A Tampa getaway reveals more affordable (and fun) solutions for those looking to get out from behind the wheel. Home to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk on Bayshore Boulevard and the 2.7 mile charming heritage Teco Line Streetcar, it’s no surprise that Tampa, Florida is also home to the innovative Pirate Water Taxi, one of the most novel and practical methods of touring the city’s channels in laidback hands-free style. With bright yellow exteriors reminiscent of the pre-Uber cab monopolies and manned by amusing and informed local captains, word of mouth has it that this is the way to tour Tampa’s waterways and attractions.
A three-minute walk from the Hilton Tampa Downtown places you at stop #11 for the Teco Line Streetcar, an elegant tram with a beautifully decorated wood and brass interior that, owing to a generous grant, recently decided to go free-of-charge for all riders. A short and stable tram ride effortlessly deposits riders at the Amalie Arena Station, a neighbor to the Tampa Bay History Center and Florida Aquarium and walking distance to Pirate Water Taxi’s #3 stop on its circuitous loop.
Be sure to grab a brochure with a full map of the multi-stop route from a nearby dispenser and head down the short ramp. Enjoy the waterfront views as you await the cheerful yellow taxi gliding across the water. Keep your eyes open as dolphin sightings are common along the water taxi route. Before you know it, a chivalrous pirate puts down a stepstool, quotes prices for tickets ($20 per adult for an all-day hop-on/hop-off pass and $10 per child with discounts for rides after 6pm, purchased onboard with cash or credit/debit card) and welcomes you aboard.
Several sandals-and-fedora enthusiasts are already on board and are calculating the number of remaining stops before they will arrive at Ricks On The River, a marina bar and grill on the far side of the tour that has tantalized their oyster craving taste buds. Grab a seat and appreciate the merciful shade generated by the large, arc-shaped roof. On both sides of the vessel are large windows and open-air space that aid both the sightseeing tourist and avid photographer and provide for a fresh sea breeze.
It’s not long before the captain and deckhand, both keenly aware of their tight schedule, cast off and start pushing through the channel. You’ll pass by an impressive array of hand sprayed college murals by previous rowing championship teams and jet skiers who happily violate the no-wake regulations before turning your attention to the live narration of Tampa’s river history. There are insider tips on restaurants and events, details on the city’s love-hate relationship with moveable span bridges and overpasses, reminders of Tampa’s appreciation for parks both green and wet and an occasional pirate and seafaring pun.
With approximately ten to fifteen minutes between each stop and a motley crew of enthusiastic passengers embarking and disembarking at will along the marked route, the hour-long tour can be considered a destination of its own. Remember that you have an entire day to relish hop-on and hop-off privileges with Pirate Water Taxi with lots of different sights to be seen. One thing is for sure though…you can definitely leave the car keys at home.