Tampa Water Activities

Tampa Water Activities

Written by Boatsetter Team
November 24, 2021

Last Updated on March 12, 2024 by Boatsetter Team

The vast expanse of Tampa Bay and its connecting bays and rivers offers boaters a fantastic area to play in and explore. So, what water activities do you like? Fishing? Or maybe water skiing? Or, how about sailing?

For those interested in more leisurely pursuits, there are many shoreside locations accessible by water. In addition, shopping, dining, and other shoreside activities are accessible from Tampa’s waters by boat rental.

Whatever water activities you want to participate in, you will find them here. Tampa offers rivers, bays, lakes, and exciting destinations that can only be reached by boat.

Best places to see by boat

It isn’t easy to name the best place in Tampa to see by boat, but a cruise past the Riverwalk is to explore this area of Tampa. However, there are places to visit by boat that best suit what you want to do.

Boating to Shell Key Preserve

North of Fort Desoto Park and north of Tampa Bay on the Gulf side is Shell Key Preserve. Many of Florida’s sugar-sand beaches have shells; however, Shell Key Preservethey have shells you won’t find on just any beach. Instead, the 195-acre barrier island has pristine white sugar sand beaches and abundant shells deposited by the Gulf waves on its shores.

bird watching shell key

Wildlife in this 1850-acre preserve is abundant, including marine life, birds, crabs, and other creatures. Shell Preserve Key is a designated area for nesting birds and bird watchers, and nature lovers will find it to be a haven for themselves, as well. There are few areas in the Tampa Bay area where you can enjoy such privacy in such a beautiful location. Camping is allowed here, by permit. However, there are no facilities here, and camping is primitive.

There is no dockage here, so you will need to beach your boat or anchor out and wade in. Whichever you do, be mindful of the tide, or you could be stranded for longer than the four-hour cruise you have booked.

Egmont Key National Park

Sporting one of Florida’s 30 lighthouses, Egmont Key sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay, on the Gulf side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. A small island, Egmont Key, has had a significant role in developing the Bay. It is almost two miles long and a quarter of a mile in width and it covers a large swath of the entrance to Tampa Bay.

egmont key tampa boat rentals

The lighthouse here was constructed in 1848 to aid shipping, and it has stood sentinel over the mouth of Tampa Bay for 183 years. The current lighthouse is the third built on Egmont Key in 1958, and it and the lighthouse keepers’ house remain on the island today.

Fort Dade was constructed on the island in 1898, fifty years after the lighthouse, to deter pirates, and marauders and remnants of it stand today. The United States Park Service manages Egmont Key. It is open to the public all year long, so a boat trip to Egmont Key is worth the time if looking for water activities in Tampa.

Passage Key 

Lying at the southern end of Egmont Key is Passage Kay, which was nothing more than a sandbar that came and went with the tide for many years. Over the years, the buildup of sand in this location has created an island with minimal foliage and a small population of birds that call it home.

This tiny islet is a favorite haunt of locals and out-of-towners alike. It is an excellent place for swimming, sunbathing, and wearing clothing is optional. As with Shell Key Preserve, there is no dockage or moorings here, so you will need to anchor out, wade in, or beach your boat.

Pine Key Tampa Bay

Pine Key Tampa Bay

One of the more exciting keys to visit in the Tampa area Pine Key -Tampa Bay is a private island, open to the public when the weather permits. Not far from the shores of Apollo Beach, the 2200 members of this island getaway welcome boaters to the Tike Bar of their private club.

The sandy white beaches rim the inner-forested area, a small nine acres in size, and the Tiki Bar sits near the water. Pine Key Tampa Bay is worth a visit as you enjoy water activities in Tampa.


Gasparilla Events

Every January and February, the Gasparilla events take place on the shores of Tampa Bay, and the pirates sail in and conquer the city for a few weeks. These events are excellent shoreside. However, they are even better on a boat. The Gasparilla boat parade was canceled for 2021. 

However, planners have an active 2022 Gasparilla season planned.

Whether you come for the boat parade or the many activities during these weeks of waterside events, they are best enjoyed with a boat rental from Boatsetter. With a boat, you can then choose to participate in the parade or be a spectator. Either way, you should have the time of your life.


Tampa Riverwalk

Tampa Riverwalk

In the heart of the city, yet on the Bay, the Tampa Riverwalk is a must-see if you are boating in the area. Or, it can be a destination that offers concerts, shopping, and world-class dining. So, beat the crowds and go by boat. Dockage is available for a few hours, or several days, at the Tampa Convention Center Marina.

The Tampa Riverwalk is home to the Florida Aquarium, the Curtis Hixson Park, the Straz Center of the Performing Arts, the American Victory Ship, and the Amalie Arena. So, whether you seek cultural events, or a day in the park, taking your boat to the River Walk will give you many opportunities to participate in many activities, on the water and off.

Is it safe to swim in Tampa waters?

Yes, in many areas. However, you need to be aware of local notices of high bacteria levels at local beaches, as well as outbreaks of red tide. These incidents are more common during the hot days of summer. However, when Florida winters remain warm, these incidents can occur during the winter months.

Aside from high bacteria levels, it would help if you looked out for the local inhabitants of Tampa Bay, as some of them are friendly. In contrast, others can be cranky and even dangerous. In addition, there are stingrays and horseshoe crabs, which are both harmless unless you step on them. So, watch where you put your feet when wading.

Are there crocodiles in Tampa Bay?

The waters around Tampa do have alligators and snakes that are scary big. Although crocodiles can cohabitate in these waters with alligators, sightings of them are rare. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warned swimmers and boaters that crocodiles could be more prevalent in Tampa waters than they have in the past.

You are more likely to see crocodiles further south than in the Tampa Bay waters. Keep an eye out for creatures with a V-shaped snout, which is an easy way to distinguish an alligator from a crocodile. Alligators have a more blunted, squared-off, more blunt-looking nose. Either way, give them plenty of room to see whether you can identify them or not.

Get Active on the water in Tampa.

Seeing Tampa by boat is much more pleasurable than fighting the traffic to get from destination to destination. A boat rental from Boatsetter will allow you to participate in water activities in Tampa. If you want to fish, rent a bass boat, an offshore fishing boat with or without a captain and catch the big one, they have the boat you need.

At Boatsetter, you will find bass boats, ski boats, wakeboards, fishing boats, houseboats, sailboats, and yachts awaiting you and your crew. With the most extensive private fleet globally, the boat owners at Boatsetter have the boat you need for your water activities in Tampa.


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