Florida’s Sports Coast covers the Pasco County area and its epicentre is the picturesque town of New Port Ritchey. The FSC annual scallop season kicks off on the third Friday of July and lasts for 10 days.
When I see scallops on a menu as a starter, I order them but rather ignorantly and until only recently, I knew little about them other than how they looked on a plate and how they tasted (delicious). So when I received an invite from Florida’s Sports Coast to join their catch and cook scallop adventure I couldn’t wait to get hands-on.
I arrived in New Port Richey a couple of days before scalloping started so I had plenty of time to check out the area. Much like scalloping, I knew very little of the town before I got here but was pleasantly surprised at the wide array of things to do, especially if you enjoy spending time outdoors. From kayaking to hot air ballooning, this area has plenty to offer.
We teamed up with the local boat operator Mermaid Slayers for our morning scalloping on the Gulf. These guys are experienced locals so they knew the best spots to hit away from the congregation of other small boats which were anchored in the area.
Aside from a boat to get you out into the water, the only equipment that you’ll need to scallop is a snorkel, mask, swim fins, and a net to collect your catch.
Scallop catching is not so much a game of skill but more hide and seek. You’ll find them in their shells either lying on the sea bed or swimming along through the long seagrass. It’s pretty neat to see them scuttle past like little Pac-Man.
Finding your first scallop is such a buzz and there was no better sound than that of my mates on the boat’s excited yells of ‘I GOT ONE’!
After you’d found the first one, it became a lot easier to seek them out. You knew what you were looking for, you knew how they moved and you knew the best spots to find them. Before long, I’d picked up quite a few and my net was getting full!
After a couple of hours in the water, we had pulled together a pretty neat catch and it was time to head back to dry land.
The absolute highlight of this trip for me was the evening that followed scalloping as our hosts had arranged for us to have access to one of the old stilt houses that sit out on the water. It was here that we got to enjoy our delicious catch, cooked up by a top local chef.
The New Port Richey stilt houses are private homes and are not open to the public so even getting the chance to visit one was an honour but getting to have dinner there too was something really special. From the balcony, I saw some dolphins swim past and then later got to watch the most incredible thunderstorm I’d ever seen. That was one night that I won’t forget in a hurry.
The next day it was, unfortunately, time to leave the town of New Port Richey. It’s a small town but the people are super warm and friendly and if you like to keep active like me, you will find loads to keep you occupied even outside of scallop season.
Visit flsportscoast.com to start planning your trip in plenty of time for next years Scallop season!
How to get there:
British Airways fly daily from London Gatwick to Tampa. I’d recommend picking up a hire car from the airport and then making the short drive to New Port Richey Yourself.
Where to stay:
Homewood Suites by Hilton, 11115 US Highway 19 North, New Port Richey. This all-suite property has a lovely pool, an even social hour, free breakfast and an on-site gym. I couldn’t fault it at all.
Where to eat/drink/snack:
Lunch on Limoges, 14139 7th St, Dade City. You’ll need a car to get to this lunch spot as it’s in a neighbouring town but their homemade raspberry ice tea is worth the journey alone.
Sip, 6231 Grand Blvd, New Port Richey. This place was a complete surprise. It’s a European inspired bar with a secret speakeasy. Try their homemade Spritz cocktail, it’s a real winner.
Ottoways Ice Cream, 5641 Main St, New Port Richey. This is a great little independent ice-cream parlour in the heart of New Port Richey. The hardest part is narrowing down the ice-cream options, they are all too tasty.