Gain a new perspective of Tampa Bay with a variety of on-the-water tours
Trading dry land for Tampa Bay’s sparkling blue waters unlocks a new world of activities—whether you’re looking for adventure or a way to unwind. Experience the quiet serenity of gliding through the peaceful waterways of Tampa Bay’s many nature preserves. Or, stay in the mix in downtown Tampa Bay, where unique water sports and a river taxi are just a dive away from the area’s best restaurants, museums and nightlife—wave to those on the Tampa Riverwalk!
Water really is one of the city’s best features. The vast expanse of the bay surrounds the south side of the city. Exotic mangroves dot its coastline. A river snakes through its urban core. And with great weather year-round, getting to know Tampa Bay from the water is always a perfect option. Jump in!
Hop onto a stand-up paddleboard or into a kayak to experience migrating birds above, solitary wildlife around and friendly marine animals below. On a guided private kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding tour with iTrekkers, glide through various Tampa Bay locations, including Double Branch Creek in Upper Tampa Bay Park. There, brackish water winds around mangrove islands, whose unusual root systems provide shelter to egrets, herons and other stunning birds. This path is so close to the city, yet it feels extremely remote. Guides educate on the area’s unusual ecology and navigate its maze-like estuary—they’ll even take photos and GoPro video of you and your crew. iTrekkers’ two-hour tours are long enough to get you to the mouth of the bay, where the horizon seems endless.
Urban Kai Stand Up Paddleboarding has two locations, one at the edge of the Wheedon Island Preserve—where dolphin and manatee sightings are common—and another in downtown Tampa, within walking distance of some of the city’s best hotels. Urban Kai offers classes, but getting started on your own is easier than it looks. Rent by the hour or take one of their fitness or yoga classes. Keep an eye out for fish—from your standing position on the board, they’re easy to spot. And watch for Florida’s unique, native water birds. You’ll likely see black anhinga sitting on branches with their wings spread to dry, as well as herons, ibis, osprey, pelicans and even pink roseate spoonbills.
To really get away from it all, rent a kayak or canoe from Canoe Escape, located just north of Tampa Bay. They’ll drop you off and pick you up, so you’re always paddling downstream on the Hillsborough River. Keep an eye out for alligators on this trip. They’re often found up on the river’s banks, quietly sunning themselves. Spotting plenty of birds and turtles is a guarantee as you travel through a 16,000-acre wildlife preserve. The best part of this trip is when the river gets narrow and oaks and cypress surround you, providing a peek into “Old Florida.” Stop paddling for a moment to soak up the silence. This water trip will leave you relaxed and refreshed by the end.
Pirate Water Taxi
Tampa Bay is all about the pirate lore and this taxi—nope, not a wooden ship with a plank—is your ticket to a bounty of Downtown Tampa hotspots. Hop on and off at parks, bars, museums and restaurants while cruising along the Tampa Riverwalk, Channel District and Davis Island, all while getting a view of Tampa Bay you simply can’t get from land.
Start at the Tampa Museum of Art, located next to the sprawling Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, which is perfect for lounging, picnics and tossing a Frisbee. Then, hop back on the Pirate Water Taxi to see Tampa Bay’s very own pirate ship, the Jose Gasparilla. Get back on land two more stops away to enjoy dinner at Jackson’s Bistro Bar & Sushi or Café Dufrain—both located right next to the taxi’s two Harbour Island stops. Or travel a couple stops farther to Channelside Bay Plaza, where a slew of exciting nightlife options await. After trying the Pirate Water Taxi, regular taxis will seem so passé!
Want to see the water from a whole new perspective? Try a water bike—a unique human-powered watercraft that makes for a lot of fun. You pedal and steer, just like a bike, but this one’s suspended on two small hulls that keep you floating as you travel on the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. Virtually impossible to flip, water bikes are a favorite of families and anyone who wants to be active on the water. The Tampa Bay Water Bike Company also offers “biyaks”—kayaks that you propel by pedaling. Rent a tandem biyak for a one-of-a-kind date before heading next door to the Sail Pavilion for a waterside cocktail to toast to your success.