Daytona Beach vs Clearwater Beach.
About Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach is located on Florida’s Atlantic Coast and features 23 miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, pristine blue water, and family fun.
Surfing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, NASCAR races, shopping centers, and plenty of restaurants make this a popular destination.
It tends to be a lively spot favored among spring breakers. The Daytona Beach Boardwalk is one of its most popular attractions.
Daytona Beach could be the best option if you’re looking for a place popping with energy, water sports on the waves, and lots going on after dark.
About Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach is located on a barrier island in Pinellas County, between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
The beach is 3 miles long and features soft sand, calm waters, and fewer crowds on average than Daytona.
The lack of waves makes this an ideal spot to bring small children.
Besides the great beaches, there are wonderful dining options, cute cottages, and shops.
Nature lovers will enjoy a visit to the marine science center, and walking the nature trails at Sand Key Park.
Clearwater Beach could be an excellent choice if you want to see one of the best beaches in the United States, chill, relax, and eat delicious food.
Nightly entertainment and family fun are available at Pier 60’s Sunset Celebrations.
Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach: Best Things To Do In Each City?
One of the top ways to see which destination wins out in the Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach showdown is by taking a look at the available activities.
Although I only cover a few for each spot, this list can give you an idea of what kinds of things you can enjoy at these east coast tourist hot spots.
Best Things To Do In Clearwater Beach
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Clearwater Beach, this short list should get you started on the fun.
Sand Key Park
One excellent spot to visit in Clearwater Beach is Sand Key Park. This beautiful island includes both a beach and a park.
Clean white sand, gorgeous scenery, and great amenities make Sand Key a perfect place to spend a few hours or even a whole day.
There is a concession truck, changing rooms, showers, and a mat for wheelchair users to have easier access to the beach.
No trip to Clearwater Beach would be complete without walking onto the 1,080-foot-long fishing pier. But Pier 60 is more than an amazing spot to fish.
Head over for the nightly sunset celebrations which include vendors selling local wares, dancers, fire breathers, and musicians.
The festivities begin two hours before sunset and end about two hours after.
Hop aboard a boat and explore the Gulf of Mexico keeping an eye out for dolphins.
These playful creatures are a common sight in the seas surrounding Clearwater.
Visitors can also sometimes see humpback whales, sharks, and a variety of fish.
Bird lovers will enjoy spotting willets, terns, sanderlings, egrets, herons, dowitchers, and gulls.
North Clearwater Beach
Spend time on a quiet, less-crowded strip of sand by heading to North Clearwater Beach.
Toss a frisbee around or relax beside the ocean, then stop by your favorite area restaurants for a mouth-watering meal.
Tip: South Beach is the main spot for bars, nightclubs, and parties, so if you’re looking for a quiet evening vibe, North Beach is the place to be.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Delve into a fascinating underwater world at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
This center is home to rescued dolphins and a marine animal hospital. Learning the backstories behind the rescued animals is often a highlight.
The rescues can include sea turtles, lemon sharks, and more.
Best Things To Do In Daytona Beach
Check out these popular things to do in Daytona Beach.
Daytona Beach has been nicknamed the World’s Most Famous Beach because it’s a perfect spot to play beach volleyball, go bodysurfing, build sand castles, or even try your hand at surfing.
This used to be a hot spot for beach racing and visitors can still drive out onto the sand in some areas.
Daytona Beach Pier, Boardwalk, And Amusements
Walk at your leisure down the Daytona Beach Boardwalk for plenty of fun and entertainment.
Ride a Ferris wheel, duke it out at the arcade, and eat at a hotdog stand.
The Pier is a perfect spot to admire the ocean views, spot dolphins, or drop a fishing line.
Photo credit – Unsplash by Tim Trad
Daytona International Speedway
If NASCAR gets your heart beating faster, take a tour at the Daytona International Speedway.
Alternatively, plan your trip around a famous race, such as the Daytona 500.
Daily 30-minute tours are available starting at 9:30 am and ending around 3 pm.
For an adrenaline boost, sign up for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
Treat yourself and your kids to a day of fun at Daytona Lagoon.
This delightful amusement park includes a rock wall, sky maze ropes, an arcade, 18-hole mini golf, a water park, and eateries.
The waterslides, splash pads, lazy river, and wave pool are excellent ways to cool off and have a blast.
World’s Most Famous Brewery
If you fancy sipping some craft brews, the World’s Most Famous Brewery in Daytona is worth a stop.
This fun inviting locale is a great place to drink high-quality brews, put together some puzzles, play games, and eat tasty grub.
Daytona Beach or Clearwater Beach- What Are The Best Things To Do Near Each City?
Both Clearwater Beach and Daytona Beach have excellent nearby attractions.
