Apollo has been around for ages. There was the world-renowned Apollo Theater in Harlem, for example. There have been Apollo-this and Apollo-that. Of course, there was the original Apollo, who was a very important and complex god of Greek and Roman mythology from whence all others ripped off the name. But, leave it to the Sunshine State to outdo them all: in Florida, Apollo’s a beach … well, kind of.
Actually, Apollo Beach is a thriving waterfront community with year-round boating, fishing, and other watery-type activities that temp the hearts of true contemporary water aficionados—much as the sirens of yore once lured sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices that would cause shipwrecks. Okay, maybe you should really disregard the shipwreck-thing, and concern yourself only with the nearly 55 miles of canals that lead to Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and the sunshine! Don’t forget the sunshine!
Apollo Beach is an unincorporated census-designated place located in southern Hillsborough County, equidistance between Tampa and Bradenton along US41. The CDP covers approximately 22 square miles, of which roughly 14% is water.
The community was originally founded in 1923 on land that was used for farming and grazing pastures with much of the land considered uninhabitable because of its mangrove and low-elevation. Not satisfied with such a pedestrian and, frankly, boring, use of his property, the owner secured the services of an engineering firm from Miami to design a subdivision that included roads, canals, schools, recreation areas, and community services. Voila! Apollo Beach was born! Although it was originally called Tampa Beach to lure, er, attract, interested persons more readily with its association to Tampa. The plan apparently worked quite well. Today, Apollo Beach is home to in excess of 14,000 residents, having grown significantly since 2000.
The community is served by the Hillsborough County Public School District, and consists of two elementary schools, Inez Doby Elementary and the aptly named Apollo Beach Elementary, as well as by Eisenhower Middle School, and East Bay High School. There is also the Waterset Charter School that focuses on those students from K-8.
In addition to its water activities, Apollo Beach is home to the popular Manatee Viewing Center— an “accidental” result of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station—where visitors can stroll along a winding route that provides breathtaking views of the surrounding habitat and estuary. Take a few moments to observe the wondrous beauty of Florida and, of course, the loveable manatees relaxing in the cool waters of the saltwater canal in the shadows of the power station.
But, the true draw to Apollo Beach remains its access to seemingly unlimited water, and all the wonderful activities associated with it. Imagine you and a few of your friends—please avoid bringing along people like millionaires, movie stars, professorial types and, well, the rest—navigating the canals that open to Tampa Bay and beyond. Look up in wonder and awe as you cruise under the magnificent and cleverly named Sunshine Skyway Bridge out to the Gulf of Mexico. Um, you might consider keeping the trip under three days though because, well, you know …
Despite the struggles that plagued subsequent owners of the land, such as regulatory hurdles and a tightening growth policy in Florida, and even bankruptcy proceedings, the determination to develop the community pressed on. Construction thrived. Yet, planners preserved hundreds of acres of mangrove swamps and environmental areas. From barren land rose the foundation from which a community was born. Parks and schools took shape; shopping areas were established; banks were built; and, homes constructed. Civic organizations were formed, a Chamber of Commerce established, and festivals abounded. Apollo Beach had finally matured into the flourishing community it is today!
Come, relax in the sunshine and feel the pulse of the bay and gulf waters. Just remember: No three-day cruises in your boat, and pay no attention to the alluring siren songs in your head, okay?