Central West Florida consist of the Tampa Bay area including the areas north and south along the West Coast of Florida. Bordering the Gulf of Mexico, this region includes part of the Nature Coast, the Sun Coast and the Cultural Coast. The diversity of the Central West region varies from nature, to beautiful beaches, to arts and cultural, to the popular Busch Gardens theme park. 

Includes Desoto, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus Counties

Central West Florida Region Map

One of Florida's best parks for dynamic biking trails is the Alafia River State Park. The park features 17 miles of bike trails that cover some of the highest elevation changes found in Florida. The park also offers at least 20 miles of trails for hikers and equestrians through pine flat wood, and with the abundance with wildlife it is also great for bird watching. The giant park is also home to a campground, playgrounds, opportunities for canoeing and fishing, and much more.

The South Fork State Park is a rare natural wonder of Florida. The park is very underdeveloped making it ideal for Wildlife viewing, birding, or exploring its hiking trails. The park is home to many rare plant life including its rosemary scrub habitat which is only found in Florida; as well as many rare plants and animals which are not commonly observed. 

Visitors can request a gate code to visit the Wingate Creek State Park and explore its rare and untouched natural habitats. Currently hiking and biking in the park is limited and it is primarily used for nature research, birding, or simply exploring nature. 

Caladesi Island State park is one of the few untouched islands along the Gulf Coast and it's only accessible by boat. Visitors can kayak through the bayside mangrove forest and walk along the beautiful shores of the beach. There's also a nature trail along the island where guests can see a multitude of animals in their natural habitats. Also on the island is the historic ruins of the Scharrer Homestead, once home to a family who lived in peace on the island. Myrtle Scharrer Betz, who lived in the home, called this place "paradise" in her memoirs. 

What is essentially a series of islands in the South Eastern region of Tampa Bay, Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park does not actually have cockroaches on the property. What early Spanish explorers called "cockroaches" were nothing more than horseshoe crabs, and at one point, there was an abundance of these little sea critters. While the islands are 617 acres, about 500 of those acres are mangrove swamp, which makes it the perfect place for fisherman and/or birdwatchers. Keep in mind the islands are only accessible by watercraft so there are no actual facilities on them. In two small creeks along the shores, canoeing and kayaking is allowed. 

This National Historic Landmark is 61 acres of pre-Columbian, Native American lands with burial mounds, temple platform mounds, a plaza area, and a midden. For over 1,600 years, the site served as a ceremonial center for Native Americans and people traveled to the complex from great distances to bury their dead. It's estimated that 7,500 Native Americans may have visited the area every year. Aside from the history, this park is also great for bird watchers and fisherman. 

Some of the activities that can be done at Crystal River Preserve State Park include bicycling, fishing, hiking, walking, and running. There are also boat tours available to take visitors through the rarity that is the spring-fed body of water that is the Crystal River to see how it supports the sea and wildlife with it being both fresh and salt water. Boat tours are about one and half hours long for those who are interested. There is a seven-mile loop trail that is away from the simpler trails of the state park that's perfect for those who love to go off the beaten path. 

Egmont Key is a Florida State Park located in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The park is primarily a wildlife refuge, and is accessible only by boat or ferry. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the views and abundance of wildlife that the park has to offer. There are multiple trails and unique historical sites here, including the ruins of Fort Dade: a 19th century era fort. Also present is a manned lighthouse that has stood since 1858. The remote nature of Egmont Key makes for a perfect getaway on its secluded beaches. However, this also means that there are no stores or drinking water to be found here. Come prepared, and enjoy a slice of the natural beauty that Florida has to offer!

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has many things to offer including walking information tours to get up close and personal with the surrounding wildlife in an underwater observatory. The park also provides a variety of animals including: manatees, alligators, black bears, red wolf, key deer, flamingos, whooping cranes, and a hippopotamus named Lu. At the park you can enjoy boat tours, swimming, hiking, picnics, bird watching, and more. These beautiful crystal waters provide a clear insight into what lies beneath the water while making it interesting for all ages. 

Open 365 days a year, Felburn Park sits on 140-acres of property owned by the Felburn Foundation. Located on the south side of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, Felburn Park has several picnic pavilions, paved running trails, and a small playgrounds for the kiddos. If you find yourself heading west from the park along Withlacoochee Bay you will be running into multiple use platforms. These platforms are great for picnicking, taking a break from your run, or a day of fishing. Adding to Felburn Park is Phil's Lake. At this lake you will be able to find a number of freshwater fish. In addition, canoes, kayaks, and non-motorized crafts are allowed in the lake. 

