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Old 29-06-2011, 06:42   #1
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What are the best places to visit in Tampa - Keys ?

My family and I will be cruising along the southwest coast of FL in July and August. We live in Miami, and our planned route is Miami -> Key West -> Dry Tortugas -> Tampa. From the Tampa area, we plan to work our way down the coast, eventually returning to Miami.

I was hoping that some forum members who are familiar with this area might share their opinions about the top 5 (or even 10) places to visit along the SW coast, starting from Tampa. IYHO, what are the places not to be missed? Beautiful anchorages? Interesting cultural spots? Convenient grocery stores? Fun attractions for kids? (We have two 12-year old sons.)

Conversely, are there places definitely to be avoided?

Thank you in advance for your advice.

Matthew C.
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Old 29-06-2011, 07:20   #2
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

Try here, Florida Sea Grant - Boating & Waterways - Anchorage Inventory has a good list of anchorages...
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Old 29-06-2011, 07:36   #3
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

Matt--

Click over to ActiveCaptain and register (free) and you find a wealth of information on anchorages and facilities on the Southwest Coast of Florida/Tampa Bay. With the exception of the wind from squalls in the late afternoon/early evening, you may find that there isn't much wind between the Tortugas and Tampa at this time of year. Hopefully you have a good radar and can track the weather.

FWIW...
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Old 29-06-2011, 07:43   #4
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

Here are two great anchorages:

Boca Grande- You enter the barrier island from the bayside. There is one shallow spot (about 5' at low) and then the channel opens out into a small bay. Drop your hook in the middle and then back down to tie a stern anchor to the mangroves. There is a county dinghy dock and the walk into the cutsy town is about 1/2 mile or so.

Cayo Costa State Park, Pelican Bay- This is a very large anchorage. Entrance is a little tricky- hug the shoreline. There are some shallow spots in the middle of about 4 1/2 feet at low so work your way around those. You can dinghy in to the park dock and walk to the gulf shore.

The Florida Sea Grant link above shows both of these very well.

David
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Old 29-06-2011, 07:56   #5
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

If your draft will allow go up the Shark River. It is beautiful but buggy. In fact the whole trip will be buggy!!! this cruise is better done in the winter.
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Old 29-06-2011, 08:35   #6
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

+1 for Cayo Costa State Park, Pelican Bay, if you draw under about 5.5 feet. With that draft we could just get in and out of there, plowing through some low spots. We always like Ft. Myers Beach, though now there is no room to anchor and you have to pick up one of their pay moorings. But, I bet your kids would like the honky-tonk and busy beach atmosphere with lots of little informal eateries for stuff like ice cream, jugglers and magicians in Times Square in the evening, funky shops, and a fun beach to run up and down. Our kids always did. I particularly like the little open-air Greek restaurant near the square.
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Old 29-06-2011, 09:24   #7
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

+2 Cayo Costa State Park, Pelican Bay

Visted with my son recently.
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Old 29-06-2011, 10:11   #8
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

Doesn't anyone else like Venice? We stayed at crow's nest,they had a great food and free bike rentals. Went down to the beach and collected sharks teeth. Great family time. I will second pelican bay too. Watch out for the manatees at the entrance- they held me off for a half hour till they meandered somewhere else.
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Old 29-06-2011, 10:22   #9
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

Newt,

On my list. I would prefer to anchor out. Was there any reasonable place for a 4-5 foot draft in Venice?

Are you still in the area?
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Old 29-06-2011, 10:38   #10
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

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Cayo Costa State Park, Pelican Bay-
David
I clicked the thread to recommend Cayo Costa SP, awesome place.

I like the Islamorada area in the keys, there are several good anchorages on the bay side, Community Harbor in Tavernier has a grocery store 1 block away, if you call the dock master at Mangrove Marina they will usually let you use a slip to restock at no charge.

Lorelei near the Islamorada Yacht Basin allows dinghies to land on their beach or use their dock if you're stopping in for dinner and are dog friendly

Avoid Gilbert's at the bridge on Jew Fish Creek, Key Largo, really rotten and will chain your dinghy up and charge you $200 to release it (plus the bartender is rude, they aren't dog friendly, they charge for water and the fuel dock attendant is mean)

Avoid anchoring for more than a day or so in Key West, the local police are on a campaign to keep boats from visiting. If you want a slip at Key West Bight they are offering a discount rate for transients in the summer.

On the SW coast
Avoid Sarasota like the plague, you may want to steer clear of Marco Island as well, overnighting is OK but expect to be boarded.

Bradenton Beach is a great place, good anchorage, free day use floating dock with water and electrics, free dinghy beach/dock, free showers. They started charging for anchorage to get the boat trash out, I think it is $12 annualy, but staying for a few days isn't going to cost anything.

Gulfport in Boca Ceiga Bay has free day use docks, free dinghy docks and really nice people, but there is loud karaoke till 4 am blasting across the water front
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Old 29-06-2011, 10:54   #11
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

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They started charging for anchorage to get the boat trash out, I think it is $12 annualy, but staying for a few days isn't going to cost anything.
Just for the record, I don't believe that is legal under Florida statute. It is illegal to restrict anchoring of non-liveaboard vessels outside of certain limited designated mooring fields.
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Old 29-06-2011, 11:03   #12
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

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Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
Doesn't anyone else like Venice? We stayed at crow's nest,they had a great food and free bike rentals. Went down to the beach and collected sharks teeth. Great family time. I will second pelican bay too. Watch out for the manatees at the entrance- they held me off for a half hour till they meandered somewhere else.
I do !!
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Old 29-06-2011, 11:04   #13
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

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J..... It is illegal to restrict anchoring of non-liveaboard vessels outside of certain limited designated mooring fields.
the boat trash were all live aboard, they would pull to the dock at 8AM, plug in and watch TV with the AC on all day then pull off at midnight, always drunk and fighting, like a floating trailer park. The $12 annual fee is to keep the inspectors away, otherwise safety inspections at 5AM every day.

it may be illegal, but the anchorage is so much nicer now
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Old 29-06-2011, 11:49   #14
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

Gmw: you can tie up to the city's dock for a couple of hours for free when I was there last. The anchorage was free and off the icw. We were just passing thru so we stayed next to the ocean.
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Old 29-06-2011, 11:55   #15
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Re: What are the best places to visit Tampa -> Keys

there are some lovely places a bit north in west fla--- but isnt southwest fla--i liked the areas around appalachicola and port st joe--if you have time , do go there-- white city has lovely dock and was free.
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