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Things to do in the Tampa Bay area, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and the Tampa Bay area, RV and tent camping, kayaking, beaches, festivals.

Visiting here, I found myself amazed that places like Anna Maria Island survive — a low-rise beach town with quaint cottages and a spectacular beach. Daytrippers will be happy to learn they can skip the weekend traffic and parking hassles with an affordable new ferry service from Bradenton.

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In Dunedin, we love bicycling the Pinellas Trail, but this charming Tampa Bay area town has more to offer, with eight breweries plus great restaurants and coffee shops in its walkable historic downtown. Twenty minutes away are two excellent state parks with award-winning beaches.

Read More about Dunedin: Delightful biking, breweries, beaches and historic downtown

J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park flies under the radar for most people planning Florida trips. It’s not a state park and it’s not near a population center. But this vast water-management preserve offers tent sites in the woods and rustic cabins you can rent quite cheaply. There are miles of trails, including an excellent paved bike trail.

Read More about J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park: Vast refuge for tent campers with rustic cabins and no RVs

Myakka is one of the oldest and biggest state parks, a great place for seeing wildlife, from huge gators to flocks of birds in winter. Go here for its log cabins, appealing camp sites, excellent kayaking, extensive hiking and good bike trails. It’s also a good spot for nature neophytes, who enjoy the airboat ride and canopy walk.

Read More about Myakka River State Park: 10 reasons to visit this big, wild Sarasota preserve

Here’s a great destination for hot summer weekends. Three new art museums in St. Petersburg – each built to house extraordinary private collections – make this a Florida city with lots to do indoors. Opening Aug. 3, the Dali Museum also will debut a dome with a 360 degree immersive art experience.

Read More about 3 new collections boost St. Petersburg as ‘City of Art’

St. Petersburg is full of Old Florida treasures, from a beautiful brick 1927 comfort station next to the new bayfront pier to the Sunken Gardens, a cherished roadside attraction complete with a flock of flamingoes. St. Pete has grown younger and livelier, but it retains much of its original charm.

Read More about 7 things to do in St. Petersburg for an Old Florida flavor

Tarpon Springs is best known for its Greek sponge docks. But a boat trip to Anclote Key, one of Florida’s most remote state parks, is even better. Anclote Key is a perfect island beach, perhaps more tantalizing because it’s not easy to visit.

Read More about Tarpon Springs: Visit dazzling island of Anclote Key on boat from Sponge Docks

The Manatee River is wild, natural and serene in its eastern section. Just a half hour from downtown Bradenton, the Upper Manatee Paddling Trail is another world. Your trip can include a stop at a preserve where a pioneer cemetery marks the site of an early town.

Read More about Upper Manatee River: Kayaking wild eastern part of river in Bradenton