Things to Do in St Petersburg
Located off the coast of St. Petersburg, Fort De Soto Park is not your average ‘park.’ It’s actually 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys) and is the largest park in the Pinellas County park system. With seven miles of waterfront, including almost three miles of beautiful, white sand beaches, Fort De Soto is a popular destination for both visitors and guests to the St. Petersburg area.
There’s plenty to do in Fort De Soto Park. History buffs can explore the historic fort while cyclists and walkers can enjoy seven miles of paved trails that run through the park. For nature lovers, it’s worth noting that the park is the start of the Great Florida Birding Trail (328 species of birds have been documented over 60 years and new species are being added every year) and offers the one of the greatest diversities of bird, sea life, plant and wild life in Florida. The beach is also a nesting ground for the loggerhead sea turtle between April and September.
Florida’s Gulf Coast is haven for all kinds of interesting and exotic wildlife, and the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve near St. Petersburg offers the chance to explore unique ecosystems, including hardwood hammocks, sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, swamp woodlands, willow marsh and lake shore. The 245-acre park has six miles of trail and boardwalk along the shore of Lake Maggiore, where you can spot alligators and lizards, myriad birds, butterflies and much more. The park also has an aviary for birds of prey, picnic areas, a playground and overnight camping.
Created on the site of what was once a miniature golf course, the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum is now home to more than 500 palms and cycads, representing more than 150 different species from around the world. Starting with just 60 palms representing 10 different species, the two-acre park has continuously expanded since its 1977 dedication. From massive specimens that are too big to fit in private yards to popular types that can be found along Florida’s beaches, the Palm Arboretum is an ever-changing, never-ending project that grows and expands organically. Take the time to stroll down the pathways, learning about the specimens, or simply perch on one of the conversation benches and enjoy the peace of the palms.
Right on the waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg, North Straub Park offers a quite respite from the city. The small 4.8-acre park features trails, picnic spots and a stage where community events are held. Locals recommend visiting the park during holidays, like Christmas, when it’s lit up with lights and decorations, or on the Fourth of July and New Years, when it offers a great vantage point for fireworks shows. At the southern end of the park, you’ll find the local Museum of Fine Arts and the St. Petersburg Museum of History, and nearby Wheel Fun Rentals is a good spot to rent a beach cruiser or surrey.
Egmont Key off St. Petersburg, Florida is a tiny island with a grandiose past that’s only accessible by boat. This 450-acre island was used as a jail for Seminoles, and was held by the Union in the Civil War for its strategic location in the bay. With the threat of war against the Spanish in 1898, a fort was built on the seashell shore to guard against potential attack, and stands today as concrete reminder of the island’s historic past. When visiting Egmont Key today on a boat ride from Fort DeSoto Beach, pack along shoes to enjoy the hiking trails that weave through the island’s interior, and keep a lookout for gopher tortoises that inhabit the sandy the island. Also bring your bathing suit, of course, for wading in the cerulean waters, and sunscreen to keep your skin protected while lounging out on the beach. Towards the end of the island is Egmont Key Lighthouse, which has stoically stood here since 1858 as an aid to passing ships.
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