If your family is planning a Florida vacation, you will not want to miss two stops: Clearwater Beach and Universal Studios. One offers relaxing, sun-lit decompression with fun water sports and outdoor experiences for your kids. The other is an amusement park with non-stop thrills for all ages.
Though Clearwater Beach and Universal Studios are not next-door neighbors, it doesn’t take long to get from one to the other. Plan your perfect family vacation with the helpful information below!
Where Is Clearwater Beach?
Clearwater Beach faces the Gulf of Mexico, on the western side of Florida. A stone’s throw away from Tampa and St. Petersburg, Clearwater Beach is a popular destination for families and travelers who are looking for gentle white-sand beaches and laid-back ocean-side vacations.
Families who enjoy long beach days under a cabana can rent one from one of Clearwater Beach’s many attendants. There are also options to lay out towels and an umbrella, particularly if you walk up the beach away from the piers.
There’s also no shortage of attractions to keep your family busy on your beach day before heading to Universal Studios. Clearwater Beach has a variety of family-friendly activities, including water sports.
Where Is Universal Studios?
Universal Studios Florida is in Orlando, Florida. The massive amusement park campus sits to the west of the Camillia Gardens neighborhood of Orlando and south of Kirkman South and Windhover.
Universal Studios is easily accessible via Interstate 4 or Route 435. There are parking lots available for families who are just looking for a day-trip experience, as well as affiliated resorts and hotels with the amusement park for convenient, all-inclusive places to stay.
You will not run out of things to do in Universal Studios. For the fantasy fans in your family, Universal Studios is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can walk through Diagon Alley and jump on fantastical rides that bring you right back into your favorite books and movies.
No matter your family’s interests, Universal Studios is a great option for a day trip or a few days’ worth of deeper exploration.
Distance Between Clearwater Beach and Universal Studios
While Clearwater Beach is on the Gulf of Mexico, Orlando is inland. Just over 100 miles separate Clearwater from Universal Studios. The best way to enjoy both destinations for your family vacation is to try not to pack beach time and an amusement park visit on the same day.
Many families will find success if they drive between the two destinations. If your family is flying into Florida, renting a car is an easy way to ensure that your seamless trip between Clearwater and Universal Studios.
Most Direct Route to Universal Studios
The most direct route between Clearwater Beach and Universal Studios in Orlando is via Interstate 4. As previously mentioned, Interstate 4 borders the Universal Studios park campus, so barring any traffic, your family’s trip should be quick and seamless.
Getting to Interstate 4 from Clearwater will take you via the bridge over Old Tamp Bay and into South Tampa. You won’t fight Tampa traffic for long, however; merge from Interstate 275 to Interstate 4, and your journey to Orlando from there is a straight shot.
Driving on Interstate 4 between Clearwater and Orlando makes the journey roughly two hours. If you are keen to avoid the Interstate, there are alternative routes. The second route avoids Interstate 4 in favor of Interstate 75. The third brings you off of Interstate 4 just past Lakeland and to Orlando by way of Route 33.
While the second and third routes are less direct, you might find that depending on the time of day you leave your point of origin, these alternative routes end up being faster. Check ahead on Google Maps or Waze to get a sense of the traffic on your target route.
Alternative Ways To Get to Universal Studios or Clearwater Beach
If you want to avoid driving on your Florida vacation, there are alternative ways to get from Orlando to Clearwater Beach and vice versa. While no trains or direct flights connect the two cities, buses run regularly in and out of Orlando.
Clearwater Beach has two main transportation hubs:
- Clearwater Beach Transit Center South
- Clearwater Beach Transit Center North
Orlando’s primary bus transportation center is to the North East of Universal Studios, just a twenty-minute drive away.
Buses take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the number of stops they make. Sites like Wanderu offers affordable bus tickets that connect Clearwater Beach with Orlando.
Greyhound is also a large, reliable bus company servicing central and coastal Florida. While they do not have a Greyhound stop in Clearwater, their closest hub is Tampa.
Tampa may feel far, but RideShare Apps like Uber and Lyft can connect you from Tampa’s bus station to Clearwater Beach. In a rideshare, you will travel a little over 25 miles between the Tampa bus station to Clearwater Beach.
Rideshare apps are the most convenient way to reach your final destination from any bus terminal. The only exception is the bus terminals in Clearwater Beach. If you arrive in Clearwater at either the South or North transit centers, the beach is only a ten-minute walk away.
Before You Head Out
If you want to get the most out of your Florida vacation and include beach time and amusement park fun, there’s no reason you can’t make a plan for both. Families who are driving to Florida or who can rent a car will be well equipped to travel the short journey between Orlando and Clearwater Beach.
Don’t despair if you can’t rely on your own transportation. Buses connect Clearwater Beach (and close by neighbor Tampa) to Orlando. Coordinating an Uber and Lyft from the bus stops is easy when you have the apps downloaded onto your phone.
Though Orlando may feel far away from the beach, just over 100 short miles separate Universal Studios from pristine sands and sunny waves. You truly can have the best of both worlds for your family’s next unforgettable vacation.
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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