CLEARWATER BEACH – A stylish, bright lobby. Sleek, airy rooms. And direct access to one of the top beaches in the United States.
The new Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is a welcome – and stunning – addition to one of my favourite places in the U.S.
I get to visit a lot of hotels in my line of work. Most don’t stand out. But this place impressed me from the moment I walked in until the morning I left two days later.
The lobby is a real stunner; bright and airy and with a wide-open breezeway that forces your eye to gaze out at the Gulf of Mexico, complete with a row of palm trees, a series of splashy blue pool umbrellas and a fountain that gurgles in front of the bright, beckoning swimming pool. It feels more like South Beach than the south side of Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach. But Clearwater has been adding more and more cool properties like this one, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise.
The Wyndham Grand lobby is a spacious and chic affair, with swirly, curling wall shapes, bright yellow and aqua/blue-green cushions and wooden furnishings that remind you of wicker chairs on a summer porch. I love a hotel lobby that makes me feel like I’ve arrived someplace special, and this place gave it to me in triplicate.
I admit I also had a remarkable room, and that didn’t hurt my feelings about the place. My wife and I were given a spacious room on the west end of the hotel, with a large balcony that looked directly out on the beach. The nightly sunsets were magical, as was the purple-blue-pink light that crept up on Clearwater Beach in the early mornings.
The pool is a large affair with plenty of space for kids and adults to splash about. There were tons of teens and tweens on the property when we were there last week, right after the Ontario school March Break. We didn’t get a chance to try the on-site restaurant, Ocean Hai. But we did have a very good burger and fries by the pool one day, and I can vouch for the poolside bar as a happening, fun spot with a great feel to it.
The hotel is just steps from the beach; maybe two metres across the pedestrian walkway that runs up and down the length of Clearwater Beach. The white sand on the beach is immaculate, in part no doubt to the hard work of folks who are out there cleaning and raking in the wee hours.
You’re only a few feet from Pier 60, which features wonderful craft markets and impromptu concerts. There’s also a huge children’s playground, large parts of it in shade to keep the kids from getting sunburned. And there are several large inflatable slides and other rides kids can try.
We had a fine dinner up the road at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill; run by a former Canadian who has made a huge mark on the Clearwater Beach culinary scene. We had very good seafood and excellent crab cakes at a table that was inches from the sand; perfect for a late afternoon or sunset meal.
You’re only a few minutes drive from Dunedin if you’re at the Wyndham Grand. Alas, the Blue Jays have finished their Florida spring training games, but you can still take in one of Florida’s best towns. Dunedin has a wonderful, walkable downtown with excellent shopping (try Found for lovely home décor products) and great little restaurants such as Casa Tina (fine margaritas and good Mexican food on a shady patio) and the Dunedin Brewery, the oldest craft brewery in Florida.