Things to Do Near Clearwater Beach
Kayaking at Caladesi Island
Kayaking at Caladesi Island is a spectacular adventure.
The varied beauty of the island includes grass flats, tide pools, natural vegetation, and magical powdery soft beaches.
Circle the island enjoying the rhythm of paddling, wildlife viewing, and incredible scenery.
Book the Kayak Adventure at Caladesi Island
St Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach is a perfect place to enjoy snorkeling, pier fishing, or cruising the waters on a boat tour while keeping an eye out for dolphins.
St Pete’s beaches feature show-stopping sunsets and diverse water activities.
Drive 6 minutes north to explore the whimsical town of Treasure Island.
John’s Pass is a quiet fishing village featuring a beach, shelling tours, parasailing, jet skiing, boat rentals, and over 100 unique retail shops.
It’s a perfect spot to spend a day.
Indian Rocks Beach
Indian Rocks Beach is just a short drive from Clearwater.
This lovely strip of sand is a great spot to spread your towel, go shelling at low tide, or fill your belly at a local restaurant.
The beach has 30 different access points, so the water and sand are only a few steps away at any moment.
Another excellent spot for entertainment is Tampa.
There are too many things to see and do in Tampa to even begin to list them here, but its favorite features include world-class restaurants, Cuban culture, and top-notch attractions.
Things To Do Near Daytona Beach
Ormond Beach is a wonderful place to enjoy water sports, check out The Casements for a historical tour, and explore the equally delightful historic downtown.
Surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking are the favorite water activities, but you can stay on land by checking out the Memorial Art Museum and Gardens and by walking the nature trails at Bulow Creek State Park.
As a major city, Orlando is a mecca for all interests. Whether you’re a foodie, theme park fanatic, art lover, or shopaholic.
Walt Disney World and Seaworld Orlando are two top attractions, but the options are endless.
Lighthouse Point Park
Lighthouse Point Park is a 52-acre park on Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County.
Walk along the boardwalks, and claim a picnic pavilion for your lunch or mid-morning munchies.
There’s also a nature trail, an observation deck, and an 800-foot jetty.
The lighthouse has a fascinating history of its own, including storms, shipwrecks, and an attack by Seminole Indians.
New Smyrna Beach
A lovely beach town worth a visit is New Smyrna Beach.
Cool boutiques, local restaurants, outdoor activities, and ecotourism make this a fun spot to visit.
Add neat architecture and a sandy shore, and you’ve got a recipe for a perfect day on the coast.
Canaveral National Seashores
Outdoor recreation awaits at Canaveral National Seashores.
Go camping, hiking, fishing, surfing, canoeing, horseback riding, boating, and birdwatching at this 58,000-acre seashore.
It is rich in history, beauty, and outdoor opportunities.
What Are Free Things To Do In Each City?
If you’re on a budget, you’re probably wondering whether Daytona or Clearwater is the better choice.
Free Things to Do in Clearwater
In Clearwater, there are lots of fun free things to do.
One of the best ways to enjoy the white sand beach is to stake out on the sand, sunbathe, swim, collect shells, and soak in the beauty.
Another great option in the surrounding area is making a day trip to Highlander Park in Dunedin.
Take a picnic lunch, and enjoy some beach volleyball.
While you’re there, stop by the Dunedin Fine Arts Center which offers a combination of galleries (like a museum of arts) and paid classes.
This is a perfect activity for rainy days.
Moccasin Lake Nature Park is another great place with no admission costs. Walk the trails and keep an eye out for wildlife.
Free Things To Do In Daytona
If you have a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss a free tour at Angell & Phelps Chocolates in downtown Daytona.
You’ll even get a free sample. Yum! (Whether this activity STAYS free will depend on your self-control.)
Another amazing activity to enjoy is spending time soaking in the sun at Daytona Beach Shores and swimming in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Are you interested in history? If so, be sure to stop the Casements.
This museum and cultural center offers free guided tours through what was once the home of multi-millionaire John D. Rockefeller.
Last but not least, the Southeast Museum of Photography is a wonderful place to check out incredible photography exhibits.
Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach: Which Is Better For Families Or Couples?
Whether Clearwater or Daytona is better depends a lot on what you are looking for in your vacation, whether as a couple or a family.
If you have young kids and want to go swimming, the tranquil vibe and calm waters of Clearwater Beach are your best bet.
However, if you have older kids or an adventurous partner, surfing or jet skiing the waves at Daytona Beach could be perfect.
Clearwater offers nightly entertainment at Pier 60 and bars and parties at South Beach, but for heavier-duty nightlife, Daytona Beach is the better option.
Which City Has Better Events Throughout The Year?
Daytona Beach has over 60 music and art festivals each year, in addition to motorcycle rallies and races.
There is always something fun to do in Daytona, whether that means going to a Daytona Beach Bandshell concert or Biketoberfest®.
