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Rent a Boat in TampaWith its close proximity and easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s no surprise that Tampa is a top boating hot spot along Florida's west coast. At 400-square miles in size, Tampa Bay is the state’s largest natural harbor and shallow estuary, making it an ideal home for marine life like bottlenose dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Events like the annual Tampa Boat Show and the legendary Gasparilla Festival draw millions of locals and tourists alike to the area’s waterways.What To KnowWhen planning to hit the water in Tampa, consider these popular boat rental styles:
Pontoon boats act as the ultimate party pad for both families, couples, and larger groups of friends, allowing for plenty of space to spread out onboard and easy anchoring at sand bars and islands, including Beer Can Island.
Deck boats, jet boats, and bowriders will provide a sport-centric ride, perfect for wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, and even wake surfing. These boats are great for navigating the inland bays and rivers.
Center console fishing boats of all sizes will give boaters and anglers a smoother ride heading out into the Gulf of Mexico. Those interested in sport fishing for mahi-mahi or tarpon should plan for a longer cruise offshore into the open waters of the Gulf—where convertible boats will provide the best option.
Tampa is also a destination primed for exploration on personal watercrafts (PWCs). Island hop on your own, or opt for a guided tour around Tampa Bay.Safety Requirements:
Boating License/Education Rules: All Florida residents born after January 1, 1988 who operate vessels with 10-horsepower or more must carry a Florida Boating Safety Education identification card. You must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (PWC).
Life Jacket Requirements: Children ages 6 and under must wear a PFD.
Learn more in this Tampa Bay Boating Guide.Weather ConditionsLike most of Florida, Tampa offers an enjoyable climate that’s perfect for boating during all 12-months of the year. Tampa is known for its hot season, which lasts five months from May to early October, and its wet season, running almost in parallel with the region’s hurricane season—from June through the end of November. Avg. Temperature High: Peaks around 94°F in July and AugustAvg. Temperature Low: Around 53-58°F during winter months, from December through MarchAvg. Water Temperatures in and around Tampa:
73°F in the Spring (March, April, May)
86°F in the Summer (June, July, August)
77°F in Fall (September, October, November)
65°F in Winter (December, January, February)
Things to do in Tampa by Boat
Fishing in the Gulf of MexicoThe Gulf of Mexico is an angler's paradise, offering a slow drop-off to deeper water, which often requires a longer boat ride offshore if your ultimate goal is a reel in bigger game fish like grouper, snapper, tuna, mahi-mahi, or wahoo. Book your fishing charters or fishing boat rentals for June or July if you’re interested in fishing the Gulf during peak season. Planning a larger group outing with six or more friends or family will help to split up the costs of the trip, including fuel expenses, which will add up as you travel further distances offshore.Pro Tip: Keep in mind that different fishing tactics will attract different species (your charter captain can help with this). For example, you’ll want to try a mix of trolling, chumming, and bait fishing.
Seasonality: The best time to catch fish in the Gulf depends on what you’re targeting. King mackerel are active in the spring and fall, while grouper and snapper are abundant regardless of the season.
Boat selection: Center console boats, sportfishing/convertible boats, bay boats
Explore Downtown Tampa Riverwalk Tampa’s Riverwalk stretches over 2.5 miles through downtown along the Hillsborough River and is a bustling waterfront scene complete with cultural and historic attractions, nightlife, and enticing local restaurants. Tie up your boat rental at one of the two floating public floating docks on the Seddon Channel near the Tampa Convention Center, which will put you right in the center of the action. Stop for a bite at The Sail, a dog-friendly dockside restaurant along the riverwalk, or take the kiddos to the Florida Aquarium.Pro Tip: Boaters won’t want to miss the annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, taking place in mid-December, which cruises from the southern tip of the Davis Islands, down the Hillsborough River along the riverwalk, and finishes at the Heights.
Closest marinas to Downtown: Tampa Convention Center Marina, Marjorie Park Marina, and The Pointe Marina at Harbour Island
Lat/Long: 27.9447° N, 82.4588° W
Island-Hopping around Tampa BayShell Key, Beer Can Island (Pine Key), Egmont Key, Three Rooker Island, Davis Island Dog Park… If you haven’t caught on just yet, there are plenty of unique small islands and keys to explore scattered throughout the Tampa-area waterways. Whether you’re planning a boat day with the kids or a big outing with the girls (or guys), inquire with your boat’s owner about the best activities to do at each of these locations. If you’re booking a captained rental, plan your itinerary so you get a taste of all these areas, and coordinate with friends on another boat rental to plan a meet up and raft-up.Pro Tip: If you’re interested in nature and a secluded experience that will take you off the beaten path, plan to visit Shell Key Preserve, a 1,828-acre barrier island that lies in the mouth of Tampa Bay.
