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Clearwater Beach named best beach in Florida by USA Today readers

CLEARWATER — Anything but first place just wasn't an option for Clearwater tourism officials.

They used everything in their social media arsenals to get the votes they needed to get Clearwater Beach named the best in Florida.

It worked.

Clearwater Beach was named the state's best beach town in a survey conducted by USA Today, beating out Siesta Key, Key West and South Beach.

"This just verifies what we have always been saying about how great Clearwater is," said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, Pinellas County's tourism agency, as well as the area chambers of commerce, used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and anything else they could think of to remind residents and visitors to go online and vote. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater even hired a plane to fly a banner over the Gulf of Mexico.

In the end, Clearwater won about 25 percent of the roughly 30,000 votes cast, according to the announcement USA Today made Friday.

"It's nice to know that we do have that kind of support, and not just locally, but nationally, internationally and online," said David Downing, the deputy director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

This award will help in marketing campaigns and hopefully draw visitors to the area, tourism officials said.

"If we're saying (Clearwater is the best), it's one thing, but when USA Today and other publications talk about it, it really gives us great credibility," said Bob Clifford, president of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Now it's up to us to take that opportunity to turn it into a driver of the economy and boost tourism numbers."

This isn't the first time Pinellas County has been recognized for its beaches.

TripAdvisor named St. Pete Beach the nation's top beach destination in 2012. In 2011, Parents Magazine named Fort De Soto Park the nation's best beach for families.

Darlene Kole, executive director of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the award is well-deserved.

"We have so much going for us," she said. "Our sugar-white sand, all of our restaurants. It's pedestrian-friendly. When people enter the beach and they park their car, they can't wait to get out and stroll along BeachWalk."

For the mayor, the recognition means a lot, but he said he wasn't surprised.

"I think the beach speaks for itself," Cretekos said. "Just the energy, the sand, the gulf. It's an ideal place to vacation or take a walk after a busy day."

The beach and the nearby shops and restaurants were busy Friday afternoon. The sun was bright and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

It was a welcome change for Bob and Lori Johnson, who were visiting from Davenport, Iowa. (Local weather: 36 degrees.)

Bob Johnson, 58, discovered Clearwater Beach while in Tampa on business a few years ago. This was the couple's second vacation on the beach.

"We just love the powdery sand and that it has all the restaurants and bars right up on the beach," said Lori Johnson, 55. "The water is so blue. It's beautiful here."

Clearwater Beach named best beach in Florida by USA Today readers 01/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:15pm]

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