14 Best Places to Paddle Boarding Tampa Bay, Florida

14 Best Places to Paddle Boarding Tampa Bay, Florida

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Tampa is a bustling city on Florida's west coast with lots of aquatic activities, a dynamic art scene, and a laid-back atmosphere. The pleasant weather in the city is suitable for outdoor activities, including paddle boarding Tampa. Visitors can also discover the picturesque waterways and observe wildlife while paddling. Our article will give you a list of places to enjoy the sport and beautiful sunshine in Tampa. Scroll down for more details right now!

14 Best Places to Paddle Boarding Tampa

Below is a list of places for paddle boarders to explore. Grab your gear and start your excursion right now!

1. Fort De Soto Park (Shell Key Preserve)

Fort De Soto Park is located in Pinellas County, Florida. Its Shell Key Preserve is a pristine island accessible only by water. The park's amazing natural beauty will enhance your paddle boarding Tampa experience.

Fort De Soto Park (Shell Key Preserve)

Image source: PICRYL

The place usually gets more crowded on weekends. Overnight primitive camping is allowed, and the permit costs $6 per day for groups of up to six people. However, the boat ramp fee is not included. If you don't have a boat, transportation can be arranged via the Shell Key Ferry.

  • Type of Water: The water is generally calm but can sometimes be choppy due to boat traffic and weather conditions.
  • Skills: Beginners can enjoy the water conditions here, but it's better to have intermediate or expert skills to conquer the currents and more open water areas.
  • Paddling Styles: The park suits leisure and adventurous padding styles. Fishing from your board is allowed if you have a fishing license from Fort De Soto Park management.
  • How to Get There: You can head to the destination by car through the Pinellas Bayway (State Road 682). The park has various launching points to start your paddle boarding Tampa excursion.
  • How Long to Get There: It depends on your location. If you start from St. Petersburg, it will take around 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Best time to Visit: Paddling in the early morning or late afternoon is the best. The sun is not strong, and the weather is quite calm. Avoid weekends and holidays if you want to escape from the crowds.

2. Weedon Island Preserve

Weedon Island Preserve offers a 4-mile paddling trail with 3,190 acres of natural area. It features seagrass beds and mangroves, which support a diverse range of native species and a healthy ecology.

Weedon Island Preserve

Image source: Rawpixel

The trail offers unique and exciting paddle boarding Tampa experiences. Check the water quality and tide times to get the most out of your trip. The park also has boardwalks and pathways for non-paddle boarders to enjoy.

  • Type of Water: The water in the sheltered areas is calm and suitable for paddle boarding. However, you may experience tidal currents in channels and around mangrove islands.
  • Skills: All skill levels
  • Paddling Styles: Recreational paddling, fitness paddling (such as yoga) and sightseeing
  • How to Get There: The park is not far from St Petersburg, so it's convenient to take a car or bike to visit.
  • How Long to Get There: It only takes 15 minutes to get there from St Petersburg, FL.
  • Best time to Visit: Early morning or late afternoon.

3. Little Manatee River

Little Manatee River, also known as "Outstanding Florida Water," is ideal for enthusiasts to paddle board Tampa. It travels 40 miles from Fort Lonesome, Florida, to Tampa Bay, with a 10-mile paddling trail close to Ruskin.

Little Manatee River

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Upstream is narrower, with the forest scenery along two sides: oak, cedar, sand palm, willow, and cypress. Downstream is wider and more popular for motorboats.

  • Type of Water: Generally calm
  • Skills: All skill levels. The Paddling Trail - US 301 to 24th St. Launch is wider and less complicated, designated for beginners. The river north of 301 is more technical and suitable for experts only.
  • Paddling Styles: The paddling trail is mostly suitable for leisure-style combined sightseeing.
  • How to Get There: Take I-75 to Lightfoot Road and follow it to the State Park.
  • How Long to Get There: Traveling from Tampa or St. Petersburg to the river takes around 45 minutes.
  • Best time to Visit: The Little Manatee River is ideal for paddle boarding during the cooler months of late fall to early spring (November to April) due to mild weather, less humidity, stable water levels, and fewer insects compared to the hot and rainy summer months.

4. Hillsborough River

The Hillsborough River is a popular water sports destination. It spans 54 miles from Green Swamp to Hillsborough Bay in downtown Tampa and features a 30-mile paddling trail from Hillsborough River State Park to Rowlett Park.

Hillsborough River

Image source: Pexels

The middle section of the river is the most popular, attracting many water sports enthusiasts. Several convenient launch points and recreational areas are along the river ideal for family outings.

