Making Waves - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Making Waves

Making Waves

“When I’m out sailing, I don’t wonder what heaven is like because I know.” 

― Anthony T. Hincks 

There is something about being on a boat that can make any problem go away. Is it the wind in the hair? Sun and salt air? The thrill of racing over the waves? The beautiful coastlines and sparkling blue waters racing by? 

In Greater Tampa Bay, this is a way of life. 

The boating culture is strong and widely celebrated here. There are more registered boats in Florida than any other state in America, and GTB frequently lands on lists of the best boater communities in the country. 

Being a metropolitan area quite literally surrounding the water, there are an extraordinary number of amenities to suit every marine need and interest. There is also an abundance of waterfront real estate, with homes equipped with boat docks and lifts, sometimes even their own boat ramps. 

Between the sapphire offshore waters accessible through several ocean passes, miles of beachfront, calm intracoastal waterways, the wide-open Tampa Bay, freshwater rivers and smooth brackish backwaters and estuaries, the ability to explore the best of Florida’s marine world are limitless. 

Have yet to take the plunge and buy a boat or jet ski? Visit the largest boat show on the Gulf Coast, the St. Petersburg Power and Sailboat Show. Or, a myriad of rentals and charters in GTB rent out a vessels of all types and sizes hassle-free. Some, like Freedom Boat Club, offer memberships with a variety of vessels available for unlimited use — no maintenance or cleanup required. 

Stock up the cooler with some cold ones — just not for the captain — and find a spot on the popular Beer Can Island or Egmont Key to beach the boat. Sneak the Gheenoe or flats boat back into those coveted secret spots in the mangroves and cast a line at the snook, redfish or trout that will be perfect for the frying pan. Make some like-minded friends at one of the many anglers, boating or yacht clubs around the bay. Fire up those two- and three-engine center consoles and take off for a day of offshore fishing. Party on the pontoon, take the kids tubing or simply sit back on a sunset sailboat cruise. 

No matter the interest, GTB has the boat, the weather and the water for it. Whether taking off from a modest Jon boat or a luxury yacht, or anything in between, all boaters have one thing in common, aside from empty wallets: An insatiable love of pushing off from land, leaving all their troubles at the dock and setting sail for the big blue sea. 

Tie a line and dine 

No matter the reason — no one remembered to pack a lunch for the boat day, the sandwiches turned into a soggy mess in the cooler, or simply looking for a place to stop on a sunset cruise — these boat-accessible restaurants will turn that laid-back boat ride into a unique foodie experience. 

Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro — St. Petersburg 

Just hold up any one of those picture-perfect cocktails like the Dragonberry Bliss or Honeybee martinis, Cucumber Fizz or Spicy Jalapeno margarita, cheers to life on the water, the good drinks, good eats and killer views. 

The transient boat slips at the adjacent St. Pete Pier are now open and supplement the slips that are available onsite at Fresco’s. 

The Island Grille — St. Petersburg 

This joint is known as one of the best places to get oysters in St. Pete while listening to live music and it even has a pool.

For boaters coming or going through the mouth of the bay, this restaurant in the Tierra Verde area of St. Petersburg is a convenient stop along the way. Ease up to the accessible dockside and come on in. 

Hula Bay Club — Tampa 

Diners will not be able to “lei” off the food, with island cuisine such as conch fritters, locally caught fish, ceviche, sushi rolls and other entrees adorned with tropical flowers. Wash it all down with fruity beverages like the cucumber-blueberry gimlet, Mahi mule or Duke daiquiri. 

Boaters can tie off at the ample dock space and keep an eye on their vessels from the dining deck above. 

See Also

Tiki Docks Skyway Bar + Grill — St. Petersburg 

Visitors to Tiki Docks will feel like they are on a tropical island paradise, with tiki huts and cocktails providing relief from the Florida sun.

As for the food — make room for bloody Mary’s that are a meal in themselves, along with an assortment of tacos, sandwiches and more. 

Boaters can pull up alongside the sea wall and tie off right in front of the tiki area. 

Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill— Tampa’s Westshore District, Port Richey 

Vessels can pull directly onto the beachfront area and enjoy beach volleyball, cornhole and an outdoor tiki bar on a wide stretch of sand.

Patrons can dine on fresh grouper, shrimp and a wide range of entrees and cocktails with panoramic sunset views over Tampa Bay. 

Captains, be sure to nab a spot well before the peak lunch hour on those hot summer weekends — this beach usually fills up fast. 

River’s Edge Bar and Grill — Gibsonton 

River’s Edge takes laid-back and casual to a new level, with boaters able to enjoy a meal without leaving their vessels. Call ahead of time and wait staff will deliver food right out to the docks. 

By Jewell Tomazin.

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