Sitting at the outdoor bar at Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro, we enjoy St. Pete Brewing Company Orange Wheat pale ales and fresh seared tuna salads. The sun shines on the blue water with row of white boats lining the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.
Enjoying the sunshine, we turn to look at the view behind us between bites. Once lunch is in our bellies, we swivel our bar stools to look at the boats straight on. It’s two in the afternoon and we’re on our second beer. Not a bad way to start a vacation.
St. Petersburg, Florida, is a city on the western peninsula of Tampa Bay. Its central location provides vacationers easy access to everything the “Other Bay Area” has to offer.
St. Pete’s has the intimacy of a small town, yet also large enough to experience a multitude of stimulating activities. Let’s explore St. Petersburg indoors and out.
Get Your Nature On in St. Petersburg, FL
Weedon Island Nature Preserve is 3,190 acres of wetland ecosystem with waterways and trails that lead to the calm Riviera Bay. Run by Pinellas County, the area isn’t a true island, but does get divided into little islets during spring and summer high tide. The preserve is home to a variety of wetland creatures.
Arriving before the visitor’s center opened, we hike the boardwalk trails throughout the park. The inter-connected trails of paved and wooden paths make travel easy for people of all abilities and most all trails can be accessed from the visitor’s center.
The raised Tower Boardwalk loop takes us through the wooded park to a two story observation tower on the southern end. The Bay Boardwalk takes hikers to an interior observation platform where a variety of waterfowl feed among the shallows.
From here we connect to the crushed gravel Lookout Point Trail with trees forming a cool canopy above and shelter for armadillos below. At the end of the trail through the arches of tree branches we spy egrets feeding with their stick-figure legs in the water.
Sweetwater Watersport Rentals
After working our legs on the trails, we head to Sweetwater Watersport Rentals across the visitor’s center parking lot to rent a paddle board to see the preserve from the water. Sweetwater’s Howard says winter is low tide so some water trail are inaccessible, however, both Riviera Bay and Bayou Grande on the southern side of the preserve are ours to explore.
I wasn’t on the board for more than 30 seconds when a skate, a small marine creature related to stingrays, swam away from my board along the shallow bottom. Howard says manatees can be spotted in the bayou, but we didn’t see any today.
Downtown St. Petersburg
Downtown St. Pete’s is anchored by the east-west Central Ave that makes it way to the city’s civic center while Bayshore Drive North follows the waterfront. Walking around downtown is like walking in an outdoor art gallery because of the city’s many bright and whimsical art murals.
We easily find ourselves on an impromptu brewery tour anchored by St. Pete Brewing Company. Opened in 2007 St. Pete’s is the town’s first brewery, serving flagship beers like the tasty Banyan Blonde.
From there we head west to four other breweries. We walk off the suds window shopping the myriad of art galleries and shops back to the waterfront. When the humidity gets to us, we duck into Kilwins ice cream shop for cool refreshment.
The Salvador Dali Museum
Walking up the three flights of open spiral staircase in the middle of The Salvador Dali Museum is like walking into a piece of art. With a geometric glass ceiling showing off Florida’s blue sky, I am overwhelmed with wonder before seeing any of Dali’s famous works.
The space, called the Engima, was designed with the fundamental principles of Dali’s artwork in mind. The atrium is made of 1,062 triangular glass pieces and the staircase mimics a DNA helix as both shapes were prominent in Dali’s works.
An innovator in the art world for defining the surrealist movement, Salvador Dali challenged viewers with works that both depicted and defied reality. His The Persistence of Memory with its melting clocks is one of the world’s most recognizable works.
A related and stunning piece, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, is housed in the St. Petersburg museum along with 2,100 other works by the prolific painter. Outside the museum is the Avant-garden, a place of fun and marvel for all ages featuring a botanical garden with hedge maze, fanciful benches, and a giant Dali mustache.
We’re enjoying breakfast on the front porch of The Hollander after spending the night at its sister property The Avalon. Both are boutique hotels with relaxing public spaces to unwind after a busy day.
The art deco Avalon is the more intimate of the two inns with small, but well-appointed rooms and comfy lobby to enjoy a good book and a glass of wine. The Hollander is the social butterfly property featuring a chic courtyard pool with outdoor bar and a lively restaurant, taproom, and coffee shop inside.
Today’s activities include a walk along Vinoy Park on the northern end of town. Strolling along the wide sidewalk as joggers, bikers, and roller bladers hum past invigorates us to do something active. Vinoy Beach isn’t St. Pete’s largest, but it’s the closest to downtown with beach volleyball nets on one end.
We find a couple warming up and ask to play. It’s been a while since we’ve played beach volleyball (not a lot of beaches in Colorado), but it happens the couple have just moved from Philadelphia so we were evenly matched. After a few fun games we settle onto a park bench to watch the semi-professional players practice as the lights come on for the evening.
Indoors or outdoors? No matter your preference, in St. Petersburg you can do both.
Know Before You Go
Tampa International Airport (TPA) is less than a half hour away.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/
St. Pete https://www.stpete.org/
Where to Stay in St. Petersburg
Avalon / The Hollander
What to Do in St. Petersburg
Weedon Island Preserve
The Dali Museum
Author Bio: A member of the North American Travel Journalists’ Association, Carrie Dow is a freelance travel writer based in Lakewood, CO, whose work has appeared in International Living, Go Nomad and Interval World. She is the Local Editor of DrinkDenver, a part of The Drink Nation, a website devoted to finding the best happy hours in cities across the US. She is also the founder of What’s Pawsitive, a website covering animal welfare issues and animal-based travel around the world. An occasional football widow, she is mom to a Siberian husky and a Siamese cat.