  • Type of Water: Gentle and calm
  • Skills: The river is suitable for all skill levels. Still, the strong currents occur sometimes after heavy rain require expert skills. It's better to check the weather before you plan to come here.
  • Paddling Styles: You can combine paddle boarding with fitness paddling, fishing, and scenic exploration.
  • How to Get There: Various accessible points along the river's courses, such as Riverfront Park or Lowry Park Boat Ramp, are available.
  • How Long to Get There: Travel time varies depending on your starting point and traffic conditions. If you're from Tampa, it will take 15 to 30 minutes by car.
  • Best time to Visit: Visiting the river in cooler months is best.

5. Rainbow River

It would be a mistake to talk about paddle boarding in Tampa but not mention Rainbow River. The place offers a breathtaking experience worth the drive from the Tampa area.

Paddlers will be amazed by the stunning vista of river grasses dancing with the current and sandbars, producing dazzling turquoise flecks that may be seen along the river. You'll feel comfortable while paddling as the temperature is around 72ºF.

  • Type of Water: It's a spring-fed river with clarity, vibrant hues, and gentle current.
  • Skills: Paddle boarders with basic skills can enjoy the river. However, sometimes, you may need better navigation techniques to avoid rocks and trees.
  • Paddling Styles: Leisure and relaxing style
  • How to Get There: The river can be accessed from Rainbow Springs State Park or K.P. Hole.
  • How Long to Get There: It takes 1.5 to 2 hours to travel from the center of Florida by car.
  • Best time to Visit: Spring or fall is ideal for pleasantly enjoying your excursion, as the temperatures are milder and the weather is cooler.

6. Alafia River

A 10-mile stretch of the Alafia River paddling trail features sporadic shoals and mild rapids suitable for adventurous expert paddlers. The trail, named after James Alderman, starts at Alderman's Ford Regional Park and is a popular place for picnics.

Alafia River

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The park facilitates a nature center, campsites, and paddle board rentals in Tampa. The launching point is a little far, so you might want to bring wheels. Paddlers are not permitted to enter the spring area at Lithia Springs County Park, where the trail ends.

  • Type of Water: You may encounter freshwater and brackish river sections. The water type varies from calm to quite choppy, depending on weather conditions and tidal time.
  • Skills: It is unsuitable for beginners due to high water and strong currents.
  • Paddling Styles: The river is suitable for adventure paddling. Paddle boarders can also combine the activity with fishing and scenic exploration.
  • How to Get There: Accessible points include Alafia River State Park and Alafia River Canoe Launch.
  • How Long to Get There: It takes 30 to 45 minutes to drive from the center of Florida.
  • Best time to Visit: Visiting the park during the cooler parts of the day will help you avoid the heat pressure.

7. Lettuce Lake Park

Lettuce Lake Park, with its 240-acre water space and mangrove jungles, is a popular destination for paddle boarding in Tampa. The admission fee is $2, and rental services are available.

Lettuce Lake Park

Image source: Pexels

The park features a 350-foot boardwalk with various potential launch points. Paddle boarders may even witness wildlife such as alligators and snapper turtles.

  • Type of Water: Relatively calm
  • Skills: The park is catered to all skill levels.
  • Paddling Styles: You can combine fitness, relaxation, and exploration while paddling.
  • How to Get There: Interstate 75 or Interstate 275 are popular routes to get to the park.
  • How Long to Get There: The place is not far from central Tampa, and it takes only 20 to 30 minutes to travel by car.
  • Best time to Visit: Early morning and late afternoon are ideal times for paddlers to enjoy the activity and admire the beautiful sunrise and sunset.

8. Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island is located 15 minutes from Clearwater. This breathtaking State Park features white sand beaches and turquoise waters, making it ideal for paddle boarding Tampa.

Caladesi Island State Park

Image source: Rawpixel

It features small waves that are ideal for novices and a relaxing paddling style. You may also encounter bigger waves along the coast to test your skills.

  • Type of Water: Generally clear and calm
  • Skills: All skill levels are suitable, depending on the location and water conditions.
  • Paddling Styles: You can leisurely paddle or try a more thrilling style with mangroves and coastal exploration.
  • How to Get There: The park is only accessible by boat, so that you can take a ferry or canoe from Honeymoon Island State Park.
  • How Long to Get There: If you paddle from Honeymoon Island State Park, you may reach the park after 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Best time to Visit: Visitors should come in the afternoon to witness the stunning sunset on the Gulf side.

