The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is celebrating a huge milestone – 50 years of dedication to marine life! Back in 1972, a permanent marine biology learning center was established for the Tampa Bay area and has been growing ever since.
In December 2005, a tiny 3-month-old dolphin was found ensnared in a crab trap line in nearby Cape Canaveral, right here on the east coast. She was transported to CMA for rehabilitation, and sadly lost her tail as a result of her injuries. The little dolphin was named Winter, and quickly became CMA’s most famed resident, and soon beloved around the world.
Winter’s story can be seen in the popular 2011 film, “Dolphin Tale,” and depicts CMA’s efforts to rehabilitate a dolphin fighting to survive. They famously, and painstakingly created the world’s first prosthetic dolphin tail and Winter began to thrive. Avery has seen this movie at least 20 times now, and was thrilled to see the aquarium where Winter swam.
Sadly, Winter passed away in 2021, but her incredible legacy lives on at the aquarium. You can get an up close look at Winter’s prosthetics and the process of how they were created, as well as movie memorabilia. Countless other animals have been rescued and rehabilitated by CMA before and since Winter, and those that were unable to be released find a loving home right here at the aquarium, where guests are welcome to meet them.
The Window of Wonder offers a stunning view into the dolphins’ watery world, including playful Nicholas who was eager to show off his exercises during our presentation. You can also travel around Winter’s Rescue Walk to get different views into the bottlenose dolphin tanks, or view from above on the Dolphin Terrace. Outside, you can catch a glimpse of Rudolph and Rosie, two rough-toothed dolphins found near Sanibel Island and Sarasota.
While dolphins are certainly CMA’s most well-known residents, there is plenty more to see that we spent the day exploring. We caught playful otters snuggling in their beds for an afternoon nap, sea turtles and rays gliding through Mavis’s Hideaway and a glimpse into the habitat of several species of fish, sharks and other creatures.
Avery’s favorite stop is always somewhere she can pet an animal (of any kind!) so she parked herself for quite a while at Stingray Beach. An incredibly kind group of women cheered her on as she stretched to reach her little arms into the tank, helping her spot the next ray heading her way, and erupting in applause when she finally got to pet one.
CMA also offers an incredible lineup of educational presentations. I’ve never seen such a busy lineup anywhere we’ve traveled, with something happening throughout the aquarium at least every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day, ranging from otter and shark presentations, dolphin talks so the residents can show off their skills and interactive kids’ activities. This offers something new and fascinating to learn around every corner as you explore.
The top floor is currently home to a special educational exhibit for the summer, called Dolphintopia: Summer of Peace, Love and Dolphins, that goes in depth on several species of dolphins around the world.
Additionally, you’ll find an array of on-site and off-site experiences that change with the seasons. You can hop on board a boat tour of the waterways where you’ll spot dolphins and other marine life, or dive in to a snorkel or kayaking adventure. CMA teams up with other facilities as well to offer even more to their guests, like their recent partnership with Amazing Animals (who we visited back in 2020!) that brought sloths and other incredible creatures to the aquarium.
As the Clearwater Marine Aquarium commemorates its remarkable 50-year journey of dedication to marine life, one name stands out as a symbol of hope and resilience – Winter. Despite facing adversity, Winter captivated hearts worldwide. As we explored the diverse marine habitats and enjoyed educational presentations, it became evident that CMA’s commitment to wildlife conservation is unparalleled. With new and captivating experiences around every corner, CMA continues to inspire and instill a love for marine life in all who visit.
- $35.95/adult; $26.95/child ages 3 – 12
- Children 2 and under free
- $33.95/senior 65+; Discounted admission
available for military and teachers
- Free admission on your birthday!