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Thanks to the Piney Point disaster, red tide in the Tampa Bay area has been perhaps worse than we've ever seen it before and we have no idea when it'll clear up. Swimming in coastal water contaminated with high concentrations of red tide can cause adverse health effects -- not to mention, it's just pretty gross because the shores are littered with dead and dying fish. With that being said, it's also the hottest time of the year and admittedly we're all itching to get back in the water --though, with the state of the local beaches (check out my previous post), it's best to look elsewhere. Fortunately, there are plenty of beach-like places to go swimming near Tampa that will hold you over.
The best part? You won't have to worry about red tide at any of the places on this list as all the spots I have included are either freshwater or pool/chlorinated water. So, happy swimming, and don't forget your essentials!
Check out my top four picks below:
1. Weeki Wachee
Anyone who is familiar with my blog knows that I can't say enough great things about Weeki Wachee Springs. The State Park (pictured above) is only about 45 minutes north of the city and it's a great alternative to the local beaches, featuring tons of extras like a waterslide, tubing, and even mermaid shows! Due to limited spacing, once the park reaches capacity for the day they won't let anymore people in -- but don't get discouraged if you're not first in line. There's another park only a couple miles away that should be your go-to when the state park is already at full capacity. If you really want to secure a spot on the river during this Florida heat, why not stay at one of the many vacation rentals along the river, like this one?
2. Epperson Lagoon
If you're really missing the beachy atmosphere of palm trees swaying in the wind and white sugar sand under your toes, why not remedy the problem at Epperson Lagoon? This massive 7-acre man made oasis will surely have you feeling like you're somewhere in the Florida Keys and offers way more than just swimming. Rent a paddleboard or kayak, snorkel until your heart's content, play on the inflatable obstacle course, or just lounge with your drink under the tiki huts, water-ver takes your fancy. Right now is peak season for the lagoon, so day tickets are slightly more expensive than the off season; read more about it here.
3. Adventure Island
While water skiing on the Gulf may be best put on pause until the toxic algae blooms are gone, thrill-seekers can get their fix at Busch Gardens' very own water park. While this is perhaps the most expensive option on the list, it's super close to the city and the park has tons of water rides that you just won't find anywhere else in the area. Their beachy-themed drinks and palm trees are just the icing on the cake. I'll let you in on a little secret, you can actually save 54% at five top Tampa Bay attractions including Busch Gardens here!
4. SunWest Park
You have to check out Pasco County's very own lake-beach! Complete with sandy shores, volleyball nets and concession stands, Sunwest Park is an inland paradise consisting of an impressive 70-acre spring-fed lake built around a former limestone mine. Not only is it great for swimming, it is also home to The Lift Adventure Park. Similar to Epperson Lagoon, The Lift offers beach-goers the opportunity to monkey around on their inflatable obstacle course, paddle board/kayak rentals and more -- even wakeboarding. SunWest Park's swimming area can be enjoyed for only a $5 parking fee; activities from The Lift can be purchased onsite for an upcharge. Check out more about it here.
And that concludes this list of beachy alternatives near Tampa! Where will you be swimming? Let me know in the comments below.
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