Florida has many coasts, but few are as exciting as its Sports Coast. Located just north of Tampa, it's a haven for outdoor adventure. Whether you're looking for a relaxing hike or paddle, you want to tackle a new challenge like wakeboarding, or you're in search of an adrenaline rush like no other, the Sports Coast can accommodate. Between the scenic coastline and rolling green hills, there are plenty of parks, trails, waterways, and tours to ensure that any trip to this epic coast is unforgettable.
The beauty of the Pasco County region is that it really is the best of everything. Stop at the tourism office to learn about culture and activities in metro areas like New Port Richey and Dade City, as well as quiet places to enjoy the beauty of the Gulf; Pasco is right along Florida's Sports Coast. Start on the coast and cruise inland for an adventure to remember.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park protects a chain of islands, so to even get there, you'll need to catch a ferry or paddle out yourself... but it's well worth the effort . There are four islands that make up the park (Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rooker Island), and they're all worth exploring, although the main attraction is Anclote Key. It boasts an historic lighthouse from 1887 at the southern end of the island, with a nearby hidden sandbar, revealed at low tide. Activities include snorkeling, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing on the beach. Birdwatching is also immensely popular here, as the islands are home to roughly 43 species of birds. You can also bring along supplies to grill and even camp at the primitive campsite. What could be more magical than falling asleep under the stars to the sound of the waves lapping against the island shore?
For more natural beauty, there's also Key Vista Nature Park. It's about 101 acres, and it's jam-packed with stuff to see and do. It features 1.5 miles of trails and boardwalks, with some sandy beaches that provide access to the Gulf of Mexico for fishing and swimming. The park also contains salt marshes and woodlands, so you'll find some unique wildlife here, including peacocks and bald eagles. There's also an observation tower; from its top, you can see all the way to Anclote Key's lighthouse a few miles away.
Delve even further into nature at the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. It features a birding trail, a 7.3-mile-long paved multi-use trail, a 10-mile equestrian trail, and 13 miles of standard hiking trails. Along the way are playgrounds, picnic sites, and activities like horseshoes and volleyball, so there's no shortage of fun to be had. There are two rivers through this swath of wilderness, the Anclote and the Pithlachascotee, which provide fishing and great scenery. The park also has an environmental education center with classroom and laboratory facilities. For visitors in search of a bit of history, there's the McNeil Homestead Historic and Archeological Site. There's also a 16-site campground with restrooms and a shower, as well as a cabin for rent.
Gill Dawg is the perfect home base for all of your Sports Coast adventures. In addition to the epic tiki bar and grill, with cold cocktails and awesome riverfront seating, Dawg offers tons of live music events as well as rentals and excursions. Explore on your own with kayaks, hydrobikes, stand-up paddleboards, and pontoons, or join a fishing charter, snorkel tour, or a Sunset Sangria Pontoon Tour. It’s so convenient to grab a cold beer and an order of coconut shrimp as you arrive back from a long day exploring the water on your rental boat.
Some of New Port Richey's most prominent features are the stilt houses out on the water. There have been stilt houses off this coast since the 1910s, and while there were up to two dozen scattered around at one point, a 1968 hurricane wiped many out. They're all privately owned, but they are popular to cruise by and admire on guided and self-guided excursions. Head to Durney Key on your way to or from the stilt houses if you want to take a break and mingle with other boaters. Gill Dawg's Sunset Sangria Pontoon Tour highlights the stilt houses, and if you rent boats from them the staff will be more than happy to give advice on how to get to them.
The true boating paradise on the Sports Coast is Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park. The 351-foot-deep salt spring connects to the mangrove-lined shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico, as well as inlets and bayous in the salt marshes. It's a calm and quiet park with dense greenery, making it ideal for spotting wildlife like manatees, gators, foxes, and tortoises, or just relaxing in nature. There's also a half-mile nature trail. But the park really is best experienced via kayak, and luckily, there's an outfitter onsite. Paddling Adventures rents out single and double kayaks as well as stand-up paddleboards.
The Lift Adventure Park is another epic spot to experience on the Sports Coast. The park has a Wake Park with cables that pull wakeboarders along, cutting out the hassle of needing a boat to wakeboard. It's the perfect place to learn wakeboarding skills, or perfect a new trick. The Lift is also home to an insane Aqua Park, which is essentially a giant inflatable floating playground for kids and adults alike. With obstacles, slides, climbing walls, moon bounces, and more, the Aqua Park provides hours of fun. Pro tip: You can make reservations in advance if you want to guarantee time at the Aqua Park.
The ultimate Sports Coast adrenaline rush can be found at Skydive City. You'll be paired with a pro for a tandem jump (ideal for first-timers) and after 20 minutes of training, you're ready for your jump. The plane takes divers up to 13,500', at which point the door opens and the big jump occurs. You'll experience 60 seconds of heart-pounding free fall at 120 miles per hour, followed by a 4-6 minute parachute ride down to the drop zone-- you can even steer for a bit if you want. Pro tip: Splurge for the package that includes a freefall videographer. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, they do a great job with video and pictures, and you'll have proof of your jump to share with family and friends.
There's tons of excitement to experience along the Sports Coast. Between sunset pontoon cruises, kayaking trails, and massive aqua parks, this gem of a destination provides endless fun for everyone.
Banner Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Florida’s Sports Coast — the new and exciting identity for Visit Pasco — offers travelers the chance to score once-in-a-lifetime memories with thrilling athletic opportunity.