9. Fred Howard Park

SUP enthusiasts should visit Fred Howard Park for an extraordinary paddle boarding Tampa experience. Its stunning blue gulf seas and white, sandy beaches will attract all visitors.

With its Caribbean vibe off the coast, the park is the ideal place to view sunsets, swim in calm waters, or do SUP yoga. Parking is convenient, but it may be crowded during weekends.

  • Type of Water: Typically calm and clear
  • Skills: All skill levels can enjoy the park.
  • Paddling Styles: Relaxing paddling style or SUP yoga
  • How to Get There: The park is easily accessible by car or public transportation.
  • How Long to Get There: It's around 45 minutes by car from the center of Florida.
  • Best time to Visit: To avoid a high peak of visitors, visit the park on weekdays or early morning on weekends.

10. Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs, known as the 'Sponge Capital of the World,' is a must-visit place for stand-up paddlers. It offers delicious restaurants, boutique shops, and a quirky history.

Tarpon Springs also provides easy access to Anclote Key Preserve State Park and Fred Howard Park. Thus, paddle boarders can enjoy the beautiful nature while paddling.

  • Type of Water: Generally calm
  • Skills: All skill levels can explore Tarpon Springs, depending on the section conditions.
  • Paddling Styles: Leisure, fitness, and exploration styles
  • How to Get There: U.S. Highway 19 and Alternate U.S. Highway 19 are popular routes leading to Tarpon Springs.
  • How Long to Get There: It's around 30-45 minutes by car traveling from the center of Florida.
  • Best time to Visit: Late afternoon to enjoy the sunset

11. St Pete Beach

St Pete, Florida's coastal city, is known for its beaches and water sports. Its beach is one of the ideal places to paddle board Tampa, especially for novices.

St Pete Beach

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The place is rarely crowded, providing opportunities for beginners to learn their first moves. In addition to stand up paddle boarding, visitors can enjoy windsurfing, kiteboarding, and parasailing. Its immaculate beach and crystal blue seas will give you an unforgettable memory.

  • Type of Water: The water is clear and generally calm.
  • Skills: All skill levels
  • Paddling Styles: You can leisurely paddle along or practice some wave riding when you're more expert.
  • How to Get There: The main route to St Pete Beach is Interstate 275, which is accompanied by smaller routes leading to the beachfront area. Paddle boarders can launch their boards from a number of beach access sites along Gulf Boulevard.
  • How Long to Get There: If you drive from central Tampa, you may spend 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the traffic.
  • Best time to Visit: Early morning or late afternoon

12. Myakka River

Myakka River offers you one of the most thrilling paddle boarding Tampa experiences. When you come to the place, you have an opportunity to paddle with alligators! This 60-mile river is also one of the most remote areas for sports enthusiasts.

Obtaining a permit from the ranger is recommended if you aim to access further areas than State Road 72. You need to pay $6 per vehicle to enter the Myakka River State Park and $26 per night for camping (not including tax and reservation fees). It is a wild adventure at a reasonable price.

  • Type of Water: Some sections feature calm, slow-moving currents, while others are faster, especially after heavy rains.
  • Skills: It's better if you're intermediate or expert
  • Paddling Styles: Leisure or fitness styles such as yoga can be suitable.
  • How to Get There: You can access the river through Myakka River State Park or Snook Haven Park.
  • How Long to Get There: If you start from Sarasota, you may need to spend 30 minutes by car.
  • Best time to Visit: Myakka River is a year-round location, but visiting in late fall or early spring is recommended to enjoy milder temperatures and avoid mosquitoes.

13. Terra Ceia Preserve

Another great location to paddle board Tampa is the Terra Ceia Preserve. It is located in northern Manatee County, Florida. This 2,000-acre area is home to mangrove forests, freshwater and saltwater marshes, and rugged terrain.

The Preserve provides a distinctive escape to nature despite lacking amenities like bathrooms. It's a (too) quiet place to paddle board, so beginners should accompany a friend for safety and to share the experience.

  • Type of Water: The Preserve offers a variety of exciting paddling conditions with its combination of marshes, mangrove-lined waterways, and calm brackish water.
  • Skills: Beginners with basic skills can enjoy the water here. However, the potential wind and choppy conditions may require more master levels.
  • Paddling Styles: Leisure SUP style
  • How to Get There: It's accessible via the Terra Ceia Preserve State Park entrance on Bayshore Drive.
  • How Long to Get There: If you drive from St. Petersburg or Bradenton, it will take 30 minutes to an hour to reach your destination.
  • Best time to Visit: You'd better visit Terra Ceia Preserve in spring or fall when the temperatures are milder, and there's less chance of rain than in the humid summer.

