Clearwater, FL

Is Clearwater Marine Aquarium Worth a Visit?

Allison Burney
Photo by author

Before the movie Dolphin Tale became a blockbuster hit, I’d never heard of Clearwater. I’d also never heard of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the now-famous home of Winter the dolphin.

But just like it did for so many other people, that film resonated with me. Something deep inside me felt a connection to this little dolphin and her amazing story of survival against all odds. Once I found out that CMA was indeed a real facility (and not just a movie set), I wanted to learn more.

This desire to see Winter in person and to find out more about the work they did eventually led to a special road trip with my mom all the way from Canada a few years ago. We spent several hours at the aquarium over a couple of days, and the more I learned, the more I fell in love with their inspiring mission and the vision they have for a world that protects and values marine life and its importance.

The aquarium is, first and foremost, a center for animal rescue, rehabilitation, and release. All its animals on public display are rescues that couldn’t survive on their own in the wild. — Tampa Bay Times

About the Aquarium

When my mom and I first visited, the building that had been converted into the aquarium was actually an old sewage treatment facility. Although it was nothing special to look at, the atmosphere made up for that. I got the feeling that the bigger mission of rescue, rehab, and release really mattered here. People truly believed in the work they were doing, and they were going to do all they could with the facilities they had at the time.

However, the aquarium has recently undergone a big expansion, including an all-new (and much bigger) home for the dolphins that aren’t able to be released back into the wild, including Winter. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Ruth and J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex consists of a 1.5 million gallon tank with five connecting pools.

Other improvements include expanded education areas and hospital facilities, as well as renovations to the original facilities. All of these upgrades will allow CMA to continue the important work they do to protect and preserve the natural world.

According to CMA’s website, they are “a leader in marine mammal research and environmental conservation throughout Florida and the world.” Public education is another big part of their mission, because the more people learn about these animals and develop connections with them, the more they want to protect them.

When we realize how delicate marine ecosystems are and how important they are to the health of the entire planet, conservation becomes a top priority, and CMA has a Research Institute dedicated to studying and protecting marine animals and their habitats.

When you go to see Winter or the other resident dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, your admission fees or donations are helping contribute to a better world for us all.

And that’s what makes this place different. That’s what makes it worth visiting.

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Freelance writer & proofreader. I love travel, reading, coffee, and exploring nature. On a mission to keep learning, growing, and enjoying this adventure we call life.


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