One of the best ways to discover Tampa is from street level, and you can cover a lot of ground if you travel by bike. Downtown Tampa and its surrounding neighborhoods are very bike friendly, featuring dedicated paths and lanes to provide for rider safety. Another bonus for the leisure biker is that the roads and paths are all pretty flat.
A half-day ride can easily take you past most of Tampa’s main historic sights and attractions. A great place to start your tour is at Ballast Point Park in south Tampa. Here you can park your car and get ready for your ride, while enjoying beautiful views of downtown Tampa, your destination. The following bike tour is just over 13 miles and should take about 90 minutes with no stops.
Bayshore Boulevard provides spectacular views of downtown Tampa — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
From here, head north on Interbay Boulevard and continue onto Tampa’s famous Bayshore Boulevard. Rumored to be the longest continuous sidewalk in the U.S., Bayshore is one of the city’s most distinctive features and favorite places. On one side, you can enjoy stunning views of the bay and downtown, and on the other are some of Tampa’s oldest and grandest mansions.
If you haven’t had time to eat yet, take a brief detour for brunch or lunch at The Brunchery. Make a left at W. Julia Street about two miles north of Ballast Point and turn right on MacDill Boulevard for a block. The Brunchery is on your left. This is a popular local breakfast and lunch restaurant that specializes in no-frill comfort food.
After fueling up, make your way back to Bayshore and continue north. After another couple of miles of beautiful scenery, you’ll leave Bayshore and turn left onto Swann Avenue, right onto S. Magnolia Avenue, right onto W. de Leon Street and left onto S. Hyde Park Avenue. This less-than-a-mile-long detour will lead you straight to the beautiful and iconic minarets of Tampa.
The minarets now belong to the University of Tampa, but once this elegant Moorish-inspired building was the Tampa Hotel designed to lure wealthy northerners to vacation at the end of Plant’s newly completed railway. The H. B. Plant Museum is housed in the building and offers a fascinating glimpse into the gilded age of Tampa.
The Tampa Riverwalk takes you past many downtown attractions — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
Continue winding your way north across campus on UT University Drive until you reach Cass Street. Here, you’ll turn left and cross the bridge into downtown Tampa. Once across the bridge, turn right and hook up with Tampa’s Downtown Riverwalk on the other side of Curtis Hixon Park. Feel free to take a break here and enjoy the river views. Cool off in the people-friendly fountains or relax on the grass or on one of the many seating options.
Once you’ve rested, continue down the Riverwalk past picturesque bridges and downtown skyscrapers and enjoy the many interpretive exhibits along the way, which highlight the people and events of Tampa’s history.
As you round the corner of the Convention Center, you’ll see one of the most popular spots on the Riverwalk, the Sail Pavilion. This 360-degree outdoor bar features amazing views of Harbor Island and Garrison Channel. It's the perfect spot to people and boat watch while you sip on your favorite beverage.
Tampa Bay History Center is an interesting and engaging way to learn about Tampa's past — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
A little further on down the Riverwalk, you’ll come to the Tampa Bay History Center. This state-of-the-art museum provides visitors with an interesting and engaging overview of the area’s history. The facility also houses the Columbia Café, where you can get a taste of traditional Spanish and Cuban dishes brought to Tampa by immigrants in the late 1800s.
Head back to Ballast Point Park by returning down the Riverwalk, crossing the river at E. Brorein Street and turning left back onto Bayshore Boulevard. Continue south until you reach the park.