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Florida’s Sunken Gardens

Discover exotic blooms and flamboyant flamingos at Florida’s Sunken Gardens

Colorful pathways abound

It seems impossible a landscape this lush could be hidden amidst St. Pete’s hustle and bustle. You’ll just have to see the Sunken Gardens to believe it.

Originally a roadside attraction concocted by an imaginative plumber, these below-sea-level gardens are now 100 years old. They were formed by draining a four-acre lake on the property, which was then planted with citrus trees and vegetables and paved with walkways. Tropical plants were added over time.

The gardens were closed for a number of years as taste changed and interest waned. But in 1998, the city of St. Petersburg declared the gardens a local historic landmark, and years of restoration brought them back to their tropical glory.

Flamingos steal the show

Today’s Sunken Gardens are a colorful culmination of a century of planting. You’ll find over 50,000 tropical plants and flowers, including some of Florida’s oldest. A paved path twists and turns past waterfalls and breathtaking blooms: there’s a delight around every corner.

Insider Tip: Learn More About the Colorful History

Atlas Obscura has a great post on the subject here.

As if countless exotic plants didn’t provide enough eye candy, be sure to keep an eye out for the gardens’ beautiful flamingos. In 2016, a local group now called Sunken Gardens Forever Foundation launched a fundraising campaign to bring 20 new Chilean flamingos to the gardens. They joined George and Lucy, St. Petersburg’s longtime famous feathered residents.

Why did the flamingo go to the salad bar? For a little shrimp!

Insider Tip: Learn about the six species of flamingos!

American (Caribbean), Andean, Chilean, Greater, James’s and Lesser.  Learn more about the vibrant creatures who call Sunken Gardens home from Live Science.

Visiting the Gardens

Pathways are paved and suitable for strollers as well as wheelchairs and walkers. Keep in mind that this is not your typical park: it’s a place where you look and see, not a place where you run and play. It’s an ideal spot to find cover on a hot summer day—leave the beach early and find a moment of quiet in the shade of banana tree, stopping to inhale the scent of gardenias and bougainvillea along the way.

The gardens are a popular destination for groups, so for optimal serenity we recommend calling them ahead of your visit at 727-551-3102. Learn more about the Sunken Gardens and meet its flock on Facebook.

Beach Info

Start here for the perfect Pinellas County Florida beach!

35 miles of white sand beaches.
361 average number of sunny days here each year
2 award-winning beaches (one of them twice!)

With statistics like that you’re bound to spend some serious time, outside on the beach.

We have divided this white sand wonderland into three sections – North, Central and South and provided descriptions and links to help you decide where to best spend your beach time. Click on the button to see our beach guide.

Enjoy!

Beach FAQ’s

Here you can get answers to your questions!

Here you can get answers to your questions!

Can I have alcohol on the beach?
Generally, no. The majority of the beaches along St Petersburg/Clearwater prohibit all alcoholic beverages, although there are some exceptions. Madeira and Redington beaches allow the consumption of alcohol, except for drinks in glass containers. Treasure Island permits it also, north of 99th Ave and south of 85th Ave. (This basically excludes the Sunset Beach area that surrounds Caddy’s. You can drink on Caddy’s beach but only if you buy the alcohol there.)
Are pets allowed on the beach?
Generally, no. Pets are banned from all public beaches in Pinellas County, but both Fort De Soto and Honeymoon Island have terrific dog beaches.
Can I have a fire on the beach?

Also generally a no. And also something that’s really likely to get you caught. Ever tried having a low-profile, smokeless fire? Exactly. If your trip won’t be complete without a bonfire or grill at the beach, you may be able to have one at Redington Beach or Indian Shores IF you get a permit. Madeira Beach provides fire service to Redington Beach, so they are the ones that have the permits. The application is available online here: http://www.townofredingtonbeach.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Bon-Fire-Permit-Application.pdf. Permits are only accepted November 1st to April 30th, and you must call again to verify weather conditions and that the permit will still be valid the day before your permit valid date. The number to call to verify is 727-391-3400. The permit allows a fire at 160th Avenue Beach Park Area. (This starts to sound like not so much fun to me. And all of our rentals except Fish Camp have their own propane grills.) I’ve read that Indian Shores allows a beach fire for cooking as long as it is a contained grill or hibachi, but I have been unable to verify this. Some resorts along St Pete Beach have bonfires, the most notable being Postcard Inn for their New Year’s Eve party on the beach. This is definitely worth a visit if you’re in town during this time.

