Since returning from India in mid-March, we, like the rest of the world, quarantined at home. As directed, we stayed in and ventured as far as the back yard. We took advantage of grocery delivery services and some local restaurants offering delivery.
Escape to the Great Outdoors
We finally reached that tipping point where we needed a change of scenery and some fresh air. We also wanted to make sure we got more exercise than walking back and forth from the sofa to the refrigerator.
So, we decided to explore some local St. Pete parks. A majority of people traveling here head straight to the beaches. We honestly don’t blame you. That’s a good portion of why we moved here.
But we were looking for places to walk, explore, and stay as socially distant from other people as possible.
1101 Country Club Way South
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Admission: $3.00 for Adults, $1.50 Children ages 3-16, Free for children under 3
This 245-acre protected area is probably the last thing you expect to find tucked away on the southside of St Petersburg. What seems to have begun initially as a botanical garden and zoo for the city of St Pete has evolved over time.
Due to COVID-19, the Lake Maggiore Environmental Education Center, programs, and tram tours have been suspended. So, that left us to explore the three miles of trails through different ecosystems.
The park features the education center, a picnic area, and playground, and lots of nature programs. But, we were happy for the peace and quiet. While non-motorized bikes are allowed on the trails, we encountered very few and only about a dozen people walking. People were either wearing masks or had them readily available to cover up if someone approached.
The trails are well marked and include great signage indicating the ecosystem’s specifics, there are plenty of benches to relax and chill out, and the boardwalks are well maintained.
We were surprised at how close we were to downtown St Pete. Sitting near the lake, you could see buildings downtown as well as the Tropicana Field.
We went for the escape to nature and were pleasantly surprised by the unique sculptures by artist Paul Eppling. The first we saw was at the aviary, where we also saw a stunning bald eagle. There is also this massive armadillo along the trails and a crane in the lake.
1800 Weedon Drive S.E.
St Petersburg, FL 33702
Admission: FREE – donations are always welcome
Weedon Island Preserve is on the opposite side of town from Boyd Hill. It’s located along Tampa Bay’s coastal area with 3, 190 acres aquatic and upland ecosystems.
We explored the hiking trails, boardwalks, and the observation tower where you can see across the bay to Tampa and along the coast to downtown St Pete.
Kayaking is popular here, too, with access to the Riviera Bay and inland waterways through the mangrove trees. There is a kayak rental set up with very affordable rentals of both single and tandem kayaks and canoes and stand up paddleboards.
The other remarkable feature of the preserve is the information available on local indigenous people who have inhabited the land and waterways for nearly 7,000 years.
7400 25th Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33702
Sawgrass Lake Park is 400 acres located right in the middle of a relatively dense residential neighborhood just off of Interstate 275.
The mile-long boardwalk and ½ mile of dirt trails wander through one of the most extensive maple swamps on the Florida Gulf Coast.
The park is quiet and tranquil, and I’m sure it’s quite popular during spring and fall, busy with many migrating birds.
Both St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation and Pinellas County Parks and Preserves have done outstanding jobs in setting aside green spaces that preserve the area’s natural habitats. Additionally, all three locations offer a wide array of nature and cultural programs educating the community on the importance of conservation and the local history.
Be sure to check them out during your visit to St Petersburg!