14. Robinson Preserve

The last-but-not-least place on our list of paddle boarding Tampa is the Robinson Preserve. It features more than 600 acres of saltwater marshes and mangrove streams, providing shelter to a diverse range of native species and a thriving ecology.

Robinson Preserve

Image source: Pick Pik

The Preserve is a perfect place for family outings since it offers various amenities, including picnic tables and inflatable SUP board rental shops. The launch point is located at 9800 Manatee Ave. West, Bradenton 3420. Visitors are welcomed by playful aquatic creatures such as dolphins and manatees.

  • Type of Water: Generally calm
  • Skills: Beginners and experts
  • Paddling Styles: You can combine a paddle board with wildlife watching along the shoreline or fitness activities such as yoga SUP.
  • How to Get There: The place is accessible by car via the main entrance of 9th Avenue N.W.
  • How Long to Get There: It usually takes 15 to 30 minutes to go to Robinson Preserve from Bradenton or nearby areas.
  • Best time to Visit: Weekdays can be better than weekends if you prefer a quieter environment.

When Is the Best Time to Paddle Board Tampa?

Tampa is a year-round destination with beautiful beaches for paddle boarders to enjoy. The temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees are ideal for a seamless experience. If you prefer less hot and less crowded times, head to the place in winter. The weather is still quite warm, making it possible to paddle without a wetsuit.

Paddle Boarding Tampa in Spring

Spring (from March to May) is the most desirable season to paddle board Tampa. The temperature is around 68-80ºF, the humidity is low, and the winds are calm along the shore. There are also fewer tourists during this season, so you can peacefully enjoy the picturesque place.

Paddle Boarding Tampa in Summer

June to September are the busiest months, with many tourists visiting for summer vacation. The temperature during this season is around 76-91ºF. Embrace the excitement of paddle boarding Tampa by booking ahead and having your spot despite the high demand from beachgoers.

Paddle Boarding Tampa in Fall

The period from September to November before winter rolls in can provide some favorable conditions for paddle boarders. Though the weather can be a little humid and hot at the beginning of fall, the following months are ideal for paddle boarding Tampa. The weather is not as hot as in summer, with the temperature falling to 60ºF at night. There will be fewer tourists, more available gear for rent, and a stunning sunset.

Paddle Boarding Tampa in Winter

Winter is the coolest season to paddle board Tampa. The daytime temperature is comfortable (around 65-70ºF), and it will be around 51ºF at night. Except for the locals, most of the amazing SUP spots are probably exclusively yours! Many people prefer to come to Tampa in winter for their remote weekend getaways.

What to Do When Paddle Board Tampa?

Let’s get yourself well-prepared for your paddle boarding Tampa trip by following the advice below!

What to Do When Paddle Board Tampa?

Image source: PickPik

  • Wear PFD

According to Florida law, every rider must have personal floating devices (PFDs) that are Coast Guard-approved and readily accessible. Children under 6 years old must also wear a PFD.

  • Bring food and water

Food and equipment should be kept in waterproof containers, while drinks should be stored in non-breakable containers. The recommended amount of water for day and overnight trips is 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon per day, respectively.

  • Bring sunscreen and insect repellent

Cover yourself with a hat, long sleeves, and long pants even on overcast days. Wearing long sleeves and slacks will also protect you from insect bites.

  • Watch out for motorboats

If you see motorboats, staying on the right is always better and turning into the boat's wake. Plus, you need to give priority water space to anglers.

  • Bring a cell phone or VHF radio

These communication devices are helpful, especially when you're in trouble. However, the signal can vary depending on your location.

  • Respect wildlife

You can feed wildlife animals but never try to approach or harass them, as it can be dangerous.

  • Bring quality paddle boards.

Though paddle board rentals in Tampa are available, it's better to carry your own. If you still don't know which stand up paddle board to purchase, visit iROCKER. We offer a wide range of choices, ensuring you can find the one suitable for your body, skill level, and specific adventure needs.

Paddle Boarding Tampa With iROCKER

Tampa is a popular year-round destination for paddle board lovers. Grab your gear and enjoy paddle boarding Tampa right now!

iROCKER's paddle boards are your best companions during excursions. Discover our collection to find the most suitable one for your needs!

Plus, our Blue Adventure App can assist your excursion by providing the best waterways, allowing you to save your favorite spots, or recording a session. Let's download the app and start exploring!

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