Fort Cooper State Park offers a wide variety of natural sights and wonders. To start, Lake Holathlikaha is a pristine lake that is best viewed by boat or while kayaking across its majesty. Fort Cooper also boasts 700 acres of fertile lands covered in hiking trails to take in the beauty of Florida. 

Located near the area of Clearwater, Fort De Soto Park is a beautiful place to take the children to play in the sand or walk the shore line with a significant other. The sands are sugary white and waters are blue, it really does make for the perfect setting for something special. The grounds are just over 1,100 acres full of natural beauty. With a wonderful beach, play area for the kids, and so much to explore, this is the perfect sunny day outing for a group of friends or a family. 

Fort Foster State Historic site was originally a fort occupied by Col. William S. Foster and some 430 men. Today, the park can be enjoyed with a re-enactment of the conflict between the Seminole Nation and the U.S. military during the Second Seminole War. Park staff and re-enactors will be sure to provide families with a welcome trip into the history that sits in the backyard of Hillsborough River State Park with two living history events, featured annually in January and December: Fort Foster Rendezvous and the Candlelight Experience at Fort Foster.

This is a beautiful state park near the downtown Tampa area. There are over seven miles of natural trails to enjoy and it's also a great place to go for a swim on a hot day. Hillsborough River State Park is also home to Fort Foster State Historic Site, where they do occasional living-history demonstrations of life at Fort Foster. There are two occasions throughout the year: Fort Foster Rendezvous in January and the Candlelight Experience at Fort Foster in December. Both events are historical and neat to view, so be sure to check it out if you're close enough. They also tell you all about the fort and the part it played in the Second Seminole War. 

If you're looking for a peaceful escape, Honeymoon Island State Park is the place to find it. As its name suggests, it's a natural getaway with an abundance of activities and amenities to explore. Discover miles of beach and pine forests on a trail as you identify the native wildlife to the area, like horned owls and gopher tortoises. You can partake in activities like paddling, surfing, picnicking at one of their pavilions, or even hold a wedding ceremony near the playground, but the getaway's comforting nature and unforgettable sights truly make the ideal park experience.

The Inglis Dam & Recreation Area is home to a historic dam that was built in the early 1900s. It offers several unique experiences. Visitors are able to go horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, boating, and more.

The Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is the only surviving plantation house in South Florida. Once a 16-acre sugar plantation, the preserved mid-19th-century Antebellum mansion is now a portal to the past, allowing visitors to experience a bygone era in Florida's history.

Lake Manatee State Park is located 15 miles east of Bradenton, bordering the south shore of the lake that lends it its name. Although you won't be able to view manatees from this location, the park features a beautiful swimming beach, camping and picnicking areas, freshwater fishing from your boat or the park's fishing docks, and a variety of hiking trails through pine flatwoods, sand pine scrub, and hardwood forest. 

Little Manatee River State Park is known for having some of the cleanest water in Florida. Visitors can camp on site, horseback ride, fish, picnic, hike, and more. An amphitheater, shower station, playground, and laundry station are some of the amenities available at the park.

MacDill Air Force Base is a US Air Force base in Tampa, FL. It is home to many commands of military units from all branches of the military including the U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the 927th Air Refueling Wing. 

Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site is a ceremonial mound composed of sand and shells. Archaeologists have found at least three periods of Native American Cultures on this lush coastal landscape. This ancient site was the first in Florida to be considered an archaeological site, and has been dated back as far as 2000 years. This site is located in Terra Ceia, Florida and has picnic tables available for use currently and interpretive exhibits available. 

Oscar Scherer State Park is located between Sarasota and Venice on the West Coast of Florida and features a wide array of experiences and amenities. The park is a 1400-acre sanctuary to local wildlife, as it is surrounded by highways and housing developments. Referred to as one of Florida's hidden gems, 15 miles of hiking trails allow visitors to encounter the park's wildlife such as bald eagles, bobcats, North American river otters, alligators, gopher tortoises, and - most notably - the Florida Scrub Jay.  The Florida Scrub Jay is endemic to Florida, meaning it is found no where else on the planet and requires the unique features of Florida scrub habitats in order to survive. This curious bird attracts thousands of visitors each year, with the park even offering 'Sunday Scrub Jay Walks'. Other amenities such as canoeing, biking, camping, hiking, snorkeling, and even wedding services are offered at the park.

