ZWei women swim their laps in the pool. They wear floppy hats to protect their hairstyle. Not before the chlorine water, but before the downpour. The tiled path to the beach is already flooded, there are no gullies anywhere.
The pool attendant has placed himself under the parasol, from which it pours down in streams. He wipes the pools of water with the white bath sheets. A few meters further on, shallow lakes and streams have formed on Clearwater Beach, where seagulls bathe. Joggers run barefoot through the puddles.
25 degree shower
The raindrops are pleasantly lukewarm like a 25-degree shower, here in the subtropical part of Florida. After a few minutes the sun breaks through the clouds and everything steams at 95 percent humidity like in a sauna.
Anyone who travels to Florida needs sunglasses – and an umbrella. Because rain is no exception in “Sunshine State”, as Florida calls and markets itself. It is the rule. At some point it rains every day, so you don’t need a weather forecast, say the locals.
Between June and September, i.e. in summer, daily cloudbursts are quite normal, but it can always shine briefly and vigorously in the rest of the year. “We call it the ‘liquid sunshine’,” says George Cretekos, 58, Mayor of Clearwater. He needs to know, he was born here in the Tampa Bay region of western central Florida. He is currently campaigning for a second term at a rainy charity gala.
Warm rain in the Sunshine State doesn’t bother him, cold does. Frost is only known here if you take ice-cold beer bottles out of the cooler. But many tourists obviously take the sunny nickname too literally and are annoyed when the sun is not shining. There is no guarantee of sun.
Vacationers should rather do the same as the locals, who appreciate the liquid sunshine as a change, advises the Mayor of Clearwater. And it’s not like a Florida vacation falls into the water when it rains. You can be happy here in any weather.
Florida is the warmest state in the United States, according to the National Climatic Data Center. In summer, however, it is also the country with the most rainfalls – and the fifth rainiest in winter.
Meteorologist Morton D. Winsberg of Florida State University states: “Since Florida is widely regarded as a sunshine state, many think that its climate is also particularly suitable for solar energy. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The many cloud periods make this technology commercially unworkable. “
Longest sunshine duration
The cities and resorts on Central Florida’s west coast still advertise with an average of 361 sunny days a year – how is that possible? A sunny day is also counted as such if it rains from time to time. The Guinness Book of Records lists the city of St. Petersburg (called St. Pete) as the longest sunshine location on consecutive days – 768 days from February 1967 to March 17, 1969 when the sun appeared.
The local newspaper “Evening Independent” was even issued free of charge whenever the sun had not shone at all on one day. In 76 years, from 1910 until the newspaper was discontinued in 1986, this was only the case 295 times, i.e. less than four times a year.
T-shirts and flip-flops
On the west coast of the Gulf of Mexico around Tampa Bay with the three cities of Tampa, St. Pete and Clearwater, the average annual temperature is a pleasant 23 degrees Celsius. In summer at 30 to 32 degrees, in winter at 19 to 22 degrees. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops can be worn all year round.
In summer, early morning is the best time to visit the beaches. The day usually starts with blue sky and sunshine. The first thick cumulus clouds only appear at lunchtime, which are dense water clouds that wave over the Gulf of Mexico like domes or even cauliflower florets.
In the late afternoon, dramatic storm clouds pile up on the western horizon, moving east over Tampa Bay. After a few minutes of downpour, the sun often flashes again.
White powder sand
Because the region on the coastal strip and on the upstream dune islands has some of the best, award-winning sandy beaches in Florida, it is worth getting to know a new one every day. They all have white powder sand. The water temperature is pleasantly lukewarm, all year round by 24 degrees. Because the beaches drop gently, they are well suited for families with children. Even a short rain shower hardly disturbs the bathing day.
And with wet sand it is better to build sand castles anyway. One of the most popular party and family beaches is Clearwater Beach. There are plenty of bars and restaurants as well as the legendary Pier 60. Free sunset parties with live music, fire-eaters and handicrafts also take place here every evening, provided the weather is good.
Fifth best beach in the world
For coastal tours, the bus line called Jolley Trolley (five-day ticket) is worthwhile. The yellow and red bus starts in Clearwater Beach and also stops on the beaches of Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island – and on the popular St. Pete Beach. It was voted the fifth best beach in the world by the TripAdvisor rating platform.
Because it is located on one of the narrowest parts of the peninsula, the sun rises here in the morning and sets in the evening again, in the east in Tampa Bay, in the west in the Gulf of Mexico.
If you are looking for lonely beaches, go north to Honeymoon Island. From there, continue by ferry for $ 14 to Caladesi Island. It has been under nature protection since 1967 and the stay is limited to four hours. For this you have the island overgrown with mangroves with white sandy beaches and a five kilometer hiking trail almost to yourself.
It is particularly interesting for shellfish seekers, and with a bit of luck you will even find washed-up round sand dollars – especially if it has been storming a day before. These are white, palm-sized sea urchin shells with five geometric patterns that are arranged like petals.
“Dalí Wish Tree”
The museums in the region are prepared to ensure that visitors like to come when it rains. There are therefore “umbrella bags” for the dripping wet umbrellas at the entrances. The Dalí Museum in St. Pete is particularly recommended. With 2140 works, the futuristic building houses the largest exhibition of Salvador Dalí’s works outside of Europe.
It’s worth asking about the art connoisseur Sigrid, 63, an emigrant from Berlin. It gives visitors the opportunity to put on their sunglasses again, and of course in the museum. Only then does the surrealist Dalí painting “Gala Look at the Sea” turn out from a distance of 20 meters when you look through your glasses as a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The “Dalí Wish Tree” grows down in the garden, where visitors can hang small, colorful pieces of paper on the branches and make a wish – maybe a little more sun (thedali.org).
In the “Busch Gardens” north of Tampa, the weather doesn’t matter for visitors anyway. It is a mixture of a huge amusement park and an ambitious game reserve. The big advantage in rainy weather is that the waiting times for the most adventurous roller coaster rides are significantly shorter. The latest attraction is Falcon’s Fury, a drop tower. Here visitors fall vertically downwards from a height of 102 meters at a speed of 90 kilometers per hour.
Alternatively, visitors can watch rhinos on an off-road vehicle safari and feed giraffes with lettuce, accompanied by the shrill screams from the drop tower (seaworldparks.com). Afterwards, a visit to “Plaza International”, the largest shopping center in the area, with 200 shops and 15 restaurants, is of course covered and air-conditioned.
And if the traditional sundowner at Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60 falls into the water due to the rain, there are countless bars as a great alternative. We recommend the beers from smaller breweries – such as “Barking Squirrel Lager” or “Big Storm Wavemaker Amber Ale”. The “Mahuffer’s” in Indian Shores between St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach is open until two in the morning.
The almost 40-year-old bar is decorated with bikes, boat parts and junk. Thousands of bras and signed business cards hang from the ceilings. While it’s raining outside, the jukebox plays “It’s raining again” from Supertramp.
Tips and information
Getting there: Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) flies several times a week from Frankfurt to Tampa, the only non-stop connection from Germany. British Airways flies to Tampa with a change in London (www.britishairways.com).
Accommodation: “Sheraton Sand Key Resort”, on the beach in Clearwater Beach, double from 169 euros, starwoodhotels.com; “The Vinoy Renaissance”, St. Pete, double from 196 euros, marriott.de; “Le Méridien Boutique Hotel”, Tampa, double room from 121 euros, lemeridientampa.com
Information desk: Tampa, www.visittampabay.com; St. Pete, www.visitstpeteclearwater.com
Participation in the trip was supported by Lufthansa, Visit Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg / Clearwater. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at www.axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit