A Day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

See playful dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and other marine creatures at this landmark family attraction in Clearwater. 

a manatee swimming in blue green water, the manatee has some algae growing on it

Manatees are threatened by habitat loss, food scarcity and boat accidents. Clearwater Marine Aquarium's new Manatee Rehabilitation Center will rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured manatees.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium's inspiring story began 50 years ago with a group of passionate marine biologists and volunteers who wanted to educate people about marine animals and conservation. Today, CMA is an internationally renowned research and rehabilitation facility, providing a home for marine animals that otherwise wouldn’t survive in the wild due to injury or illness. It's also one of St. Pete/Clearwater's most beloved family attractions.

 

What's Happening at CMA

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is set to open its Manatee Rehabilitation Center on June 26, with guest viewing from 1-6 p.m.! The new center will allow CMA to accept the influx of manatees in need of restorative care. CMA will care for manatees recovering from the effects of seagrass and habitat loss that contributed to the Unusual Mortality Event (UME) on Florida’s east coast, red tide exposure, boat strike wounds, cold stress syndrome and others. The center will use technology including ozone treatment and medical habitats with false bottoms for the comfort of the manatees and safety of the animal care staff.

As stewards of this threatened species, CMA’s goal is to educate guests about manatees and their conservation status. Visitors can learn about the threats to manatees and what they can do to help protect them. Guests will be provided underwater viewing access of stable rehabilitated manatees as they are acclimated for release back into the wild.

In addition, the ArtSEA Conservation special exhibit showcases artwork inspired by marine life conservation such as iluminated marine animal paintings, sculptures and aquariums that feature artwork. A unique Virtual Reality Experience lets you “interact” with sea life such as jellyfish, leatherback turtles, and whale sharks.

 

From Humble Beginnings to a Worldwide Sensation

Dolphins have always been part of CMA’s story, from its first rescued dolphin, Sunset Sam, in 1972, to its best-known resident, Winter the dolphin, who was rescued as a baby in 2005 after becoming entangled in a crab trap. 

Winter lost her tail but overcame the enormous challenge and was eventually fitted with a groundbreaking innovation, a prosthetic tail. Her amazing story was told in the 2011 hit movie, Dolphin Tale and the 2014 sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, starring Winter, Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd, and filmed on location at the aquarium. The movies brought worldwide attention to CMA, with visitors from around the globe coming to see Winter and her friends. 

Although Winter passed away in November 2021, CMA continues to celebrate her unique spirit and her story of resilience and healing that inspired people from all over the world, many of whom had their own health challenges. 
 

Animals You Can See at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

On your visit, you may see several species of dolphins, from bottlenose dolphins to the rough-toothed dolphin, a deep-water species rarely seen by humans. The dolphins live at the beautiful Ruth and J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex, where a massive 16-foot-tall and 40-foot-wide window provides awesome views of the dolphins. At CMA, you’ll also see North American river otters, loggerhead, green and Kemp's ridley sea turtles (the rarest sea turtle species in the world), stingrays, sharks, pelicans and other marine animals. Check out CMA's live Dolphin Cam 1 and Dolphin Cam 2 to catch a glimpse.

 

At CMA, a massive 16-foot-tall and 40-foot-wide window provides amazing views of the dolphins.

Animal Care Programs

Guests to CMA can book one of several animal care experiences, such as feeding a stingray, caring for a nurse shark, or gaining VIP access to see one of the aquarium’s bottlenose or rough-toothed dolphins up close. Remember that this is a working animal hospital as well as a visitor attraction, so there’s a true emphasis on animal and environmental education. Don’t be surprised if your little one leaves with dreams of becoming a marine biologist!

Boat Tours

CMA’s naturalist-guided Dolphin and Wildlife Boat Tours will teach you about the local dolphin population as well as other Florida wildlife. Guided tours on the water include a Sea Life Safari Tour, Tropical Cruise Boat Tour, Dolphin & Wildlife Tour and a Guided Kayak Tour.

 

Behind the Scenes Tour

To get a closer look at the aquarium in action, schedule a Behind the Scenes Tour. You’ll gain access to special areas of the aquarium, including the critical care facility and the area where the animals’ food is prepped every day.

 

Tickets, Parking & Other Helpful Information

General admission (not including special tours or programs) is $30.95 for children ages 3 – 12, $37.95 for seniors and $39.95 for adults. Parking is available at the onsite garage for $12 and you can pre-pay when you buy your tickets online. Admission is free on your birthday!

In an effort to better welcome all visitors, Clearwater Marine Aquarium has partnered with KultureCity, a leading nonprofit on sensory accessibility, to enhance its offerings for guests with sensory issues. Visitors can view a social story before their visit to get an idea of what to expect, and during their visit, they can borrow a sensory bag, which includes fidget tools and noise-canceling headphones. There are also quiet zones throughout the attraction.