Kayak on the scenic Hillsborough River where it meets the Bay and watch for dolphin fins breaking the surface near your boat. Hike shady trails, or scout ospreys and bald eagles that soar over treetops. No matter the setting, you can’t beat Tampa Bay’s climate and gorgeous postcard backdrops for kicking it outside. Easy-to-navigate paths, waterways and trails make outdoor recreation an enticing retreat. Here’s a quick guide for your next adventurous escape.
One of the best ways to take in the views and activities of Tampa Bay is to stroll, ride or jog along Bayshore Boulevard—the world’s longest continuous sidewalk at 4.5 miles—which follows the edge of Hillsborough Bay from near the Tampa Riverwalk south toward Ballast Point. The century-old path attracts thousands of pedestrians, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers daily. To the east, the waterfront panorama enchants visitors with pelicans and herons soaring by. To the west, old mansions and contemporary architecture hold court.
Get a view of downtown from a unique vantage point by taking a stand-up paddleboard ride. People of all ages and fitness levels get into this gentle, total-body workout, and the calm waters of the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay are ideal for beginners. When you glide alongside downtown, take in the impressive and historic architecture as you paddle by the University of Tampa and its iconic minarets.
While paddling, you’ll most likely see wintering manatees in the river as well as dolphins and an impressive array of bird and fish species.
Take busyness down a few notches and reel in relaxation with the help of Tampa Fishing Charters, Inc. Owner Captain Oliver O’Riordan and his team lure a loyal customer base with their decades of experience, and they accommodate fishers of varying levels from recreational to pro. Captain Oliver and the other experienced captains on his team take guests on full- and half-day excursions to reel in a wide range of species including trout, kingfish, shark, mackerel and more. They’re also happy to take customers on a leisurely and captivating sightseeing tour.
Get on your bike and explore Tampa Bay’s historic neighborhoods or encounter nature just outside city limits. Upper Tampa Bay Park has a nature trail triple-header with minor variations in elevation as well as a major variety of forest and aquatic settings. Flatwoods Wilderness Park & Trail, part of the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, spools out into a smooth, seven-mile paved loop in a serene nature reserve known for appearances of armadillo, turtles, hawks and deer. Public restrooms, picnic shelters, grills and tables round out the experience with much-needed conveniences.
If you’re interested in history and architecture, join a History Bike Tampa ride. Learn about rumored haunted houses and the history of bootlegging gangsters who ran booze underground in Ybor City, Tampa Bay’s historic Latin quarter. Rides last about two hours, take place every other month and meet in historic districts such as Hyde Park Village, downtown Tampa and Ybor City.
With or without a tour, Tampa Riverwalk, located in downtown Tampa Bay, is always a favorite spot for cyclists, walkers and joggers of all levels.
For a more primitive experience, drive about 20 minutes northeast of downtown to Hillsborough River State Park—ideal for fishing, camping, canoeing and kayaking. Shaded by oak canopies and cypress, and brimming with what seems like a million ferns and bromeliads, Hillsborough’s collection of parks and recreation areas has been widely recognized as some of Florida’s best places to view wildlife.
Birders flock to Hillsborough River State Park to view and photograph a number of bird species. The area boasts a pin in The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail—a collection of 489 sites throughout Florida. Look for great blue heron, white ibis, red-shouldered hawks, tri-colored herons, barred owls and roseate spoonbills.
Located at the center of 16,000 acres of unspoiled forest and floodplains, Canoe Escape provides you with a boat or kayak and six relaxing downstream trip routes to paddle on the Hillsborough River. Trips range in length from four to 14 miles in length, and are two to four hours long.
Now that you’re ready to get out there and explore, your only decision is to figure out which adventure to try first.