Home to “Winter,” the prosthetic-tailed Dolphin Tale star, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is primarily an animal hospital rather than a “show” aquarium. However, now that Winter’s story has been made world-famous on the big screen, the facility has upgraded for an onslaught of visitors with renovations, an expansion, and new programming.
The dolphins are the main attraction at CMA, particularly Winter. The marine rehabilitation center took care of her after she was found tangled in a crab trap line in 2005. Critically injured, she was treated and eventually fitted with the very first prosthetic dolphin tail to replace the one she lost. Her trainer will tell you about her prosthetic tail, and even pass around a model to get a closer look. Nicholas is another dolphin who is very high-energy and playful. You can also watch the youngest dolphin, Hope, interact with Winter in the Winter Zone.
In addition to this, the animal rescue and research facility features educational exhibits showcasing sea turtles, pelicans, fish and other local marine life, as well the opportunity to pet a sting ray and watch dolphin training in action. For an added fee, you can meet up with a dolphin in a “Dolphin Encounter” or take an interactive boat tour. Looking for a place to stay? Several neighboring hotels have partnered with the aquarium to offer “Winter the Dolphin” packages that combine a room stay with aquarium tickets and extra goodies like a plush toy and Winter’s Tale book. Some of the most popular with families include the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach Resort, the Sandpearl Resort, the Hyatt Regency, the TradeWinds Island Grand Beach Resort, and the Pier House 60 Marina Hotel.