Five ways to play with water in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Riverwalk & Bayshore Boulevard
The center of civic pride in Tampa Bay follows the Hillsborough River. The Tampa Riverwalk stretches from downtown's David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts to the Tampa Bay History Center in the Channel District. Along the way, find green spaces teeming with people happy to be outside. Find a similar scene along Bayshore Boulevard, the world's longest continuous sidewalk. Walkers, joggers, bikers and strollers take to the 4.5-mile stretch along the bay from sunup to sundown.
How's this for bragging rights: We spotted dolphins, manatees and sea birds from the deck of the NoShooz. Tampa Bay Sailing Tours makes that happen on three-hour, full-day and sunset sails. The Florida Aquarium offers popular Wild Dolphin Cruises aboard Bay Spirit II. Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises adds amoré to the itinerary, and Tampa Bay Water Taxi makes getting on the water a breeze.
Seasoned cruisers agree that the Port of Tampa is best in class. The boats here are big but not mammoth, and the easy-breezy port has many fun things to do nearby. Plan a couple of days in Tampa Bay before you hop on a Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America or Norwegian cruise. Most head to the Caribbean, but other cruises appeal to specialty audiences. Think Rock of Ages at sea.
Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the Hillsborough River. Pass through a 16,000-acre preserve inhabited by native wildlife from herons to gators. The best part: all trips head downstream, and the crew at Canoe Escape totes guests and gear back to the starting point at John B. Sargeant Park on the outskirts of Tampa Bay.
Experience the fastest-growing water sport in the world while taking in the beauty of Tampa Bay. Outfitters such as WhatSUP South Tampa Stand Up Paddleboarding and Urban Kai Paddleboards will have you up and paddling in no time. The water is cool and clear, the backdrop exhilarating and the core workout empowering. This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Visit Tampa Bay.