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Discovering the Wonders of Clearwater Marine Aquarium: A Complete Guide

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is not your ordinary aquarium! It was home to Winter the Dolphin from Dolphin Tale and is home to Hope the Dolphin from Dolphin Tale 2. Ricky "Rufus" the Pelican from Dolphin Tale also finds his home at CMA. Besides being home to some famous sea life, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's mission is to rescue, rehab, and release marine animals in the wild. This blog post will help you discover the wonders of CMA - let's dive in!

Side picture of Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida during sunset
Address: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767
Hours: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, 7 Days A Week - Check their website for more details on extended hour days and holiday closures
Parking: Seasonal rates apply - we paid $12 on our visit

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium splits into levels. I will share the order we found to be the most helpful to explore everything that CMA has to offer.

Level 3 - Entrance and Café

The main entrance to CMA is on level 3, you will be able to purchase or redeem your tickets here. This level also contains Shark Bites Café, which offers Appetizers, Salads, Wraps, Burgers, Beverages, and Desserts. The Café was reasonably priced, in my opinion, as their Classic Cheeseburger with fries (or fruit) and a fountain drink was $12.99. (Guest Services, Audio Tour Pick up/Drop off, the Gift Shop, and Exit are also on the 3rd floor.) The not-hungry fan-favorite spot on the 3rd floor is the Dolphin Complex! Here you will be able to see the Dolphin tanks from above. The benefits of looking at the tanks from above are seeing the dolphins jump and watching them interact with the trainers/caregivers.

Level 1 - Dolphin Tank Underwater Viewing and more

From level 3, you can take the elevator or stairs to level 1, where you will find all four dolphin tanks. There are huge glass windows at each dolphin tank for you to see these majestic creatures swim and play in their tanks. Along the perimeter of the dolphin tanks are informational tidbits and interactive components that elevate the experience! Level 1 also houses the animal hospital, Stingray Beach, Atlantis Theater, and some underwater viewing windows.

Level 2 - Otters, Sea Turtles, Sharks, and more

In level 2, you will encounter many other sea creatures like otters, sea turtles, and sharks. Ricky "Rufus" the Pelican from Dolphin Tale is also on this floor. All of these were in the enclosed section of level 2. However, level 2 also has an outdoor component called the Rescue Deck - there are typically 2 dolphins in here. Near the rescue deck, you will also find a binocular tower viewer allowing you to zoom in toward Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Level 4 - Special Exhibits and Dolphin Tale Theater

Entrance of Dolphintopia on level 4 of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
This level has the Dolphin Tale Theater that plays "Remembering Winter" and "Stranded: A Whale Rescue Tale" (the shows may change seasonally). Moreover, a majority of this level is special exhibitions. Currently, they have Dolphintopia as the special exhibition, where you go on a journey into the world of dolphins and their connection with humans throughout history. It features a one-of-a-kind collection of dolphin art, interactive exhibits, and vibrant photo opportunities for families.

Presentations

Throughout the levels, you will find different presentations during the day, like Turtle Talk, Resident Dolphin Talk, Shark Talk, and others. When you arrive, check out the TVs around the aquarium for the most up-to-date times for each presentation. I highly recommend checking out a few of them to get the most out of your experience, learn something new, and watch how these animals interact with their trainers/caregivers.

Stingray Feeding

Not only can you feel the stingrays at their touch tank, but you can feed them too! The touch tank is included in your admission ticket; however, you need to purchase Stingray food to feed the stingrays. This experience also happens during certain times of the day, so make sure to plan that out accordingly so you do not miss out.

Animal Care Experiences

Hands-on Animal Care Experience at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at Shark Pass

While at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, you can also elevate your experience by taking part in one of the hands-on Animal Care Experiences. During your experience, you will learn how the Clearwater Marine Aquarium feeds, interacts with, and keeps its resident animals healthy. This experience also includes a photo with the animal. Some options include: Build a Salad for a Sea Turtle, Shark Care Experience, and VIP Rough-Toothed Dolphin Experience. You can pre-purchase your hands-on Animal Experience online or visit Guest Services as soon as you enter the aquarium on the day of your visit.


Guided Walking Tours

The guided walking tours consist of a behind-the-scenes tour of what goes on at CMA and how they aim to meet their mission every day. They offer the Behind the Scenes Tour and the all-new Spotlight Tour! Make sure to look at the website for more information about each tour.

Tours on the Water

Kayaks and a boat for the tours on the water at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium


The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also offers guided eco-boat tours in Clearwater Bay. You will be able to observe data collection by their field scientists, learn about the local dolphin population, or float through finger islands during one of these tours. Per the website, they offer Sea Life Safari Tour, Dolphin & Wildlife Boat Tour, Guided Kayak Tour, and Snorkel Adventure. Check out the website for more details.



CityPASS

The Tampa Bay CityPASS ticket allowed us to visit ZooTampa at Lowry Park, The Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and two other attraction visits of your choice (from a listing). The listing comprises the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin or Sunset Cruise, the Museum of Science & Industry, and the Glazer Children's Museum. Adult ticket prices are $139, and Children (3-9) ticket prices are $124. This article concludes our Tampa Bay CityPASS series for the meantime. We also did The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin Cruise, but we will share more about that in an upcoming blog post about the different things you can do when visiting Clearwater Beach!

Screenshot of the Tampa Bay CityPASS details

In purchasing the Tampa Bay CityPASS, we saved money on these 5 visits, skipped the ticket counter, and increased our flexibility as we did not have to reserve a spot for most attractions. Everywhere we go, even when we are local, we search for discounted ticket packages like CityPASS to get the greatest bang for our buck and visit the most well-known attractions in that area!
Disclaimer: As an affiliate of CityPASS, I may receive monetary compensation if you purchase through the links in this blog post. However, I want to clarify that this will not come at an extra cost to you. Your use of the links will help support my blog and allow me to continue creating high-quality content for you. Thank you for your support!
Want to purchase the Tampa Bay CityPASS to visit these amazing attractions and save over 50% at 5 Must-See Attractions? Click the below image to do so!

Check out our monthly tip blog post regarding CityPASS (and Go City) here for more details on what they are, what's the difference between them, where you can use them, and how to use them!

Such a Fin-tastic Visit!

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is unlike any other aquarium we have visited, and we had a great time! We love their mission and enjoyed seeing them carry it out on our visit. We hope you enjoy CMA as much as we did, and please do not forget to use our CityPASS affiliate link when purchasing your tickets!

Have you been to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium? If so, what was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments below. If you haven't gone when you do, share your experience on social media and tag us on our Dale, Let's Travel! pages. Speaking of social media... don't forget to follow us! 😊


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* This article is not sponsored by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or any of the other businesses mentioned above or their affiliates. However, as previously mentioned, Dale, Let's Travel! LLC is an affiliate of CityPASS and may receive monetary compensation if you purchase tickets using the above affiliate link. *
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