While it might not sound like the most enticing of places, Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park is in fact a splendid place to visit.
Situated in the delta of the Little Manatee River, this beautiful series of islands lie within the southeast region of Tampa Bay.
Only accessible by kayak or canoe, the islands comprise a total acreage of 617-acres, of which 500-acres are mangrove swamp. This makes it a haven for fishing and birding, while hiking is also a popular activity too.
As pristine as they are, the islands do not possess any facilities or amenities on them. So if you do visit this Florida state park, you’ll need to bring everything you need with you, and then take it all back out as well.
About Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park is located about 40 minutes from Tampa.
To get there you will need to drive to Gulf City Road in Ruskin.
You can do this via Interstate 75. To get to the nearest public boat ramp, you will need to head west of Highway 41 to the end of Cockroach Bay Road.
While it is not clear exactly how the park got its name, one popular theory is that early Spanish explorers mistook the horseshoe crabs that were abundant on Florida’s western coastline for giant cockroaches.
Visitors to the park are able to enjoy its peaceful surroundings and beautiful scenery in a variety of ways.
Here is some more information about what you can see and do whilst you are there.
Boating at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
There are a couple of kayak and paddling trails at the park which wind their way through the Aquatic Preserve.
Maintained by the Florida Coastal Office, the Snook Canoe Trail and Horseshoe Crab Trail can be accessed from a boat ramp that you’ll find at the western end of Cockroach Bay Road.
These trails take you through a verdant labyrinth of oyster reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds that provide shelter, food and a natural coastal habitat for many of the preserve’s aquatic and fish species.
If tackling the Snook Canoe Trail in the winter, be aware that some portions of it are often dry during low tide.
Whatever time of year you visit, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellent with you.
Fishing at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
For those who enjoy fishing, the park provides you with plenty of opportunities to cast a line along its scenic shoreline.
The likes of flounder, tarpon, snook, red snapper, sheepshead, speckled sea trout and mullet are all available in abundance here, so you should have no problem getting a bite.
Depending on what type of fishing you want to do, a license might be needed. You will also have to abide by the park’s rules and regulations with regards to size, method of capture, number and season.
For more information about this, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Hiking at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
If you are into hiking there is a nice 3.7-km loop trail for you to enjoy at the park.
Designated as an easy route, it will take you about 40 minutes to complete and combine the preserve’s blue and red trails.
The red trail takes you to a scenic overlook on a hill, where you will be able to marvel at fantastic views of the St. Petersburg and Tampa skylines.
The blue trail leads you around a picturesque lake which offers tranquility and serenity.
Birding at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
Due to the park’s meticulous habitat restoration efforts, visitors to the park will get to enjoy a fantastic day of birding.
On the south side of Cockroach Bay Road in particular you will get to see a diverse range of species. Some of these reside in the park all year round while others are more seasonal. Only coming during the migratory periods of spring, fall or winter.
Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars with you to the park for the opportunity to see great crested flycatchers and gray, western and tropical kingbirds.
Also keep a look out for Merlin and American kestrel, peregrine falcon and sharp-shinned hawk, especially in the spring. As well as the impressive red-tailed hawk and Cooper’s hawk.
You may also be able to spot breeds like common yellowthroat, scissor-tailed flycatcher, sandhill crane, clapper rail, marsh wren, great horned owl, wood stork and sedge wren too.
Pets at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
Pets are allowed to join you at the park, so you can bring your dog with you.
However once there, they are only allowed to be within designated areas, and under certain conditions.
To clarify what these are, it would be a good idea to contact the park’s main office.
Camping at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
For those who want to stay at the park there is no camping accommodation available onsite. However, just a 10 minute drive away you’ll find the E. G, Simmons Conservation Park.
A modern campground, it features 110 sites that are set up for RVs, tents and trailers. Of these, 62 sites offer connections with 50-amp service while all bar two have 30-amp electrical hookups. The two that don’t are primitive sites.
The sites range in size from 35 feet to 160 feet in length and discounts on them apply if you are over the age of 65, or have someone of that age in your party.
Amenities at the campground include a boat ramp, barbecue grills, playground, picnic shelters, restrooms, showers and a swimming area.
Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
End of Cockroach Bay Road
Ruskin, FL 33570
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park: