Harbor Island is often overlooked by locals. Maybe because the roads next to the Tampa Convention Center and the St. Pete Times Forum don’t really advertise what’s on the other side of the bridges very well. Maybe since the Island itself is primarily dedicated to beautiful, higher end condo developments it’s hard to tell that it’s a great place to start an evening out. But since Harbor Island is a distinctly walkable neighbor and is located right downtown, it’s a Tampa Florida’s attraction that’s worth a visit.
There are surprisingly few places in Tampa that you can have dinner or cocktails and enjoy the local waterways. There’s something about enjoying a sunset or the city lights over a good meal or drinks waterside that can add a little romance to any occasion. Harbor Island has two great places to do just that.
Jackson’s is located adjacent to the Westin Hotel in Downtown Tampa, right across the bridge from the Tampa Convention Center and Tampa’s new Riverwalk so it gets plenty of attention. To get there, just pass between the Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel and Jackson’s is on the right hand side. You’ll park in an “underground” garage that has an entrance in the courtyard in front of the Westin Hotel. While Jackson’s has a decent menu and good interior restaurant, go when you can sit outside by the bar and enjoy the water. You have a great view of the lights from the Conventions Center of course, but the real attraction is seeing the boats pass by during one of Tampa Bay’s spectacular sunsets that really sets the stage fora nice night out. Once you’re done with dinner, take a stroll across the bridge and short walk along the Riverwalk, or maybe to the St. Pete Times Forum for a show.
Cafe Dufrain is a new favorite. It’s exactly across the water from the St. Pete Times Forum and right across the bridge next to Channelside Bay Plaza, opening up more great after-dinner activities. You can sit outside on the patio in front of the boats in the marina, listen to the din of the crowds lining up for a Forum event or just enjoy the wonderful light show that is every evening with a downtown view. Cafe Dufrain is smaller than Jackson’s and is not attached to a big hotel, so it offers a much more intimate, neighborhood feel. Classy decor with some quality art pieces on the wall on the inside, white tablecloths and a lovely menu make it good for making a first impression. Sidewalk, street-side seating that has more of a cafe vibe, all with a view across the water, are well suited to a lower key evening. When you’re done with dinner, stroll across the bridge for some live music in Channelside Bay Plaza or head for one of the great nightclubs in that area like Ajah or Howl at The Moon. Want to tone it down? Just see a movie at the Imax theater or end up bowling at Splittsville.
We had dinner at Cafe Dufrain again this weekend and strolled along with waterside in front of the Tampa History Center. The Colombia Cafe had live music, there was a beautiful breeze and the boats going by all made for the perfect end to a wonderful meal!
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Harbor Island is one of Tampa Florida’s neighborhoods that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves for entertainment..and the residents probably like it that way! But don’t be dissuaded, it’s a great place to start your next Tampa Date night with plenty of after dinner options close by like the nightlife in the Channelside District or shows and events at the St. Pete Times Forum.