What to Expect when you Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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Spend the Day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

11957398_f260Last week I was lucky enough to make my second trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is located in Clearwater near the Clearwater Marina. This aquarium is unique because it is a rehab and rehabilitation hospital for marine life.

The hospital has been open since 1972, in a former waste treatment facility, but didn’t gain national attention until late 2005 early 2006. Why did this hospital gain national attention? A very special bottlenose dolphin was rescued after being trapped in a crab trap and eventually became an inspiration to people all over the world.

The dolphin I’m speaking of is Winter, the star of the movie Dolphin Tale. Winter has been a permanent resident of the marine aquarium since 2005 and a visit to this aquarium is truly amazing.

The photos in this article are mine and were taken by me on my most recent trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on June 25, 2014. In this photo, my daughter is standing in front of Winter and her tank mate, Hope’s tanks. The main tank was being cleaned, which meant Hope and Winter were frolicking right behind my daughter.

Learn more about Winter

Winter is truly an inspiration to so many people all around the world especially children with disabilities and amputees. In fact, Winter and her friends at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium are visited by people from all over the world every single day. Learn more about this incredible dolphin in the material below.

Buy Your Tickets Online – Save Time by Picking Up Your Tickets at Will Call


Movie prop that sets in the water just outside the entrance to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The Aquarium Will Likely Be Busy – Be Patient!

As you can imagine, this aquarium is always busy! The first time I visited, I simply walked up and bought my tickets, which meant I spent a great deal of time standing in the Florida heat with two little kids and my elderly grandmother.

This time, I opted to buy my tickets online. By doing this, I was able to get a great discount, easily add and schedule a Sea Life Safari later in the afternoon and stand in a much shorter line at the Will Call box. It’s also important to realize when you buy your general admission ticket, you are actually gaining entry to two different venues. Winter, Hope,Nicholas, and a gang full of other marine life live at the Clearwater Aquarium, but you can also visit Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure as part of your general admission. I love Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure because you can get up close and personal to many of the props used in the filming of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.

Better yet, you don’t have to worry about traveling back and forth from one location to another. A complimentary trolley or boat ride is provided in both directions. The trolley is fun, but I recommend the boat ride. We rode the shuttle boat from Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure back to the aquarium and were able to see dolphins and enjoy a peaceful ride in Florida’s air conditioning. However, if you ride the shuttle from the aquarium to the movie adventure, it’s important to note that it’s a 2 1/2 half block uphill walk to get to the movie adventure building.

Start Your Visit at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium


Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium – 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767, USA.
Start at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and take the trolley or the boat trolley to the Winter’s Tale Dolphin Adventure.

Start Your Visit at the Aquarium

I recommend starting your day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The animal hospital opens at 9am and the movie adventure building opens at 10am. If you plan it just right you can visit the aquarium and then travel to downtown Clearwater to the movie adventure just in time for lunch. There are many great restaurants right around the corner from the movie adventure building. There are concessions inside the movie adventure, but it’s more like movie theater food than actual lunch.

I also enjoy getting to the aquarium early because it is less busy. We visited on a Wednesday morning and it was just my family and some camp kids in the very beginning of the day. When you first walk into the aquarium you walk directly into the gift shop. At this point, you can opt to go upstairs where the animals are, or walk through the viewing center on the gift shop floor. My daughter, nephew, and I were so excited when we got there that we had to immediately walk upstairs to see Winter and Hope.

Meet the Residents of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium


Winter is the most well-known resident of the hospital, but she isn’t the only resident. Winter shares a tank with another bottlenose dolphin, Hope, and Nicholas, the only male dolphin at CMA is also a permanent resident. Winter is famous because she lost her tail as a baby. Against all odds, Winter survived and eventually learned to use a prosthetic dolphin tale. The aquarium doesn’t just display the dolphins, but also educates every visitor on what happened to their permanent residents and what can be done to prevent this type of injury in the future.

In addition to the dolphins, there is also a variety of turtles. My favorite is a female turtle named Stubby, sharks, stingrays, and much more. The entire second floor of the marine life hospital in Clearwater is devoted to its permanent and temporary residents and the stories behind how these animals ended up where they are is sure to bring a tear to your eyes.


Second Stop – Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure


To learn even more about Winter’s plight and how this little dolphin beat all the odds to survive and better yet, thrive, you have to visit Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. This second building was set-up in downtown Clearwater and is home to many of the props and sets used to create the movie Dolphin Tale. As soon as you walk into the building, you feel like you are walking into a movie set. Everywhere you look there are props from the movie, quotes about the movie, and interactive activities that will keep you busy for hours.

One of my favorite events at Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure is the Hurricane Experience. I know what you are thinking, who wants to experience a hurricane. Well? I did. I’ve been born and raised in NE Ohio and always been curious about the hurricanes that southerners have experienced. Unlike the hurricane experience booth that you may walk through at the mall, the hurricane experience at the WDTA is made for you to walk through. The floor shakes, lightning strikes, and a gentle breeze blows through. It isn’t scary and was something I will always remember.

One of my favorite things about the WDTA building is that there are tons of photo opportunities. In fact, as soon as my daughter and nephew walked in the door, they were greeted by Nicholas character and had their picture taken with the dolphin.

A Day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium is Both Educational and Entertaining

Spend the Day between Two Locations and even Take a Boot Cruise

9265261_f260In addition to visiting both buildings, my family and I booked the Sea Life Safari. This safari boot left from the dock at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and lasted a total of 90 minutes. Unlike other boat tours I have been on, the Sea Life Safari wasn’t cramped. There were 39 guests that were split into two groups; one group for each boat. On the boat, we were accompanied by a volunteer, an intern, a marine biologist, and the boat captain.

The entire boat ride was narrated by the biologist. She happily answered any questions and even passed around marine life that had been collected during the day. During a net pull, we were able to get up close and personal to a full-grown seahorse and a cat fish.

Halfway through the cruise, we docked at a shell island and were given ten minutes to explore the island and collect shells. On the way back to the aquarium, we were able to see dolphins and experience the pleasures of being on the gulf. In comparison to other dolphin rides you may take in the area, the Sea Life Safari is a bit more expensive, but the educational information and experiences provided were well worth the few extra dollars it cost my family to take the cruise.

Get Up Close and Personal with Winter the Dolphin

The videos featured in this section provide you with the opportunity to get up close and personal with Winter the Dolphin.

More About CMA and Winter the Dolphin Here

Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Know Someone that Needs Inspired? – Check out these Inspiring Gift Ideas Below

I actually bought the plush Winter for my daughter on our last visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The plush is much different than any other stuffed animal my daughter has because Winter’s tail is a prosthetic. When you take the cream colored prosthetic off, you will see Winter’s natural tail is missing.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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1 Comment

  1. Sounds like a great place my son would have loved it when he was younger! I took him to aquariums in Scotland and London many times, but neither are rehab and rehabilitation hospitals.

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