Tampa, St. Petersberg, Indian Shores, Clearwater, St. Pete Beach, every small town and jurisdiction up and down the partially man-made barrier islands, to refer to the area as simply “Tampa” does it a disservice. That kind of multi-city sprawl across a couple of Florida peninsulas connected by all manner of causeway creates a wildly diverse dive bar scene.
The recommended selections in the area range from the classic Florida dive bar / liquor store combo at the southern tip of St. Pete (Smugglers Tavern
) to the downtown Tampa dive known for shockingly aggressive liquor pours (The Hub
) to maybe the best dive bar in America along a sleepy stretch of barrier island road (Mahuffer’s
). The chance to pull from such a wide selection of towns, people and geographies makes for fertile dive bar ground.
Though Florida’s rich history may not be the first thing tourists think of when visiting the state, Tampa’s dive bars wear that history proudly, with places like ex-gas station office Tiny Tap Tavern
boasting a near 90-year history. Longevity is a core piece of the best Tampa dive bars reviewed here, each with their own unique story.
And for a state so overrun by transient, touristy sightseers, these dive bars provide a much-needed antidote to some of the gloss and new construction that comes with catering to vacationers with disposable income. That Shipwreck Grill
sits just a few blocks from ultra-touristy downtown Clearwater is all the juxtaposition needed to prove the value and necessity of a good dive bar to keep a city sane.
While some of the trappings of being a woven-together collection of beach cities and major sporting events are impossible to avoid, the dive bars that thrive within the cracks ground Tampa and can ground any visit to Tampa and all points west.