driving the causeway
My dad lived near Clearwater for several years, so I've driven the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Tampa more times than I can even count. Strange that my fondest memories of Tampa are of driving this causeway, but until you actually do so yourself you're just going to have to trust my pretty indescriptive words. This 13 mile causeway crosses over Tampa Bay, and it's not technically a bridge. Back in 1934 the causeway was built to allow people easier access to Clearwater without having to drive all around the massive Bay. Workers created this land strip to enable cars to drive along it. The 13 mile drive is my absolute favorite in Florida. You're surrounded by the beautiful Bay, there's no poles from bridges to obstruct your view, and you're so close to the water level that you feel like you are almost driving on top of the water. Now that my dad has moved, I'll always cherish those times we drove along the causeway and I may have to return some day just to relive those days.
Gasparilla Day Parade
If you are in Tampa the first weekend of February make sure you take a little time to experience a real pirate invasion! The Gasparilla Day parade is a 3 mile stumble down Bayshore Blvd along the waterside including 100+ floats with men, woman and children dressed as pirates throwing out beads. It ends downtown where the party continues into the evening.
North Tampa Trail - Walking or cycling
The North Tampa trail is a walking and cycling track which has a starting point at junction of Hanley and Linebaugh Avenue. That entrance has pedestrian and cycle access, but there is also a car parking area close by, just up Wilsky Bvld from that same junction, where you can join the trail too. The trail is tarmac, and has several seating areas in the shade, and water available along the routes.
The trail runs north for about 4 miles, crossing Citrus Park Avenue (near the Mall) where there is a MacDonalds, over Citrus Park Ave with a long cycle/pedestrian bridge. It then continues north following Gunn Highway, crosses Ehrlich then terminating near Peterson Road, following Rails Road.
About half a mile north from the starting point at Linebaugh/Hanley, the trial also turns westward following Linebaugh, then crosses under the road at Rocky Creek, continuing west crossing over Sheldon, then terminating at a rest area with car parking and toilets on West Waters Avenue, just to the west of the junction with Sheldon. From there, it also possible to continue following a trail westwards until it terminates close to Memorial Highway. There are plans to extend the trail south west towards Tampa Bay coastal area.
As most of Tampa is very flat the cycling is easy and very few inclines, so its an easy ride. Though you would need to be careful in very hot weather, and always wear a helmet, and take fluids. The trail has several shady rest areas with water storage and paper cups, so you can take a break frequently if you need too. The trail is popular with hikers and cyclists, and it gives you a chance to see some of the countryside and parts of the area you would not otherwise see from a car window!
Highly recommended for those who like to cycle and hike away from traffic! If you have access to GOOGLE EARTH the trail can be clearly seen from the aerial photos, start by looking at the junction of LINEBAUGH AVE and HANLEY, you will see the trail running northwards, and the junction that then has the westwards route.
The Greek Community of Tarpon Springs
From around 1900 until the end of WWII the Tarpons Springs sponge industry was huge. It is said this was, for several decades, the largest industry in Florida. Around 1946 a blight nearly eliminated the sponges, but today the industry is again thriving, with some 1,000 people employed in the industry, and $15 million in revenue yearly.
Many of the original sponge divers were Greeks, and the area known as the Sponge Docks still boasts a strong Greek influence. Here you will find a number of Greek restaurants and bars. There are also numerous shops, most selling sponges or diving equipment.
Downtown Tarpon Springs is nearby, but distinctly different than the Sponge Docks area. The downtown area has a traditional Main Street feel, with lots of restaurants and antique shops. The old railroad route is now a busy walking and biking trail, with the railroad station the visitors center. There is a large Greek Orthodox church in town serving the area's Greek population.
Along the sponge docks you will find a statue of a diver and a plaque for the sponge divers. The statue is dedicated to those Tarpon Springs residents who died harvesting sponges, with a plqque "In memory of the spongers of Tarpon Springs." Below the statue are plaques containing the names of those who died in the sponge industry.
The historic maker nearby reads,
The Gulf waters off the west coast of Florida
north of Tampa Bay comprise one of the few
areas of the world where the species of
natural sponges suitable for commercial use
are found. The natural sponge industry in
Tarpon Springs dates from about 1890 when
John K. Cheyney launched his first sponge-
fishing boat. Sponges were retrieved by hooking
until the technique of diving for sponge was
introduced in 1904 by John Cocoris, a recent
immigrant from Greece, where the practice of
sponge diving was common. Within a few years,
many Greeks had arrived in the area to work
in the sponging industry.
The Tarpon Springs Sponge Exchange was
incorporated in 1908 as a shareholding
organization to provide for the storage and
sale of sponges. The peak of prosperity for
the Tarpon Springs sponge industry came
in the 1930s. In 1939 the sponge beds in
the area suffered from a disease which sub-
stantially reduced the crop of healthy sponges
for several years. In spite of the decline in
the sponge industry, the Tarpon Springs Sponge
Exchange has continued to serve as a focal
point for the Greek community.
Geocache in the Tampa Bay Area
Geocatching is something like a scavenger hunt that uses GPS devises (as well as clues). A good map (maybe even a topographical map found at local camping stores) may also be a good idea based on the locations. Some locations can be found via the car others require a bit of walking (you choose).
Geocache (pronounced geo-cash) or caches as they are called are hidden by proponets of the game and normally have logbooks for visitors to sign there name. Other gamers use trinkets to show they have been there. In some locations the catches are set up in areas to promote parks or historical sights and some even provide history lessons.
I haven't tried this yet but it sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon outside with friends. This would would be a good activity for kids too.
The main website for Geocatchers is: http://www.geocaching.com
However there are some people in Tampa that have their own website and I've listed a few of them below too
A GREAT SOURCE OF INFO IN THE AREA IS: the Bay News 9 on demand (channel 340) which has a 4 minute program on the Brooker Creek Reserve. Brooker Creek introduces people to the game, and then guides them thru their first multi catche huntl.
Geocating locations on the http://www.geocaching.com that are in the Tampa area include: Tampa City, Cearwater city, St Petersburg City, temple terrace city, town and country CDP
Within an hours drive: Lakeland city, land O lake CDP, Largo city, Tarpon Springs City