Exploring the outer reaches of Tampa

  1. Home
  2. Destination Guide
  3. Exploring the outer reaches of Tampa

Adventures & tours

Although less publicized, the beachside cities around Bradenton Beach and Sarasota offer fresh ways to explore the shores, sift through the coolest shops on the gulf and even step through a Venetian palace. The drive, an easy trip over the bay and onto the southern barrier islands, can be done in one long day, or broken up by overnight stays along the way.

From St. Petersburg, head south on Interstate 275 and cross the giant Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The bridge is three times longer than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, and provides amazing views. After crossing the bay and then the Braden River, head west on State Road 64 (Manatee Avenue). Keep going until you run out of road, then you arrive on the barrier islands.

Anna Maria Island is where Floridians spend their three-day weekends. Although it's only a short hop from Tampa, it feels a world away with its simple two-lane highways and hometown vibe. Stop at Ginny's and Jane E's, which is an eclectic thrift store, Internet cafe and savoury bakery, all rolled into one. The creme brulee French toast and coffee will make a rare cloudy morning feel sunny again.

Just 15 minutes south from Anna Maria Island, cross another bridge - this one leading to Cortez, one of the last working fishing villages on Florida's gulf coast. The residents, descended from 19th-century settlers, continue the traditions of old, fishing for mullet, stone crabs and grouper. Their boats appear chopped in half. The engine sits almost at the centre console, which helps them better access the shallow estuary waters.

Look for the Sea Hagg, a nautical antiques shop stuffed floor-to-rafters with ship wheels, bronzed mermaids, buoys and local and native art.