The Skyway Fishing Pier State Park is home to a grand bridge that spans over Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg to Sarasota providing around the clock fishing for snook, tarpon, group, black sea bass, Spanish Mackeral, and more. Famished? Nearby vendors will supply you with snacks and drinks!

A 2,000 acre preserve undergoing habitat restoration, full of mangroves, saltwater and freshwater wetlands, and uplands communities. The primary activity at the park is kayaking, but hiking is also available at this historic site. 

Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater is located in Clearwater at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. It is the largest U.S. Coast Guard air station and is home to nearly 700 USCG aviation and support personnel. The air station’s motto, reflecting its busy pace of operations is “Anytime, Anywhere.”

Weeki Wache Springs State Park includes Florida's only spring-fed water park with cool 72-degree water. Approximately 45 minutes north of Tampa, this State Park includes Buccaneer Bay, with an all natural lazy river, a children's play area, water slides that go into the spring, and a mermaid show. 

These salt springs are located only an hour north of St. Pete and Tampa, or two hours west of Orlando. Take a day trip and explore the mangrove labyrinths. Due to nearby urban development, this state park is essential to the coast's protection. Although you can't swim in the state park boundaries, there's a beach a few miles north where you can jump in.

Welcome to Withlacoochee State Trail! This 46 mile long trail is a diverse journey through Florida's west coast. It also stands as the longest paved rail-trail in the state. Originally part of the Plant System's West Coast Route rail line in the late 1800s, Withlacoochee became a state trail in 1989. In fact, it was one of the first land purchases under Florida's "Florida Rails to Trails" program. This expansive stretch of land runs through three counties, various small towns, and a variety of wildlife habitats. There are also sections of the trail that have an accompanying unpaved equestrian trail for horseback riding. 

Located in bustling Tampa, Florida, the historic Ybor City Museum State Park boasts that it is the "Cigar Capital of the world." Learn about the history behind Ybor City and the influence that the cigar industry and Latin culture had on its development by taking a tour of the Ybor City Museum. Follow that with an immersive walkthrough of the historic block and experience the still-standing houses of the immigrants and cigar workers of the early twentieth century.

The garden, located next to the museum, is not only a beautiful spot to enjoy a quiet moment of history and a picnic, but it's also a prime location for weddings, reunions, or other special events. This Mediterranean style garden offers a quaint backdrop including a fountain, lampposts, and various statues and can be rented for special events. From there, you can take a stroll around the rest of Ybor City, or continue your day by heading into Tampa, but be sure to make the Ybor City Museum State Park a must-see stop on your way.

There is much to learn about this site and the history of what remains. Just before the Civil War, people had great success with this mill, but as the Civil War approached and was happening there was a huge naval blockade that made the mill close.

These are some of the oldest ruins here in Florida, so check them out in a small town named Homosassa. As you drive to this location, you can easily see the park from the road. This park was owned by David Levy Yulee, a former member of the territorial legislative council. This mill was steam-driven for the southern troops in the civil war to create sugar products. There is a lot to do in this park, not only the historic stuff, but also an exhibit. While having a fun time, do not forget to bring a meal to have a picnic with the people you love to end the day right.

 

Website Listings

Westfield Sarasota Square is the perfect place to go shopping for everything on your list. It has all of the clothing stores you love and also a Costco for your grocery needs. You will also find an AMC movie theater for entertainment.

Westfield Siesta Key is a small mall that lets you get your shopping done in an intimate setting. In addition to great shopping you will also find delicious dining options and a Cobb CineBistro for entertainment.

Have a great day doing your shopping here at the WestShore Plaza. In addition to all kinds of stores you will also find a Regal Cinemas movie theater, lots of dining options, and events throughout the year to keep you coming back for more.

96.5 presents a cultural, artistic, and political perspective to the Sarasota community. This is a non-profit, non-commercial station that encourages peace, equality, social and economic justice, and more. 

WSMR 89.1 & 103.9 play classical music, while WUSF 89.7 shares news and other information then plays jazz music in the evening. This station is owned by the University of South Florida. 

Found in a few locations in Florida, Zeno's always seems to be near a beach. This candy store started in 1948 and has since been family owned and operated. While saltwater taffy is their specialty, they also have gourmet popcorn, homemade ice cream, fudge, brittle, and what they call seafoam which is a very light and airy caramel tasting treat. 

Zydeco Brew Werks is a brewing company in Ybor City, Tampa that specializes in NOLA-style cuisine alongside carefully crafted beers. The company features quite a few traditional staples as well as a rotating selection of some very "wild" beers brewed with innovative methods to produce some very unique products.