In addition to all of the attractions that the cities of the Tampa Bay region offer, the area is also home to numerous national and state parks and preserves. With pleasant weather almost year round, any time is a good time to visit the parks and preserves in Tampa Bay. Here are four that we think you should check out sooner rather than later.
DeSoto National Memorial
The National Park system is turning 100 years old this year and national parks are hosting events all year to mark the occasion. This memorial is located in Bradenton and commemorates the quest to settle Florida by Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto and the indigenous people who defended their homeland. The park features reenactments, walking tours, and kayaking excursions. | Website | Bradenton, FL
Hillsborough River State Park
This park became one of Florida’s first state parks when it opened in 1938. The park is home to a replica of an original Second Seminole War military fort called Fort Foster. The park features structures that are quintessential of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built many parks and natural preserves during the Great Depression. In addition to enjoying the history of the park, visitors can camp, hike, swim, bike, canoe, and kayak in the park. | Website | Thonotosassa, FL
Little Manatee River State Park
The park is home to several unique ecosystems and can be enjoyed by hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, and camping. It highlights the Little Manatee River that is one of the few rivers in Florida that has not be altered by dredging or canals. The park boasts six and a half miles of hiking trails and fifteen miles of equestrian trails. | Website | Wimauma, FL
Egmont Key State Park
This state park is mainly a wildlife preserve and is only accessible by boat as it is an island located in the mouth of the Tampa Bay, southwest of the DeSoto National Memorial. In addition to the natural attractions, the park also highlights the history of the Seminole Indian tribe and activity of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War and Spanish – American War. The lighthouse on the island has stood since 1858. Visitors are reminded that the island is remote and they should bring their own supplies such as water, food, and sunscreen. | Website | St. Petersburg, FL
Editor’s note: This post was originally published April 2016. It has since been updated with the most recent information and edited for clarity & cohesiveness.