Tampa resident and history lover Lonnie Herman’s longtime fascination with the haunted has evolved into a broad expertise about the area's vibrant streets where newspapers are printed in three languages. The personable former executive also has the gift of being an evocative storyteller. This convergence of interest and talents resulted in Lonnie's company, Ybor City Historic Walking Tours. Lonnie's upbeat narration carries small groups down vibrant 7th Avenue with detailed anecdotes that reveal the complex past behind Ybor City's cigar factories, Columbia Restaurant, and the story of the eponymous Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who founded the city as a place to store his statues of himself.
Sun Line Cruise's 45-foot catamaran, the "Island Star," transports its passengers to local spots where they can enjoy views of everything from lovely sunsets to pods of dolphins. Passengers sip beer and wine and watch the sun sink below the Gulf of Mexico on evening cruises, and learn about the local marine wildlife and eco-system on Sea Fari cruises around Anclote Key. This locale, which is the northernmost barrier island in the Gulf, is also home to a historic lighthouse built in 1887.
When Brian McInerney reflects on the humble beginnings of Wheel Fun Rentals, he points to his childhood passion for bikes. "As far back as I can remember, I had a real love affair with bicycles," he recalls. During a trip to Italy in 1987, Brian's affinity for cycling blossomed into a full-fledged obsession when he spotted locals' transporter of choice, the surrey. Inspired, he began importing the Italian four-wheelers to a rental business in the U.S. that eventually expanded into Wheel Fun Rentals, now a nationwide web of shops that also loans out bikes, electric cars and mopeds, and man-powered watercraft. Adventuresome athletes can also compete in activities such as surrey scavenger hunts and blindfold obstacle courses navigated via shouted instructions from a seeing teammate or exceptionally long rounds of trial and error.
Atlantis V Charters donates all of its proceeds to the Never Say Never Foundation, which leads free sailing lessons for children. Similarly, the company's captains and crew volunteer their time and refuse payment. Instead, the expert sailors profit from fostering awareness of the ocean's beauty, wildlife, and resources. They welcome passengers aboard a 50-foot classic world-cruising sailing yacht; half- or all-day charters and short sunset tours are available. During these journeys, the captains answer questions and teach passengers about the dolphins that frequently swim alongside the boat. Using a dinghy, the crew also takes passengers around Anclote Island. If weather permits, they view an 1887 lighthouse and discover underwater habitats using snorkeling gear.
To reap nature’s bounty, the company also leads fishing trips aboard a 20-foot Proline fishing boat. With all the necessary bait and tackle, a wildlife instructor teaches beginners the basics of baiting and casting, while helping more experienced fishermen reel in their catches and enjoy the water.
As they flock to the nearby beaches of Clearwater or the nightlife of Tampa, most tourists overlook Dunedin, a pretty burg known for its sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico. But, thanks to the segway-riding guides at Sun Glide Tours, the region’s hidden gem just became much more accessible. Astride their two-wheeled steeds, visitors can explore the Pinellas Trail that cuts through downtown, steering their segways alongside runners, bikers, and the town’s famous rollerblading squirrels.
At Fish Magnet Fishing Charters, the magnetic force that brings hook and fish together is United States Coast Guard–certified Master Captain Janot B. Vilardell. Aboard his 18-foot fishing boat, he steers anglers into fishing hot spots along the Gulf of Mexico as well as inland waterways such as the Suwannee River. Once anchored, he shares tips and techniques for reeling in the big one: the plug to the ocean's drain. As an added bonus, he supplies all of the tackle and bait.