The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in Florida is home to over 4 million people. Downtown Tampa is nestled away from the Gulf of Mexico in Hillsborough Bay. Right across from Downtown is Harbor Island, a residential community. To the east, separated by a canal, is the Port of Tampa, where ships deliver commerce to the southwestern United States. To the west, separated by Seddon Channel, is the Davis Islands with residential homes, townhomes, commercial establishments, an airport, beaches, and yacht clubs.
Originally used as a railroad yard and phosphate-loading terminal, Harbor Island sat vacant for a very long time. In 1979, the land was bought by a development company with the intention of residential, commercial, and retail purposes.
Six years later, in 1985, development finally broke ground. Now there are single-family homes, large estates, apartments, high-rises, a hotel, coffee shops, restaurants, retail spaces, nightclubs, and a yacht club. Nearly 3,300 people call the 177-acre island home.
Here are five reasons that make Harbor Island one of the best places to live in Florida.
Harbor Island is within the city limits of Tampa and directly across the Garrison Channel from Downtown. There are two vehicular routes across the Channel – South Franklin Street and Beneficial Drive. Once across the channel, it's about ten blocks to the Downtown area.
The Tampa Bay Convention Center is just off South Franklin Street, and the Florida Aquarium is off Beneficial Drive. A few blocks more, and you can hop on the Selmon Expressway or 275 to connect with the rest of the Tampa Bay area. 275 West will take you to Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and beaches. Connect with Interstate 4 east toward Lakeland and Orlando. Interstate 75 north leads to Gainesville. Interstate 75 south heads to Fort Myers, the Everglades, and eventually Miami.
Getting around the island is simple. Beneficial Drive and South Harbor Island Blvd head south towards homes, and most commercial places are on the north end. The TECO Line Streetcar is a trolley that connects the island to downtown and Channelside. Neighborhood Electric Vehicles are available to transport you to other neighborhoods throughout the Tampa area.
There are three main neighborhoods on Harbor Island – North Neighborhood, South Neighborhood, and Piazza.
North Neighborhood is closest to downtown Tampa. On the island's northern tip, it is a mixed-use area where people can live, work, eat, and play without leaving the neighborhood. Essentials are within walking or biking distance. Other items are a short drive, trolley, or Uber ride away. The North Neighborhood has apartments, condominium or townhome communities, restaurants, businesses, and office complexes. Many of the homes have fantastic views of the downtown skyline.
South Neighborhood is a private, gated, master-planned community that has the majority of the homes. There are two condominium communities, four single-family home communities, and a marina association. Access to these homes is controlled by gates and bar codes.
Piazza Neighborhood is where the commercial businesses, office complexes, the Westin Hotel, restaurants, retail businesses, and a marina are located.
Harbor Island has several local places to dine. Some popular options include:
Jackson's Bistro Bar & Sushi has a waterfront dine-in restaurant and event space, pizza and sushi delivery service, Sunday brunch specials, and a weekend nightclub. Located within walking distance of the Tampa Convention Center and other downtown attractions, this is a perfect place to start or end your evening.
Café Dufrain has waterfront dining serving seasonal and seafood fare. Enjoy salads, sandwiches, and traditional American fares such as Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese, Teriyaki Grilled Salmon, and Shrimp Fried Rice.
Watervue Grille is an upscale restaurant that serves seafood dishes such as calamari, crab cakes, steamed mussels, Mahi, swordfish, salmon, steaks, and much more. They are open for lunch and dinner and have waterfront-view seating.
Blue Harbor Eatery & Bar is a restaurant located inside the Westin Hotel. Enjoy steak, catfish, grouper, salads, and appetizers. Hang out at the bar for cocktails and pregame bites.
American Social Bar & Kitchen has four full-service bars, a raw bar, patio dining, and events. Come for brunch, lunch, dinner, or just drinks. Watch the game or meet friends.
The Cry Baby Café is a casual breakfast and lunch establishment. Stop by for biscuits and gravy, egg dishes, waffles, French toast, or avocado toast for breakfast. Grab a sandwich or soup for lunch.
Just by its proximity to water, Harbor Island is a great place for active residents. Many on the island own motorboats and keep them handy on the water. There are several other activities on Harbor Island to keep you entertained.
Harbor Island Lighthouse is on private land on the island's south end. Check and see if visitors are allowed, but no doubt the best way to see the lighthouse is from the water.
Visit Harbor Island Athletic Club for your fitness needs. Swim laps in the pool, take tennis lessons, enjoy a yoga class, or work out with a personal trainer.
The Westin Hotel is on the northwest corner of the island. It has restaurants and bars right on the waterfront.
For those that own their own boat, the Harbor Island Marina can store 87 boats that are 48 to 55 feet long and have beams up to 16 feet. About half of the slips are fixed, and half are floating. They feature electrical, water, and telephone connections. The slips are on the east side of the island. Motor up your vessel and head south through Hillsborough Bay and Tampa Bay out into the Gulf of Mexico towards an ocean journey.
Tampa is surrounded by water from the large bays, channels between land masses, and rivers on either side of downtown Tampa and up north. Paramount Water Sports offers guided tours on jet skis.
For something completely different, tour the waters around Harbor Island and Tampa on a bicycle that floats. Check out Kraken CycleBoats and rent one for a couple of hours.
Harbor Island is filled with trees and pathways along the waterways. Walk along the water's edge and see the big ships come and go on the west side. On the east side, you can walk between the townhomes and the marina boats, sightseeing and exercising simultaneously. It's a popular path to walk dogs; just make sure they are on a leash.
5. A Unique Living Experience
You might ask yourself, "What is it like living in Harbor Island Tampa?" The island is well thought out. There are a lot of unique homes in beautiful neighborhoods.
Harbor Island prides itself on its community. Wide roads, lush landscapes, and well-thought-out open spaces. There is a sense of community. Each neighborhood has a homeowner's association with a president, secretary, treasurer, and representatives. The condo and townhome communities have amenities such as pools, clubhouses, and tennis courts.
Random lakes with paths are scattered throughout the island's interior. Large estates on the southwest side have private pools, green space, and boat slips.
It's pretty easy to get around as there are few roads and not many dead ends. Privacy and seclusion are paramount. No one gets through the gates without express permission. Cars need barcodes, and pedestrians need gate passes. The Market at Harbor Place is an option to grab weekly groceries.
Living on Harbor Island Tampa
Harbor Island Tampa is ideally situated in the heart of the action. Head into Tampa for a show, sporting event, or nightlife. If you have a family and children of school age, they will be headed onto the mainland for school – MacFarlane Park Magnet School and Hillsborough Virtual Schools are two options.
Families enjoy the Tampa Bay History Center and Florida Aquarium across the channel. Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park has a pier and playground. The greater Tampa area has everything from Busch Gardens to beaches in Clearwater.
Harbor Island is a perfect place to live if you work in Tampa. If you are lucky, you might work in an office in the north part of the island.
To live on an island in the middle of the city of Tampa, definitely check out Harbor Island. Urban living is becoming more desirable for many residents and a low maintenance area such as Harbor Island is continuing to rise in popularity.
There are several condos, townhomes, and single family homes for sale; your perfect home is waiting for you.