I haven't been to those properties, but Clearwater Beach will be the more active, busier area, with restaurants, shops, marina, and all kinds of activities. Very walkable beach area.
Sand Key is just over a bridge from CB. It is a much quieter, slower paced area, with all of the activities on CB just a short hop away over the bridge. Not really walkable between the two though. Just a few minute drive or trolley ride.
TI is kind of between the two, as far as how busy it is, amount of activities, etc. TI beach is very wide at some points, so it can be a bit of a walk from your accomodations to the shoreline.
Try Crescent Beach Club. It is right next to Lighthouse Towers and is a much nicer building, has larger units, and much larger balconies. They also have a fitness room, indoor hottub, sauna, etc. The minimum rental period is two weeks for both Crescent Beach Club and Lighthouse Towers. Landmark Towers isn't nearly as nice as Lighthouse towers. All of the condos in those three building are privately owned, so each will be different depending on rennovations and upkeep done by the owners. If you are looking for a semi-private beach that is quiet, then Sand Key is the place to be. If you want to be right in the middle of everything, then try Clearwater Beach. The beaches south of Sand Key are not as nice. Try looking at the vacation rental websites such as VRBO and vacationrentlas.com to find a private condo to rent.Edited: 09 September 2012, 05:16
Thank you all for your help. We settled on Sand Key!
Just a thought but we had three 9 to 11 year olds with us in 2004 and stayed at the Marriot on Sand Key and after circa six o'clock there wasn't much to do for the kids. Lovely hotel and the area is really pretty but it was very quiet back then. It may have changed but with hindsight we would have preferred to have stayed on Clearwater beach as the kids got a little bored during the evening time.
We have visited Sandkey for the last few years, since our children were a similar age to yours, and we usually stayed at the Marriott, our kids loved it as the pool did not close until 10 pm, then it was upstairs for shower and bed, or TV as they got older - the cartoons were their favourites.
This year we are staying at Lighthouse Toweers for the first time, and I am expecting it to be a quieter holiday, but we absolutely LOVE Sandkey (in fact we will be there for a month)!!
My kids loved on the Jolly Trolley, it was an adventure as they usually car everywhere, and we found plenty to do in the area.
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