Looking out at the quiet, moonlit waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s impossible to know what’s on the line, other than that it’s big. Word has spread around the deep-sea-fishing boat, and now a crowd has gathered on either side of you. You pull the fishing pole back and guide whatever is snagged on the other end of the line nearer and nearer. The splashes gradually become louder. A few fellow fishermen help pull the creature onto the boat, and proudly hold the fish up for the crowd.
There are countless deep-sea-fishing tales like this one to be told at Hubbard’s Marina. During its many day or night fishing trips, its crew and guest fishermen board the US Coast Guard–certified vessels for excursions into the Gulf to reel in fish of all sizes. Not only does Hubbard's Marina offer fishing trips, but they also allow opportunities for people to visit and observe Florida wildlife in their natural habitat. Animals such as dolphins, pelicans,manatees, and bald eagles can bee seen from the boat. After cruises, visitors can go shopping along the picturesque boardwalk and enjoy the local culture and history in the quaint fishing village.
They also captain sunset cruises, dolphin-watching cruises, kayak tours, rent kayaks and paddle boards, and even take to the streets during segway tours.
After 40 years of enchanting families and youngsters at its original location, Treasure Island Fun Center relocated its abundant arcade games and tasty treats to a recently renovated 16,000-square-foot facility in 2007. Kiddie rides and games occupy toddlers, and older kids and adults compete in billiards and air-hockey bouts or zip through virtual tracks in racing games. Rekindle flames with classic arcade fixtures such as pinball, Centipede, and Ms. Pac-Man, or vie for tickets by playing skeeball or haggling virtual-reality scalpers. Once accumulated, those tickets can be traded for one of the arcade’s many prizes such as toys, lava lamps, and digital cameras.
With pizza by the slice, chicken nuggets, and ice cream, the full-service snack bar known as Pegleg’s Pizza refuels guests between games. Through its charity, the Bob and Jean Noell Charitable Foundation, Treasure Island Fun Center also reenergizes the community, having donated more than $125,000 to schools and youth organizations thus far.
Sky Pirate Parasail's U.S. Coast Guard–licensed captains slip through John's Pass between Madeira Beach and Treasure Island while towing parasailers on a 1,200 foot tow rope, who glide under kaleidoscopic chutes tethered up to 500 feet in the air. After fastening their passengers, who range from school-aged kids to grandparents, into a secure harness, they fill the parachute's canopy with air and shuttle the skyward rider over the saltwater waves for an aerial jaunt. As the captain slackens the line and traces the coastline from offshore, the parasailer floats over the beach, the dolphins, and the gelatinous blob monster waving at sunbathers.
It’s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smugglers Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20–50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove’s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
Eric, Mitch, and Julie Audit head up a crew of "wannabe pirates and friends" at Island Life Charters. Their armada of kayaks are equipped with quiet electric motors, carries visitors out on self-guided excursions and tours, where they can take in views of mangrove trees teeming with birds, as well as manatees and dolphins. For a different boating experience entirely, the fleet's crown jewel is Islandicity, a 30-foot Chaparral boat that comfortably seats 12 passengers on a deck equipped with a powerful stereo system, a wet bar, and a Coast Guard-deterring scare-Poseidon.
It turns out baby alligators are pretty cute when there's no chance they're going to bite you. That's what people learn when they visit the Alligator Attraction, where they feed the seven-inch creatures from a safe distance by dangling fishing poles off an overhead bridge. Visitors can also come in for a closer interaction by handling the gators, cradling them in their arms and smooching their snouts. These animals are much larger—the center's 50 gators grow as large as seven feet long—but the interaction is still safe because the gators' jaws are securely taped shut.
There are other animals to behold and interact with, too. Visitors feed koi fish from baby bottles, and they line up to greet rescue animals such as Becca the Australian blue-tongued skink and Rudolph the 95-pound African spur thigh tortoise. Outside of the small zoo, personnel bring The Alligator Attraction's titular reptiles to pool parties to swim around with guests and gossip about the neighbors as much as they can with their mouths bound.