Water. Who doesn't love a view of the water, the smell of salt air, the gentle lull of the lapping Gulf on a calm day, or the sound of crashing waves? All these sensory experiences make you feel calm, at peace, and content. Here in Tampa Bay we are lucky to be surrounded by waterways. We have the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and the Intracoastal. But with all those bodies of water, did you know it's pretty of rare to be able to drive and enjoy a wide expanse of it? Now, of course we have the three bridges between Pinellas and Hillsborough, as well as the Skyway, but it's not always convenient to jump on the Howard Frankland, for example, and take a ride into Tampa just for the heck of it. So where can you go if you want to take a relaxing ride that offers serene water views and no traffic?
Funny you should ask! As we enter our fifth week of staying safer at home because of the coronavirus, one thing Adam and I have been doing to pass the time while safely social distancing is taking scenic drives. In fact, we've even started taking short videos of these drives, and we're posting them on our YouTube channel in their own special playlist. Here are three to get you started.
Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa is a beautiful stretch of road that offers views of Hillsborough Bay on one side and stately historic homes (some might even say mansions) on the other. In the center median, you'll see flower beds and lots of palm trees. If you want to get out of the car, there are sidewalks on either side, and the one along the water is wide enough to accommodate walkers, runners, and bikers. In fact, there are some who (falsely) say it's the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, but at 4.5 miles it is the longest in the country. There are exercise stations, bicycle racks, benches, and fountains. What there is NOT a lot of is shade, so make sure you're prepared with hats and sunscreen, or avoid the rays altogether and take a moonlit walk at night. If you're driving, make sure you obey the speed limit and be prepared to stop for pedestrians crossing.
Another drive we love takes us down Gulf Blvd. in Sand Key. There are tiny glimpses of water here and there, but there's something majestic about the high-rise condos that stand sentinel on the Gulf side of the street. Like Bayshore Blvd., there's a center median lined with palm trees and lots of people, many with their dogs, making use of the sidewalk. Continue over the Sand Key bridge and enjoy the view from the top. Be happy you're in your car as people running, walking, and biking huff and puff their way to the top. Once you descend, you'll arrive in Clearwater Beach, a feast for the eyes with retro mom-and-pop hotels alongside their newer, grander, and more palatial counterparts. Between them all, you'll be able to enjoy the postcard scenery of flour-like sand, blue skies, and turquoise waters.
The final drive takes you to the Narrows of Indian Shores and Indian Rocks Beach, a stretch of water that's about .8 miles between Caddy's Pub and Villa Gallace. You can obviously walk this route, and you can do so safely thanks to the bike and pedestrian lanes on either side. There's a chair swing at one end where you can sit and gaze at the mansions on the other side of the Intracoastal. Watch the boats, paddleboarders, and kayakers drift by. Make sure you keep an eye out for dolphin and manatee, and be sure to read the little plaque that tells you you're sitting at the site of the old railroad sour that once brought the rich city folk from Tampa to the Gulf Beaches.
We’ve got more videos coming up in the future, but in the meantime, if you have a favorite drive you like to take in Tampa Bay, let us know so we can add it to our list.