Getting to Shell Key: Shell Key is only accessible by private boat, so it’s easy to coordinate with your boat’s owner if you would like to make a visit. The closest marina, located just north, is the Tierra Verde Marina. Without access to a boat, the general public relies on the Shell Key Ferry.
Lat/Long: 27.6587° N, 82.7401° W
Where to go Boating in Tampa
Tampa Bay & Old Tampa BayIf you want to be in the heart of the action, Tampa Bay and Old Tampa Bay is the place to be. Because of its sheer size, it’s impossible to take in all that the bay has to offer in just one day. Even local Tampa boaters are always discovering new sandbars, beaches and areas of the bay to explore; regardless of how long they’ve lived there or how familiar they are with the waterways. Old Tampa Bay is located in the northwest region of Tampa Bay, separated from Hillsborough Bay by the peninsula, and can be scene via the Howard Frankland Bridge or Gandy Bridge.
Moorage: If boating in Old Tampa Bay, popular marinas include Tampa Bayside Marina, Cove Cay Marina, or Safety Harbor City Marina. Marinas in the southern part of Tampa Bay include St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, Shell Point Marina, and O’Neill’s Marina.
Wake zone: Yes - also keep an eye out for navigational buoys directing marine traffic.
Pro Tips: There are over 200 different species of fish found in Tampa Bay and Old Tampa Bay—pair this with a plethora of shipwrecks, artificial reefs, rock and ledge structures, and this body of water provides even brand new anglers with plenty of opportunities to reel in their first catch.
Seasonality: Tampa’s rainy season runs from July through early September, while the driest month is November. Boaters can hit the water anytime throughout the year thanks to its subtropical climate.
Beer Can Island (Pine Key)Beer Can Island—listed on the map as Pine Key— also goes by the fond local nickname of “Tiki Bay.” Without a doubt one of the best places to beach your boat, raft up, and have a boat party in Tampa Bay, Beer Can Island is only accessible by boat and located just north of Apollo Beach close to the Big Bend Channel. This island is now privately owned with various membership options, which are required in order to purchase food or drink while on the island; however, anyone is welcome to visit without a membership.
Nearby Marinas & Launches: The island is 2-miles offshore and within a short cruising distance from Williams Park, Apollo Beach Marina, and Davis Island.
Wake zone: Yes - also keep an eye out for navigational buoys and channel markers to the north of the island.
Pro Tips: Camping is allowed on Beer Can Island with a reservation and only available to certain membership levels. This location is both family and dog-friendly (inquire with your boat’s owner to see if they allow dogs onboard), and is available for booking private events.
Hours: Beer Can Island is open seven days a week between March and November, from 11am to sunset, and is only open on weekends between December through February, from 11am to sunset.
Egmont Key Only accessible by boat, Egmont Key is best known to the general public as a state park and national wildlife refuge. For boaters, this location is cherished as an exclusive escape from the hustle and bustle of the downtown bay area, located less than an hour away by boat. Making up 250 acres, on-land adventures that will interest families include looking for seashells along the beach, hiking the nature trails, and visiting Fort Dade, the lighthouse and gun batteries. Back on the water, anglers should check out designated fishing areas where there’s any opportunity to hook seat trout, tarpon, snook, grouper, and flounder.
Moorage: Boaters can beach their boat along the shore, or anchor just off the beach. Anna Maria is located just south of Egmont Key, while the Shell Key Preserve and Fort De Soto Park is just north.
Wake zone: Yes - also be aware of the Egmont Key Ferry routes.
Pro Tips: Families with children who decide to hike in and around the 6-mile paths surrounding Fort Dade should look for gopher tortoises and box turtles. Remember that pets are not permitted in the park.
Hours: Egmont Key State Park is open 365 days a year from 8am to sunset while on land; but the surrounding waterways are open for boating 24/7.
Tampa Bay, Old Tampa Bay, Hillsborough Bay, and the Hillsborough River are all lined with local favorites to satisfy any cravings after a fun day on the water. From tiki bars and beach bars, to upscale, fine-dining establishments with romantic sunset views, Tampa's dock-and-dine scene offers something for everyone.Whiskey Joe's Bar & Grill