By Nicole Hutcheson

The palm tree-lined Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach swarms with people just before dusk. The sky is an orange sherbet color with cracks of pink and purple as the sun begins to set. A saxophonist belts a tune as adults and kids clamor for a good view of the sinking sun.

Sunsets at Clearwater Beach Pier 60 are a nightly tradition. Every evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. vendors, performers and musicians take to the pier to entertain the masses who come to see one of the best sunsets on the beach. Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival has been going strong for more than 20 years.

But sunsets aren’t all there is at Pier 60. 

Centrally located on Clearwater Beach, Pier 60 is among the most popular destinations along the busy white sand beach. The 1,080-foot pier extends west from Highway 60 into the Gulf of Mexico. You feel as if you’re walking out into the Gulf. 

Pier 60 is known not only for its spectacular views but also its convenient amenities including playgrounds, telescopes, two massive inflatable slides, public restrooms, a cafe, and a fishing bait and tackle store. 

It’s hard to miss the massive blue Pier 60 sign greeting you at the entrance. The Clearwater Beach Visitor Center, also located at the pier, is a good first stop to grab a map and a list of activities happening at the Pier on any given day.

Fireworks are always a big deal at Pier 60. Every New Year’s Eve, catch the “Light It up Clearwater Beach Fireworks Celebration.” You can also catch firework shows on the Fourth of July and Easter. 

Each spring, sandcastle enthusiasts flock to the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival.  World class sculptors take it to the next level to create complex and detailed sculptures using Clearwater’s sugar-white sand. Each year has a different theme. The events also feature dozens of vendors, a play area for kids and nightly entertainment.

During the summer, Pier 60’s Sunset Cinema’s Summer Series takes place. Bring a chair or big blanket every Friday and watch a family-friendly movie for free on the jumbo screen. Popcorn and drinks are available to purchase. Movies usually start at 8:30 p.m.

With so many activities, Pier 60 is the perfect destination for a family vacation or just a day lounging at the beach.  

There are many hotels nearby. The Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa and the Wyndham Clearwater Beach Resort offer great views of Pier 60.

Dads can enjoy some serious fishing at Pier 60, which rates among the top fishing spots in the state.  No licenses is required to fish at the pier, and you can keep your catch. Silver trout, snook, tarpon, snapper and flounder are among the most common fish caught there. The Pier 60 Bait Shop publishes a monthly fishing report on their website. Check out the shop’s Catch of the Week photo to see some impressive fisherman’s catch.

While dad is casting his reel, mom can get in a bit of retail therapy at some of the beach shops nearby. Among the most popular is the Surf Style. From beach gear to souvenirs, this two-story store has everything you may have forgotten at home and stuff you didn’t even now you needed to make your beach experience great. There’s also an indoor surfing on the store’s flow-rider. 

When you've worked up an appetite, you don’t have to go far to get bite to eat. Pier 60’s snack bar features sweet and salty snacks like French fries and ice cream.  Rather have a sit-down meal? Check out Crabby’s Dockside restaurant located directly across the street from Pier 60 at the Clearwater Marina.  The three-story Crabby’s Dockside restaurant is a more sophisticated version of its parent restaurant. Crabby Bill’s. While it might have a new name, the restaurant still serves some of the tastiest fresh seafood on the beach. Did we mention there's a panoramic view of the beach and Pier 60 from the third level?

While there’s tons to do at Pier 60, it’s also a great place for doing nothing at all. The beach features rentable cabanas or chairs with umbrellas to make lounging on the beach easy. You simply pick your spot and a beach attendant comes by to collect payment in cash, debit or credit card.

The sun has just set at Pier 60. A few parasailers float along in the distance and speed boats zip through the night waves. The crowds on the pier buzz about and some have begun to crowd around a juggling act using fire.

It’s getting dark but the fun seems to just be heating up at Clearwater Beach Pier 60.