Hidden Treasures of Tampa

Great Places to Visit in Tampa

Written by:  Amerigo Caffo

Edited by:  Carly Richwagen

          The thought of exploring a place in which you have lived your entire life (or at least the majority of your life) may seem unusual, but there is always something new to discover. Whether you stumble upon a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant or a vintage boutique on the opposite side of town, there is something about roaming aimlessly on a sunny day which reaps the best rewards.

            Today, I took it upon myself to explore my hometown of Tampa, Florida. When other obligations become priorities in our lives, it can make it difficult to find the energy for any sort of exploration. Finding new places and activities that you enjoy within your place of residence is not only fun, but it undoubtedly improves your quality of life. It adds depth to how you perceive your life where you live, and that can only benefit you overall in the long run. The places I found today have revived my love for Tampa and have essentially confirmed that I will always find my way back here.

       There was no set agenda for this adventure other than I had to be close to water, as nothing will ever beat a waterfront view. The only intent I came with was to find a place to relax and reflect on life’s experiences in peace. Therefore, logic told me to head south to be closer to the bay. Yet, I wanted to exclusively explore Tampa. Some of the best beaches in the nation are across the causeway from Tampa, but naturally that makes people forget about these hidden treasures that are unique to Tampa:

1.) Seaplane Basin Park

Seaplane Basin Park on Davis Islands

Seaplane Basin Park on Davis Islands

       Being mainly a residential area, Davis Islands does not boast a lot of public access to the water. However, if you head all the way south of the island on Davis Boulevard, you will eventually run into Seaplane Basin Park. This small, very quiet park borders the Peter O’Knight Airport on the island, and there is even a view of the high rises in Downtown Tampa from the park. Upon arrival, I immediately got out of the car and headed towards the water. The first thing you will notice is the Davis Island Yacht Club facing you from the parking lot.

       The most striking moment was realizing that it was so quiet, you could even hear your own heartbeat. Despite the few people having a picnic in the park, it was the epitome of serenity. I even received a phone call during my visit and it felt completely wrong to answer it. I wanted to soak in every bit of this calm experience before heading back towards downtown, and therefore I ignored all calls and texts until I got back in the car. 

       After my initial lap around the park, I knew immediately that I would return the following day with a good book, iced tea, and a clear mind. I keep asking myself how I never found or heard of this place before, but I assume people have kept it a secret so that it remains quiet for everyone. Davis Islands, being between Downtown Tampa and South Tampa, is central for people who live in the area. Seaplane Basin Park is located at 864 Severn Avenue and has the best views at sunset. Make sure to take a water bottle and a blanket if you plan to sit in the park, as there are no services that provide these items.

 

2.)   Ballast Point Park and Pier

       Leaving the island and moving down Bayshore Boulevard, I eventually found myself at the intersection of Bayshore and Interbay. I took a left on Interbay Boulevard, and that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Ballast Point Park, though I have heard of it, is not commonly visited by people who do not live in South Tampa. Therefore, I hope by sharing my experience that more people will visit this beautiful park.

       Located adjacent to the Tampa Bay Yacht Club, this park was filled with numerous families, teenagers, and children of all ages. It certainly was busier than Seaplane, but I can understand why. The views of Downtown Tampa from the park were astounding.

       I had to pry myself away from this view just to experience what else the park and pier had to offer. There were playgrounds, countless chairs and benches, and even a restaurant. A man nearby was putting his heart and soul into playing a guitar. People were fishing off the pier and smiles were visible from every face. The culture of this park was so different from any park I had ever visited in Tampa. Time moved slower, and it felt as if I had distanced myself (both literally and metaphorically) from the busy life up the street. 

       Ballast Point Park is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm every day. It is located at 5300 Interbay Blvd, Tampa, Fl 33611

 

3.)   Picnic Island Park

       Heading back down Interbay Boulevard, which crossed both MacDill Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway South, I found myself at the intersection of Interbay and Westshore Boulevard. I took a left onto Commerce Street because my intuition told me to keep going south. I saw a sign that read “Picnic Island Park” in bold red letters, and I decided to follow it. This was the first thing that I saw:

 

       I did not know where I was or what this was, but being adventurous means following your gut—and my gut told me to keep going. I eventually found the main sign which read “Picnic Island Park” on a large marquee.

Picnic Island Park

Picnic Island Park

       The road leading into the park is surrounded by grassy land and trees, which gives a very secluded feel to it. The park itself is much smaller and only five people were there when I arrived, but it was still beautiful. There is an inclined roadway which leads into the water so that you can latch your boat to the back of your car, which makes this park a convenient location to unload your boat and take it across the bay to St. Petersburg.

       Looking around, you can find a view of St. Petersburg from Picnic Island Park. A small pier allows for some great fishing without it being too crowded, as some people were doing when I arrived. A gate leads you to a short stretch of sand and beach, where most people take their dogs and other pets to play. A couple was running down the beach with their dogs, simultaneously soaking in the view of water while giving the dogs their exercise. As small and quiet as it was, Picnic Island Park is yet another great place to unwind after a long day of tending to all responsibilities. 

       Picnic Island Park is located at 7409 Picnic Island Blvd. Because it is so isolated, I would recommend going with a friend during daylight hours. At the same time, it is a wonderful place to go with friends and family for some quality bonding time (Even some new spots to play Cornholeonwater).

 

       If you are ever in the Tampa Bay area, I strongly recommend checking out these parks. These three hidden treasures of Tampa Bay have been here for quite some time, yet I have never experienced them until recently. I say this because I encourage every one of you reading this to go out and explore the treasures that your place of residence has to offer. Whether you might think that where you live is boring or limited, your perspective may indeed change if you put forth your best attitude and venture out into unknown territory. Now go out and have some fun!