Discover the Bay Area’s hidden parks and beaches

By Iovanna Borjas

When students first arrive at UT, they seem to notice how the environment is a perfect blend of nature and concrete. However, UT’s beauty can sometimes be too captivating, which distracts students from other alluring places that Tampa has to offer.

The city of Tampa’s website states that there are at least 185 parks, 26 recreation centers and over 300 miles of trails in the Tampa Bay area.

Many students know about Clearwater Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the area — however, Clearwater is at least 45 minutes away. Alternatively, since distance is an issue, there are many private beaches that are close to UT.

Picnic Island Park, 17 minutes south of campus, is adjacent to the sea. Full of sand and calm waves, this park is the perfect place to have a relaxing day at the beach. Picnic Island Park also features disc golf and volleyball courts. Additionally, the pier offers a great environment for people to fish.

“I would say Picnic Island is one of the best places to go fishing in Tampa,” said Ryan Kersznowski, junior education major. “I like how silent and peaceful it is because I don’t like fishing surrounded by too many people.”

Joe Nelsen, junior communication major, said he often goes there to do homework.

“I live off campus so the island is around five minutes away from me,” said Nelsen. “I go there almost every day; I just love how silent it is because it gives me more concentration.”

Cypress Point Park, 15 minutes west of UT, offers some of the similar features and activities that Picnic Island has.

Besides the beaches, the Bay area has many green areas and nature-filled parks to explore.

For more than 80 years, the Eureka Springs Park has been enjoyed by the Tampa community. According to the Hillsborough County website, the park hosts a botanical garden, which houses rare and unusual tropical plants. Its trails go through the forest, which offers a different environment to those who walk them.

“You don’t get to see the amazing environment this park has,” said Doug Werner, frequent visitor of Eureka Springs. “I have not seen trees like these anywhere else.”

Julie Werner, UT alumna and frequent visitor, describes the park as the perfect place to meditate and relax. She said her favorite part is the greenhouse the park offers.

Lettuce Lake Park, another park that offers trails through the forest, has the Hillsborough River crossing through the middle. This unique feature allows the park to have more diverse wildlife and  provides a wide space for canoeing. The park is located in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve and is 23 minutes north of UT.

Angelina Giuliano, a junior biology major, said Lettuce Lake Park is one of her new favorite places in Tampa.

“I recently found it when me and my friends went for an adventure around Tampa,” said Giuliano. “There are so many animals; me and my friends saw tortoises and I touched a skunk.”

Lettuce Lake Park also boasts an observation tower, which is a three-story tower that faces the Hillsborough River. People often go there to enjoy the views and watch others  canoe on the river.

Another hidden gem that can be found 10 minutes away from campus is Channel Drive. This street in Davis Island allows visitors to park on the side of the road and enjoy a short walk in front of Seddon Channel.

Katelyn Malloy, an FSU student, said she enjoys sitting and relaxing by the channel.

“The first time I came here was because my girlfriend brought me,” said Malloy. “It is very calming to hear the water hitting the rocks by the walkway.”

Ashleigh Mcgregor, president of the Environmental Protection Coalition, said that she does not consider it to be hidden, she thinks that many students do not know about the Hong Kong Willie.

Hong Kong Willie, named after reuse artist Hong Kong Willie, is a one-story building that showcases the work of the artist, which is mainly formed with recycled materials. Hong Kong Willie is 20 minutes away from UT and located on the same venue as Lettuce Lake Park.

Iovanna Borjas can be reached at

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