Typical view [?]
NOTE: Can be nothing but often good shoreirds.
NOTE: Sea life only.
NOTE: Except you are in the water
NOTE: MAYBE when getting dark and not much wind
LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
This is a place to wade and see sea creatures and to see some shorebirds. View isn't bad either. One on either side of the bridge.
Shore birds, gulls, osprey, pelicans are quite acrobatic on the actual bridge using the ground effect to glide along side you.
Sea life. See "Experience". You have to get good at training your eye for it but while driving over the bridge you can spot a dolphin maybe 1/2 the time.
Rest stops have everything.
South side is manatee county, north side is Pinellas county. On the south side rest area there's a little beach at the south corner of the parking area. Manatee county rules for collecting shellfish are (or were last I checked) radically more stringent than anywhere else if you were inclined to do that. If just looking this might be the best and I'd say it IS the best for birds. Look from that beach out or out around to the right for sandbars where sometimes many shorebirds sit. You MIGHT have to wade out around the bend (by wade I mean ankle deep may be enough). The east side you have to walk over rocks to get to the water and it's not quite as good. However if you kayak this area you're looking at is great - Rattlesnake Key and Critical Creek have some great spots. Also there are protected bird islands in that direction on a boat (not visible from here).
The north side rest area - there is a beach peninsula on the NW section where people windsurf etc but is good for this kind of thing. The NE side and SE side (again all at north rest area) are nice sometimes but not the best in general. You can park along the road and there are places where you can see obviously where people park.
Fishing on the pier can be fun - it's actually a state park - but that is another story. It's the remnants of the previous Skyway bridge that broke and people drove off of. They say there's a 70's blonde hitchhiker here that gets in and then disappears at the top - so beware!
If you just stop and look at birds - 15 minutes. If you really poke around maybe an hour.
People come to these areas to do quite a few things - collect fish and sea life for food, bait, or aquariums (I've met a lot of 1st generation immigrant Asian families here doing that). Also kayaking, wade fishing, paragliding and wind surfing (North side). Depending on the tides it can be nice to just walk out in knee deep water to watch sting rays or walk near the little sand bars where shorebirds are huddled together.
Not everyone likes to get wet or walk in sea grass (get $7 water shoes at Target) but I've never taken anyone out doing this (here or other spots) and found they didn't thoroughly enjoy it - especially if they bring their kids:
Usually what you see are random small fish, crabs, hermit crabs, snails, bonnethead sharks are like tiny hammerheads that eat crabs (2-3 foot) but you're not going to see them in knee deep water and probably not before deep dusk. If you push a net through the grasses you can see all kinds of things that hang out in the grass often just as juveniles. Octopus, pipefish (elongated seahorses), seahorses, filefish, puffers, burrfish, all kinds of crabs, all kinds of tiny animals adapted to live in algae. Don't just take any sea creature home with in as some that you might not expect are protected - read the salt water fishing regulations or better yet don't take anything home.
At night if you bring a high candlepower light you can see otherworldly things like bonnet head sharks, guitar-fish, blue crabs swimming.It's exciting but a bit daunting to have sharks (though small and harmless) come into your little sphere of light and leave.
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