Hillsborough River, Alafia River, Little Manatee River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Hillsborough County'sonly sandy beach is on Egmont Key and can be reached only by boat. Nearby counties, however, have excellent beaches. Inland parks offer calmer waters for small children and canoeing/kayaking. This fourth most populated county in the state is dominated by the city of Tampa with its wide array of recreational and cultural attractions including Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and Busch Gardens Theme Park and professional sports teams.
The Hillsborough coast looks over Tampa Bay, an estuary of national significance. Its 400 square miles are fed by the Hillsborough, Little Manatee and Alafia rivers and more than a 100 small tributaries. More than 200 species of fish, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, oysters, scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, brown pelicans, heron and egret, roseate spoonbills, cormorants and laughing gulls inhabit the bay's seagrass beds, mud flats and mangrove wetlands. A 43-foot deepwater shipping channel is at the bay's entrance, while 17 Blueway Trails edge its perimeter.
The Alafia River flows to Tampa Bay from Alafia River State Park through Alafia River Corridor conservation lands with miles of equestrian and hiking trails, camping, horse-drawn buggies, hunting and fishing. Facilities are in Alderman's Ford Park. Alafia River State Parkhas 17 miles of challenging off-road bicycling trails, an abundance of wildlife, scattered lakes, canoeing and fishing, picnic pavilions, playground, horseshoe pit, volleyball court and RV, equestrian-friendly and primitive campgrounds.
Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve on Tampa Bay, the only aquatic preserve in Florida that is not state-owned, is owned by the Hillsborough Port Authority. It has 4,900 acres of submerged seagrass beds, hardbottom, oyster reefs, and two paddling trails winding through a maze of mangrove islands, nursery areas for snook, red drum and other game fish.
Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge/State Park, accessible only by private boat, is an island at the mouth of Tampa Bay six miles west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Primarily a wildlife refuge, it has no facilities, so bring supplies. Popular activities include snorkeling and exploring trails and historic sites such as 1858 Egmont Key Lighthouse and 1898 Fort Dade.
The swift (Class II Rapids) Hillsborough River flows 60 miles through the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, which supplies water to the Tampa Bay area past wading birds, turtles, alligators, lilies and cypress swamps, and through Hillsborough River State Park. Originally a Civilian Conservation Corps park, it now offers fishing; canoe/kayak rentals and launch; nature trails; ADA accessible swimming pool; full-facility, youth/group tent and primitive camps; a concession that provides breakfast, lunch, camping and picnic supplies; four-wheel Surrey bikes; and tours of Fort Foster, the only standing replica of a Second Seminole War fort.
Ybor City Museum State Park, part of a National Historic Landmark District in the urban setting of Tampa, traces the history of multi-cultural Ybor City and its cigar-making industry, which helped build the city of Tampa. Guided tours are available.
June 12, 2018 - 11:01am
Interested in subscribing to DEP newsletters or receiving DEP updates through email?
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.