28/04/2017 15:54 BST | Updated 04/05/2017 10:43 BST

Tampa Bay: Inside The Exhilarating US Destination For Dedicated Thrill Seekers

Time to buckle up.

If you’re the adrenaline-mad type, you probably like the sound of canoeing past gators, cycling on water and swimming with sharks. Not to mention plummeting down dizzying drop towers and spotting dolphins.

All of the above are yours for the taking, in Florida’s Tampa Bay. With daily flights to Tampa International Airport from London Gatwick with British Airways, it’s also easier to reach than you’d think.

And, when you’ve had your fill of thrills, you’re perfectly positioned to explore the region’s Cuban culture, dynamic food scene and nearby beaches.

Here’s everything you need to pack in on your next trip.

Charidy Bunsa via Getty Images

Where to begin

The Tampa Bay Riverwalk is a 2.5-mile paved walkway and a must-experience for every visitor, with the beautiful Hillsborough River on one side and downtown’s most popular destinations, restaurants and parks along the way. For an added thrill, you can hire bikes or Segways and cool off in the splash fountains.

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One of the Riverwalk’s most popular destinations is the impressive wave-shaped Florida Aquarium. What really sets this aquarium apart are the interactive displays. At Stingray Beach you can reach out and touch Southern Rays and Blue Spotted Rays and even Coral Catsharks and White Spotted Bamboo Sharks. 

Shark Swim is just what it says: an in-water reef adventure that requires no diving license and lets visitors swim around with thousands of vibrantly coloured fish, sting rays, barracudas and sharks.

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Go wild

For those who love the thrill of being up close to wild animals, the Safari Wilderness Ranch is a must-visit. Here, situated between Orlando and Tampa, its 260 acres is a world away from the hustle and bustle, a view more akin to the Serengeti desert with grazing zebra. Knowledgeable guides drive you through large herds of exotic game in customized safari vehicles – or, for a more adventurous transport mode, you can view the wild animals from the back of a camel. You’ll also get a chance to hand-feed lemurs.

Breath-taking Busch Park

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay will get your adrenaline pumping with dozens of thrill rides, including Kumba, Falcon’s Fury, North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower, and Cheetah Hunt, Florida’s first triple-launch roller coaster. Much more than a theme park, Busch Gardens also delivers awe-inspiring encounters with over 300 different species of wild animals. 

Located right across the street from Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, Adventure Island® is 30 acres of water-drenched fun in the sun with high-speed thrills, including the Colossal Curl slide, which allows you to experience the sensation of weightlessness.

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Explore the water

Tampa Bay offers so many exciting possibilities to get out on the water. With Canoe Escape, you can explore the Hillsborough River through a 16,000-acre wilderness park and discover the natural Florida, including alligators, with a downstream paddling adventure.

You can also rent an e-boat, a virtually silent, easy to operate, environmentally friendly boat, to enjoy Tampa Bay’s sights from the water in peace.

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For a totally new and unforgettable experience, the Tampa Bay Water Bike Company offers the chance to cycle on water. With a choice of water bikes and biyaks (pedal kayaks), after a short tutorial, riders are free to explore the Hillsborough River. From the water, you’ll have beautiful views of downtown, Harbor Island, Davis Island, the University of Tampa and Curtis Hixon Park.

It’s also well worth taking a trip on Florida Aquarium’s Wild Dolphin Tour on board the Bay Spirit II, a 72-foot powered catamaran.

Fabulous value with CityPASS

No Tampa Bay trip is complete without CityPASS. A booklet of discount admission tickets to Busch Gardens® Tampa, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Tampa Trio: The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and the Museum of Science & Industry, it means great discounts on your adventures. 

Visit Busch Gardens plus one other attraction and you’ve paid the price of CityPASS, plus it’s valid for nine days.

Daily flights from London Gatwick to Tampa International Airport with British Airways make Tampa Bay the perfect base for exploring Florida’s flawless Gulf Coast.