Can I camp on the beach?
No overnight camping is permitted on any Pinellas County beach, other than at Fort DeSoto Park or the Shell Key Preserve.
Is clothing optional at the beach?

Nope. The only clothing-optional beach is near Miami and probably best saved for another trip. There are some nudist resorts in Pasco County, but that goes beyond the scope of this post.

Pass-A-Grille Beach

Pass-a-grille is a little haven in the middle of bustling St Pete Beach. Or more accurately, at the southernmost tip of St Pete Beach.  

As you pass The Don CeSar, Gulf Blvd gives way to Pass A Grille Way, and the road becomes a palm-lined, single-lane-each-direction road.  Little McPherson Bayou is on your left and the massive Gulf of Mexico is on your right. 

The vibe changes.  Almost instantly.  No more mid-rise or high-rise hotels or condos, only one traffic light, the traffic slows and you begin to realize that you are on the way to someplace special.

Even with the mutli-story homes that have been replacing the small bungalows in recent years, there is just a feeling of more openness.  You can see the water on the left (Little McPherson Bayou and then Pass-A-Grille channel). And you begin to sense the Gulf on your right.

Grab your favorite flotation device and insert yourself here

High surf sunset at PAG beach

If you turn right when you see the sea Critters restaurant, you’ll dead end at Gulf Way.  Turn left and head south and the Gulf will be on your right the entire way. 

There is plenty of parking and ample beach walkovers all the way to the end.  You’ll find the beach gets a little more crowded as you reach Historic Pass-A-Grille, down around 10th Ave. 

Insider Tip: Parking meters

There are only a handful of free parking spaces around, so bring a credit card to pay by the space at the machines provided.

Sand Dunes rentals sets up the yellow umbrellas early on July 4th, awaiting the throngs of sun-seekers

Sand Dunes operates lounge chair rentals, umbrellas rentals and on calm days, SUPs.  See our blog post here for more info.

The outdoor (and only) dining area at Paradise Grille

On holidays and some weekends you may find some vendors set up in the patio are at Paradise Grille

The area around 10th – 8th Ave is really the predominant shopping and restaurant area of Pass-A-Grille.

This is where you can find one of my favorites, Paradise Grille, along with The Hurricane and the Brass Monkey.  Oh and Paradise Sweets, home of coffee and ice cream. 

The water was clear and calm and the skies fair Independence Day morning

Beach and Paradise Grille as seen from the water

If you go at before sunset, The Hurricane or Paradise Grille or The Brass Monkey all offer fabulous settings for sunset viewings. 

Paradise Grille has the Nightly Ringing of the Bell every night at sunset. The grille itself closes about a half hour after this bell has rung, so plan accordingly. My meal of champions? The cheeseburger and a screwdriver.

Stand up paddleboarding is great on a calm day

Or windsurfing on a not-so-calm day

Boogie board with a human booster (sling shot method)

Insider Tip: When Nature Calls (Er, Restrooms)

Restrooms (and separate changing rooms) are available at Paradise Grille

The beach is a great place to view incoming storms

Other highlights are a dog beach (as you round the tip and head back north). Merry Pier, fishing on the Pass-A-Grille channel side. 

Historic Merry Pier has fishing trips, trips to the Shell Key Preserve via the Shell Key Shuttle, sunset cruises and more.

The beach is quite wide at the northern end, gradually narrowing as you head south.  By the time you get to the jetty at 1st Ave. the beach is at its narrowest.  Check out the satellite view on Google maps.

Sometimes, just being still in the water is all you need

The end of another great evening at the beach

Weekdays are always less crowded than the weekends, unless of course it is a holiday.  On holidays we go early – as in 9 am – and you will find the yellow umbrellas set up and waiting for the crowds. But even on holidays it isn’t too crowded to enjoy, especially at the northern end of the beach.

The beach is wide there, and the Gulf of Mexico even wider.

The way sunsets were meant to be enjoyed