Clearwater Beach also has many yearly events including the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, Reggae Rise Up, Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Sanding Ovations sand sculpting, and sunset events at Pier 60.
Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach: Which Is Better For Food?
Both beaches have plenty of restaurants to choose from when it comes to food.
However, Daytona Beach is known for its seafood restaurants, while Clearwater Beach has more family-friendly dining options.
Clearwater Beach Restaurants
These are three of the top restaurants in Clearwater to get your mouth watering and your taste buds doing the tango.
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill is a popular place to watch the sunset and eat delicious She Crab Soup, sandwiches, and Floribbean fare. It’s also one of my favorite places to go for oysters and beach drinks.
Live music and open-air beachfront dining make this a prime eatery.
Jimmy Hula’s Food Truck
Another restaurant worth mentioning is Jimmy Hula’s Food Truck. Located on New Smyrna Beach, this eatery offers burgers, fish tacos, and other tasty delights.
Crabby’s Bar & Grill
Head to the Beach Walk for a stop at Crabby’s Bar & Grill, a scrumptious spot offering fresh local seafood and beautiful views of the sunset.
Daytona Beach Restaurants
Daytona Beach also has excellent restaurants featuring everything from delicious burgers to oysters any way you can think to fix them.
Crab legs, lobster, shrimp, burgers, clam chowder, salads, hot chicken wings, and decadent desserts await at Ocean Deck in Daytona Beach.
The Oyster Pub
If you love oysters, the Oyster Pub is the place to be. This Daytona restaurant features char-grilled, steamed, raw, stuffed, and Asian-style oysters.
You can also mix things up with sandwiches and snow crab. This place is one of my favorite spots in all of Florida!
Chicken, seafood, burgers, and salad await at Bahama Breeze Island Grille, a fun spot to eat and catch happy hour deals.
Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach: Is One Cheaper?
According to Budget Your Trip, the average cost per person per day in Clearwater Beach is $309 versus $211 in Daytona Beach.
This includes accommodations, entertainment, and transportation.
Of course, there are budget, middle-range, and luxury options in either destination.
You can also cut costs by making your food and sticking to mostly free activities.
Clearwater Or Daytona- Which Has Better Beaches?
In terms of beauty, Clearwater Beach wins out in this category. It is one of the best places in the U.S. for white sand and gorgeous turquoise water.
Another perk of its gulf coast beaches is that the waters are calm and warm.
That said, Daytona Beach still has plenty of charm, especially if you enjoy surfing and body boarding. The bigger waves can be great fun.
Both Clearwater and Daytona have theme parks, boat tours, and other activities for people of all ages.
If you’re worried about sharks, Clearwater is the better choice.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, there were 7 shark attacks in 2022 in Volusia County, where Daytona Beach is located, and only 1 in Pinellas County, where Clearwater Beach is located.
Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach FAQs
Is Daytona Beach As Nice As Clearwater?
Daytona Beach has great beaches, but the water isn’t quite as beautiful as Clearwater’s–which is more of a turquoise hue.
Clearwater also has calmer and warmer water due to its location on the Gulf.
However, if you enjoy bodyboarding and surfing, Daytona Beach will be more fun.
Is Clearwater One Of The Best Beaches In The World?
Clearwater was named the top beach in the U.S. on TripAdvisor in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
It features sugar white sand, beautiful warm water, tons of restaurants right on the beach, great places to stay, and the opportunity to see dolphins.
Why Is Clearwater Beach So Popular?
Clearwater Beach is popular because it has wonderful restaurants, fun water activities, and gorgeous white sand.
Visitors can enjoy nightly entertainment, water slides, swimming, fishing, and dolphin boat tours.
Is Clearwater Beach Florida Worth Visiting?
Yes, Clearwater Beach is worth visiting. This favorite destination is a perfect spot to soak in the sunshine, beauty, and fun of Florida’s gulf coast.
December is one of the best times to visit.
Final Thoughts- Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach
Both Clearwater and Daytona are top Florida attractions featuring beautiful beaches, fun activities, golf courses, delicious dining, and excellent entertainment.
If sugar-white sand, dolphins, and calm warm water are up your alley, Clearwater Beach is the place to go.
However, if you are into racing, surfing, and amusements, Daytona Beach could be perfect.
Which one wins out for you in the Clearwater Beach vs Daytona Beach showdown?
Book Your Next Trip! For Accommodations and short-term rentals, I recommend Booking.com as they are the best in the business when it comes to rates and places to stay.
To Book Activities- For activities, I suggest booking with Viator, they have thousands of 5-star activities to choose from!
Looking To Start Your Own Travel Blog Or Take Yours To The Next Level?
Check Out This Free Workshop!– I personally joined Scale Your Travel Blog in 2021 and my website has grown exponentially.