Florida's mild climate provides the perfect environment for nearly year round outdoor recreation; and, there isn't a better place to take advantage of that than Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard. Stretching 4.5 miles from Downtown Tampa southward to South Tampa's Ballast Point, it is perhaps the most scenic place to walk, jog, bike or skate... and, on most days you'll find lots of people doing all those things. It's very popular with locals.
Bayshore Boulevard skirts Hillsborough Bay with nothing more than a white balustrade between the water and sidewalk. As you head north on the divided boulevard toward Downtown Tampa, a wide beautifully landscaped median with grand historic homes lining the western land side of the boulevard gives way to a narrow median with tall condos. Although recent upgrades, including new landscaping, were made before the 2012 Republican National Convention, the pavement remained untouched and many still complain that the road needs to be resurfaced. However, visitors will still find it a worthwhile scenic drive. The beauty of the area far outweighs the few bumps along the way.
Years ago, the weigh-in site for the Tampa Tarpon Tournament was located at the north end of Bayshore Boulevard, between Downtown Tampa and Davis Islands. It was held two months during the summer and was one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. The tournament was discontinued because of the practice of killing the tarpon for the weigh-in. The only remembrance of that piece of history is a few colorful artificial fish hanging at the site, which now serves as the dock for the Jose Gaspar that is the centerpiece of the annual Gasparilla Invasion.
In late January every year, a portion of Bayshore Boulevard is taken over by pirates. Gasparilla, an annual celebration that involves a sea invasion of the City of Tampa and rowdy pirates that take to the streets for a day of parades and partying. The Gasparilla Parade has become an annual tradition, complete with beads, that rivals New Orlean's Mardi Gras.
If lunch or dinner is in your plans, there is no place better to dine than one of my favorite restaurants, The Colonade... or "the nade" as it is known locally. A Tampa landmark for more than 70 years, The Colonade has transformed itself from a hangout for local teens that cruised its parking lot after school to a classic seafood restaurant. One thing that has never changed. The view... it is spectacular.
While you're in the area, you may want to include a side trip to Tampa's tony Hyde Park Village, that features upscale shopping and dining opportunities. In addition, an interesting side trip could include Davis Island, an exclusive residential area. It is the location of Derrick Jeter's new 12.3-million dollar home encompassing more than 30,000 square feet and covering three waterfront lots.
For visitors, parking is limited. Options include:
- Ballast Point Park on Interbay Boulevard, about a quarter of a mile from the southernmost part of Bayshore Boulevard.
- Fred Ball Park, located about a block west of Bayshore Boulevard off Rubideaux St. adjacent to the Tampa Garden Club.
- Just a few short blocks short of the northernmost section of Bayshore Boulevard is the dock for the Jose Gaspar, the ship that leads the pirate invasion each year. There you will find a limited number of parking spaces.
- Also at the north end of the sidewalk, just across from the bridge that crosses the Hillsborough River into Downtown Tampa, there is a Publix Supermarket that offers a large parking lot.