From the moment seasoned nature tour guide Kurt Zuelsdorf first dipped his paddle into Clam Bayou, he knew the mangrove estuary would be the right place to set his kayak tours. But there was a catch—a garbage dump’s worth of rusting shopping carts and waterlogged plastic bags was strewn about the waterway. Undeterred, Kurt hit upon a clever cleanup strategy: people could launch his fleet of kayaks for free, so long as they toted a bag of garbage out of the bayou with them.
Numerous grants, media attention, and awards later, Kurt’s waterway cleanup program has reached its final stages. Now, kayakers and paddlers can freely navigate the mangrove channels, nabbing sights of manatees, herons, and tugboat captains hopelessly lost in the mangroves. An avid nature enthusiast who has kayaked waterways from Wisconsin to Florida, Kurt prizes Clam Bayou, citing the diversity of wildlife along the one-mile stretch. “It’s not like the zoo,” he says. “Every time you hit the water, it’s a completely different experience.”
Boats dance and glide over the crisscrossing wakes carved into Tampa Bay, each craft anxiously revving toward its respective dock to arrive before closing time. All the while, a handful of boats remain on the open water, swaying atop the undulating waves as its passengers continue to enjoy the fiery sunset reflecting off the bay's surface. These select aquatic vehicles carry Lotto Boat's boat club members, who have access to a slew of exclusive perks, such as extended marina hours. Stationed at Harborage Marina, Lotto Boat's 20 rental vessels include kayaks, paddleboards, WaveRunners, and power boats equipped with GPS navigation systems. After hopping aboard a vessel, landlubbers can go jet-skiing, drift over to nearby tiki bars for dinner and live music, or take in scenic views of downtown St. Petersburg. Once patrons make their way back to one of Lotto Boat's two docks, staffers thoroughly cleanse the boat of interior debris and exterior mermaid hitchhikers to prepare for the vessel's next excursion.
Both by land and by sea, Doo’s Amazing Tours, LLC reveals St. Petersburg's historic charm and natural beauty via a diverse array of guided sightseeing jaunts. Louisa—also known as "Doo"—oversees the operation from the company's headquarters in the Historic Downtown District. Here, tour-goers can hop on a Segway and zip past the beach town's most notable landmarks. Narrated by an experienced guide, the trip mines much of the city's illustrious past, including the work of prominent citizens and several old hotels.
When guests are ready to leave dry land behind, they can swap their Segway for a kayak or stand-up paddleboards at one of four launch points: North Shore Beach, Coffee Pot Bayou, Weedon Island, or Saint Pete Beach. For example, on the Spring River trip, paddlers float over subterranean caverns covered by a layer of sparkling clear water, which in turn is surrounded by white sand beaches and tropical vegetation.
The crew at Kayak Valet has one mission: to get more people out and enjoying the local waterways and scenery via kayaks or paddleboards. Since storing, hauling, unloading, reloading, and potty training their own kayaks can deter people from boating, the team sets up shop to cancel out such deterrents. They take care of nearly every task, bringing all equipment necessary for a leisurely paddle on puddles of all sizes right to the launch site. The crew will pick up and deliver equipment to popular launch sites within Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee Counties. To keep the aquatic adventure accessible, the shop rents only kayaks and standup paddleboards that can be piloted by anyone, experienced or not. Additionally, they give visitors tips on paddling and safety techniques and sell new kayaks, paddleboards, and accessories.
Jesse Nofi is most at home on the open water. An experienced fisherman since his teenage years, Jesse learned early that the richest bounties often lie in the less-traveled depths out past the shore. Now the Coast Guard–licensed charter captain of 360 Fishing Charters, Jesse shares his affinity for exploration with passengers, running fishing excursions in and around Tampa Bay. Aboard his fleet of kayaks or a 22-foot Crestliner powerboat, passengers might undertake inshore pursuits of redfish, grouper, and catfish or lead deep-water chases for snapper and grouper through waters up to nine miles offshore. When he’s not helping anglers haul in their latest catch, Jesse can also be found writing up recaps of his time on the water as a contributing writer for the websites The Online Fisherman and Florida Marine Times.
Tampa Bay Boat Rental helps patrons access some of the top beaches on Florida?s west coast, including Treasure Island, St. Petersburg, and Indian Rocks Beach. Their fleet of 24-foot pontoon boats can accommodate up to 11 passengers for a fishing trip if guests so choose. Ice and bait are available for purchase in the shop. The company also offers a number of private boat charters and guided excursions such as two-hour dolphin tours that allow guests to witness dolphins in their natural habitats and luxurious TV lounges.