Some Outdoor Activities to do in Tampa Bay

Florida may be best known for its tropical weather. So why would you come here and stay inside? I sure hope you wouldn't! Slap on some sunscreen, grab a bottle of water and get out in Tampa Bay! There are TONS of things to do here, but here are a few of my personal favs:

  • Beaches  I might as well get the most obvious activity out of the way first! We have beaches all over the place, for all ages and activity levels. 
    • The major touristy/party beach would be Clearwater. There is a lot to do, all within walking distance. And if you get pooped, you can always hop on the Jolly Trolly. It runs up and down the beach and can take you practically anywhere you'll want to go.
    • Just north of Clearwater is Honeymoon Island beach and Caladesi Island State Park. These are two quiet, natural places to relax and enjoy the scenery. Being a state park, there is a fee to enter. You can drive to Honeymoon Island beach, but in order to get to Caladesi you have to take a ferry. The ferry leaves daily and will take you back and forth. Caladesi is even more tranquil and full of nature. These are the beaches to go to if you want to relax and see what sea animals you can find.
    • South of Clearwater you will find the Indian Rocks beach area. Here, there are a lot of private rentals which make it perfect for an extended stay. There are a few bars and hot spots, but there tends to be a lot of families in the Indian Rocks area. 
    • St Pete beach also has its fair share of party life, but is not quite as touristy. The sand is a little nicer here. There are hotels of course, but like Indian Rocks, there are also a lot of rental homes.Again, ideal for a longer stay
    • A little further south there is Fort De Soto. This is a park so there is a nominal fee to enter, but there is a campground, a fort, bike/run/rollerblade trails, kayak rentals and one of the top beaches in the state. There is a dog beach here as well!
    • Even further south is the Sarasota/Bradenton area. This is about an hour drive, but well worth the trip. There's Anna Maria Island as well. These beaches are more turquoise, quieter and less of a party atmosphere.  
  • Amusement Parks  In Tampa you will find Busch Gardens and Adventure Island. About an hour away, in Orlando, you know what you will find there! A world of amusement and adventure parks! There's Disney World, Universal, Sea World, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and the list goes on. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has the African theme and is full of animals. So it's more than just rides. You can spend an entire day walking around and never have to get a tickle tummy! There are excellent shows as well. I highly recommend Critter Castaways, a family favorite. A single ticket can be a little pricey, but there are so many options to do a yearly pass that it is so worth it! And once inside, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how affordable everything is.
  • Alafia State Park  When Florida was hoping to get the summer Olympics, they were planning on hosting the biking events here. Believe it or not, there are hills in Florida! Alafia State Park is full of them! Being a state park, there is a fee, but it's well worth the $4! There is camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback trails, a playground and picnic areas. Another biggie here is the fact that you can bring your horses camping with you. They have special areas set up just for those horse campers. The trails are clearly marked for hikers and bikers of all levels. If you're lucky you might spot some wildlife here. There's always deer, armadillo, squirrels, turtles and gators, but the park rangers have also seen some Florida panthers too!
  • Canoeing/Kayaking  There are several hot spots, but I'll just mention a few. The Alafia river is good, but I recommend checking the water level first! When the water is too low you'll end up doing a little water hiking too! There is a little shop called Alafia River Canoe Rentals that has day trips as well as regular rentals. On a trip they will take you and your equipment up the river and then you can leisurely paddle your way back down through out the day. If you don't want to be on a schedule you can always just rent the equipment and take off at their dock for a few hours. Either way, it is a beautiful and tranquil way to spend a day. The Hillsborough river is also a great place for some canoeing, but watch out for our reptilian residents! There are certain spots that are worse than others so make sure you ask. Weedon Island, in St Pete, is another great spot. They have a couple of canoe trails, both with amazing scenery.
  • Lowry Park Zoo  I considered putting this under the amusement park section because they have so many rides now, but the price is still a zoo price so it belongs here. This is probably my son's most favorite place in the world. There are tons of animals, many with options to get a little hands-on. There are also tons of rides for kids of all ages. The food is good, but if you don't want to eat here, there are picnic tables out front. The zoo has lots of events throughout the year so check the website before you go. I have yet to be disappointed there!
  • Shopping  Of course we have to have some outdoor shopping as well! In the New Tampa area there is the Wiregrass mall which is all outdoors. It has everything you could need as well as bars and restaurants for when you're done shopping! The South Tampa area has some great outdoor shops as well. There is the Hyde Park Village, which is a quaint little spot and several shops along South Howard which are all within walking distance of each other. Ybor City has a farmers market every Saturday morning, year round. There's fresh fruits and vegetables, soaps, art work, shoes, you name it! And then there are also several permanent shops throughout Ybor as well. If you head south you can go to the Ellenton outlets where you can easily get lost for a day or two. This is a hot spot and can be pretty crowded at times! Johns Pass is a wonderful little village for shopping, eating and even catching a sightseeing cruise. There's a Bubba Gump restaurant here and if you haven't been, it's a fun place to go at least once. There's also a local winery that makes fruit wines. You have to stop by for a tasting!
  • Florida Aquarium  Okay, the actual aquarium is inside, but there is also a water park here so I am throwing it in! The aquarium itself is a great time. There's lots to see and even a touch tank if you want to feel. The gift shop is tons of fun and surprisingly not too pricey. Of course there's a cafe for food and drinks as well. Outside there is a full water park and sand area. There is a full bar out there too! So the parents can sit and sip on their margaritas while the kids run around on the foamy ground and get soaked. There is a shipwreck, a little slide, fountains everywhere and tons of water guns. It is fun for kids of all ages. And the cruise ships dock right beside the water park so you might be lucky enough to watch one pull out. Or you might be sad and feel the need to go on a cruise after watching one pull out!

Obviously, I love this area and I could go on and on. There are so many things to do and see here! I hope this gives you some ideas for your next vacation. Whether you are traveling as a family, a couple, or single, there is something for everyone in the Tampa Bay area. And with so many more activities being such a short distance away, it makes it even more perfect! Tampa Bay is definitely worth a visit.