FL Sports Coast by Land, Air + Sea

Just northwest of Tampa, sits an Old Florida haven nestled on the Gulf of Mexico. Pasco County is packed with opportunities for outdoor adventures and has earned the name as Florida’s Sports Coast.

My personal connection to Pasco is strong, since I grew up in neighboring Pinellas County. Pasco had slower development compared to booming Pinellas. My dad often took us boating along the Cotee and Anclote rivers to see the unadulterated waterways of “The Real Florida.” I had memories of swimming in crystal clear waters, spotting sea turtles and climbing the Anclote Key lighthouse.

When the Sports Coast reached out to me for a hosted trip, I was elated to bring my husband to a treasured place of my childhood. We rounded up our dog, Hazel Bay, for the road trip from West Palm to the West Coast.

In this stretch of the Sunshine State, you escape the theme park crowds and rollercoasters to experience true adventure. The thrills are all natural here, and I will share how we took on the Sports Coast by land, air and sea.

By Land: Hike Starkey Wilderness Park

After checking into our dog-friendly and spacious room at Springhill Suites in Land O’ Lakes, we head out for our first excursion by land. We went for a doggie hike through Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, a premier spot for birdwatching. Pasco County attracts over 500 bird species throughout the year, we got to glimpse of a few feathered friends at the new bird blind located within Starkey Park. Hazel enjoyed the shade while we took in the sights and sounds of singing birds at the edge of Grassy Lake.

After our time on the trail, we refreshed at Starkey Market which is about 5 minutes away from the park entrance. Their dog-friendly rustic barn offers drinks and light bites. I highly recommend the nachos, which are made with Old Florida Gourmet tortilla chips and topped with smoked barbecue chicken. On selected days in season, strawberry and blueberry U-pick is available onsite at Starkey Farms.

By Air: Fly the Sky on a Paramotor Tour

We ventured off to Zephyrhills to take FL Sports Coast by sky on a paramotor tour. After taking a dirt road out to a discrete airfield, we were greeted by a community of local aviators. My tour was through eCarve, a tour and eScooter rental company located in downtown New Port Richey. eCarve’s most unique tours of Pasco occur at sunrise and sunset on a tandem paramotor. If you are unfamiliar a paramotor, imagine a lawnmower engine attached to a paraglide wing.

I got the front row view on the tandem paramotor, while my pilot London sat in the back. We took flight and I can only describe my golden hour flight as a surreal experience. We soared between live oaks coated in Spanish moss as we outran a flock of herons flying beneath us. At times I felt like I was Maverick in Top Gun. Fellow paramotorists flew beside us, waved hello and even did some air tricks!

Tours start at $120 for a 30-45 minute flight. Come with the attitude that safety is the priority, so patience is required. There are a lot of weather elements that the pilots must monitor to ensure a safe flight, but the wait is worth the remarkable experience. Be sure to bring closed toed shoes, bug spray and a compact camera, you have never seen a view like this before!

By Sea: Go Inshore Fishing with Florida Backwater Charters

A visit to Florida’s Sports Coast would not be complete without a boat ride through the majestic mangroves that dot the Gulf of Mexico. We went inshore fishing with local guide, Captain Curt Romanowksi of Florida Backwater Charters. If you have not been fishing, I cannot emphasize enough how a knowledgeable guide will enhance your experience.

Let me be transparent, although I live a salty Florida lifestyle, I am no angler. In fact, I am an atrocious fisherman. My husband can attest to that since I literally hooked him while casting a fishing rod before. However, with the help of Captain Curt, I got my first inshore slam by catching a trout, redfish and snook in the same day.

In addition to my pride in hooking a few fish, the boat ride was exquisitely scenic. During our half day charter, we saw a bald eagle, had a few heron encounters, and cruised past Johnny Cash’s old house. My favorite part was getting up close to the historic stilt homes of Port Richey. The American Flag stilt home is a Florida icon and one of the most photographed locations of Pasco.

Aprés Adventure: Grab a Beer!

After a day of adventure in the sunshine, there is no better way to unwind than getting some local suds with your travel buddies. Pasco County is home to a bustling beer scene, including Florida’s largest family owned brewery, Florida Ave Brewing Co. The destination even has its very own brew, Sports Coast Pilsner, made in collaboration with Escape Brewing Company. A six pack of this beer makes an excellent souvenir, along with the new memories made along Florida’s Sports Coast.