Destinations Must - See
Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge
Located at the mouth or entrance to Tampa Bay, Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge protects a diverse community of animals and plants, a lot of which are endangered or threatened. This makes visiting the wildlife refuge a unique and unforgettable experience because of the number of creatures you will encounter. Gulls, hawks, eagles, and other birds perch on the silent batteries while Gopher Tortoises and Box Turtles traverse the carriage roads. It lies southwest of Fort De Soto Park and can only be reached by boat or ferry. The Egmont Key Lighthouse and the ruins (great for snorkeling/diving) of Fort Dade, a Spanish–American War era fort, are located in the park.
Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Sunshine Skyway Bridge
The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge stretches across Hillsborough County waters between St. Petersburg and Terra Cerra in neighboring Manatee County. The bridge is a sight to be seen from a boat on the Gulf of Mexico (west side) or from the Tampa Bay (east side). The Travel Channel called the bridge the third greatest bridge in the world. If you get a chance to drive over it you will quickly discover the experience is more like riding a rollercoaster than driving over a bridge.
Bunces Pass/Shell Key Island
The only way to get to Shell Key Island is by boat. There are no cars on the island and it never closes. By day the island is a favorite spot for boaters. You can jump in the water and snorkel for shells along the coastline. The island has zero facilities (that means no bathrooms or restaurants) so prepare a lunch and spend the day on this island. Shell Key Preserve is a 1,828-acre preserve located in the mouth of Tampa Bay, which includes this 195-acre barrier island. This is a perfect secluded getaway spot without having to travel far. The Preserve is an important sanctuary for nesting, wintering, and migrating birds, as well as a popular fishing, snorkeling, and boating area. Bunces Pass is a great relaxing spot to toss an anchor and get in the water!
Dock & Dine! Travel by boat to get a cold cocktail or a delicious bite at any of the great waterfront bars and restaurants in Tampa or St Petersburg area. Boating to a restaurant is a really cool and enjoyable experience and easy to enjoy every meal with a scenic view of the Bay or Gulf of Mexico.
Rick's On The River (Tampa)
Salt Shack (S. Tampa)
Hula Bay Club (S. Tampa)
Duke's Retired Surfer's Island Bar (S. Tampa)
Mad Beach Fishhouse (St. Petersburg)
Caddy's Pub (St. Petersburg)
Sea Dog's (Treasure Island)
Billys Stone Crab Restaurant (Tierra Verde)
Pier Teak (St. Petersburg)
Crabby's on the Pass (Treasure Island)
Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro (St. Petersburg)
Sea Critters (St. Petersburg)
The Getaway (St. Petersburg)
Whiskey Joes (Tampa)
Recommended Boating Restaurants
Inshore & Nearshore Fishing
Redfish, Snook, Trout are popular catches in the Tampa Bay. If you’re really lucky (or if you just have a great Captain) you’ll catch what the locals call a “Inshore Slam,” which is catching all three types of fish in one day. Looks like someone is having one heck of a dinner, eh?! There are a lot of wrecks in the bay and the bay has proven to be an incredible year round fishery located in the center of the fishing capital of the world. Fishing for snapper in Tampa Bay and the surrounding offshore water is very good. Mangrove Snapper happen to be very popular with the anglers in the bay area and would be a good target because they are plentiful and very delicious. They are also abundant in the bay during the hotter months, especially in July and August.
Dolphin & Manatee Encounters
Bottlenose dolphins and Manatees are a common sight in the Bay and surrounding Gulf waters. You can rent a boat or see them with local charter companies. Downtown sits at the spot where the Hillsborough River meets Tampa Bay. The islands and channels at the mouth of the river create an oasis for a wide variety of wildlife right in the heart of Florida's third-largest city. This area makes for a great place for spotting dolphins & manatees during your day on the water.
Beer Can Island "The Party Island"
Beer Can Island near Tampa is a favorite for the Tampa locals that know about it. Officially called Pine Key Island, it is located just southeast of MacDill AFB in the waters between Apollo and MacDill. Beer Can Island is popular for many types of recreation from boating and fishing to camping and, of course, partying. There are two very different atmospheres on Beer Can Island, depending on the time of year that suits each of these types of recreation more appropriately.
In the Summer, Beer Can Island gets pretty crowded with boats and people looking to ‘knock a few back’ and camp out for the night. The summer is definitely more of an energetic party season on the island.
When the Florida winter comes, however, Beer Can Island becomes much more serene and calm. Families come out to camp or picnic and there are far less boats found on the island this time of year.