Hillsborough at a Glance
|Sandy Beaches||2.1 miles|
|Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail||19 sites|
|State Parks & Lands||Acres|
|Alafia River Corridor||9,876|
|Alafia River State Park||6,314|
|Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park||4,800|
|Egmont Key State Park||272|
|Hillsborough River State Park||3,789|
|Little Manatee River State Park||2,416|
|Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve||16,000|
|Upper Hillsborough Preserve||9,961|
|Ybor City Museum State Park||1|
|Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge||272|
|Mac Dill Air Force Base||5,600|
|Bays & Inlets||Tampa Bay|
|Rivers & Paddling Trails|
|Hillsborough River, Alafia River, Little Manatee River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail|
Hillsborough County's only sandy beach is on Egmont Key and can only be reached by boat. Nearby counties, however, have excellent beaches. Inland parks offer calmer waters for small children and canoeing/kayaking. This fourth most populated county in the state is dominated by the city of Tampa with its wide array of recreational and cultural attractions including Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and Busch Gardens Theme Park and professional sports teams.
Hillsborough coast looks over Tampa Bay, an estuary of national significance. Its 400 square miles are fed by the Hillsborough, Little Manatee and Alafia rivers and more than a hundred small tributaries. Over 200 species of fish, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, oysters, scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, brown pelicans, heron and egret, Roseate spoonbills, cormorants and laughing gulls inhabit the bay's seagrass beds, mud flats and mangrove wetlands. A 43-foot deepwater shipping channel is at the bay's entrance, while 17 Blueway Trails edge its perimeter.
The Alafia River flows to Tampa Bay from Alafia River State Park through Alafia River Corridor conservation lands with miles of equestrian and hiking trails, camping, horse-drawn buggies, hunting and fishing. Facilities are in Alderman's Ford Park. Alafia River State Park has 17 miles of challenging off-road bicycling trails, an abundance of wildlife, scattered lakes, canoeing and fishing, picnic pavilions, playground, horseshoe pit, volleyball court and RV, equestrian-friendly and primitive campgrounds.
Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve on Tampa Bay, the only aquatic preserve in Florida that is not state-owned, is owned by the Hillsborough Port Authority. Its 4,800 acres of submerged seagrass beds, hardbottom, oyster reefs and two paddling trails wind through a maze of mangrove islands, nursery areas for snook, red drum and other game fish.
Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge/State Park, accessible only by private boat, is an island at the mouth of Tampa Bay six miles west of the Sunshine Bridge. Primarily a wildlife refuge, it has no facilities, so bring supplies. Popular activities include snorkeling and exploring trails and historic sites such as 1858 Egmont Key Lighthouse and 1898 Fort Dade.
The swift (Class II Rapids) Hillsborough River flows 60 miles through the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, which supplies water to the Tampa Bay area past wading birds, turtles, alligators, lilies and cypress swamps, and through Hillsborough River State Park. Originally a Civilian Conservation Corps Park, it now offers fishing, canoe/kayak rentals and launch, nature trails, ADA swimming pool, full-facility, youth/group tent and primitive camps, a concession that provides breakfast, lunch, camping and picnic supplies, four-wheel Surrey bikes and tours of Fort Foster, the only standing replica of a Second Seminole War fort.
Ybor City Museum State Park, part of a National Historic Landmark District in the urban setting of Tampa, traces the history of multi-cultural Ybor City and its cigar-making industry which helped build the city of Tampa. Guided tours are available.