What draws thousands of visitors every year to St Petersburg Florida? The sunny climate, 28 miles of barrier island beaches nearby, excellent watersports and several cultural attractions are probably the answer.
Situated on a peninsula overlooking Tampa Bay and midway down the Gulf Coast of Florida, this buzzing community has around 245,000 residents – and thousands more visitors just passing through. The city is more often referred to as St Pete, a nod to its satellite beach on the outlying barrier islands known as St Pete Beach Suncoast. This popular resort officially changed its name in 1994 to sound more hip and it lies 10 miles east of the city of St Petersburg. St. Pete Beach has just been voted the top beach destination in the USA by TripAdvisor, because of its "sugary-white sand and dolphins frolicking just off shore."
At one times the city of St Petersburg had a reputation as “God’s waiting room” as it was popular with aging snowbirds and retirees. However, international visitors and families have awakened this city to its true potential and it now enjoys a much more vibrant atmosphere.
St Petersburg boasts 360 days of sunshine a year and has certainly earned the nickname “The Sunshine City”. It was developed, like much of Florida, in the 19th century. Michigan farmer, John Williams, saw the potential for Florida’s coast and bought an area of land on Tampa Bay in 1875 with dreams of building a huge city. Russian nobleman, Peter Demens, provided the area with a railroad and the city was named after his birthplace – St Petersburg in Russia.
Alas, St Petersburg Florida lacks the stunning architecture, onion-domed palaces and breathtaking cathedral of its Imperial Baltic namesake, but it does have some pretty unique architecture. The eye-catching pier with its inverted triangular building is the main landmark of the city. This upside-down pyramid houses shops, restaurants, an observation deck and an aquarium, so it is a neat place to visit.
Things to Do in St Petersburg, FL
From the pier, a trolley bus runs along the seafront to the Great Explorations attraction, an arts and science museum mainly geared towards children. It includes some physical challenges such as a climbing wall and a Touch Tunnel where you clamber through a 90-foot long tunnel in the dark, touching various sensory exhibits.
If you are into modern art and appreciate the acclaimed works of Salvador Dali, the museum in his name has the most comprehensive collection of his works in the world. This $350 million collection was amassed by Reynolds Morse and his partner, Eleanor. They became lifelong friends with Dali after buying one of his paintings. They chose to put the collection on display in St Petersburg as they felt it most closely resembled the artist’s home town of Cadaques in Spain.
Other places to visit in this city of broad avenues are the Sunken Gardens on 4th St N. It has extensive orchids, water features and aviaries amidst exotic tropical plants. It certainly makes a pleasant retreat from the busy city.
Just south of the city is Fort de Soto Park, which has great views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a magnificent feat of engineering crossing Tampa Bay. The park has some beautiful beaches, bird colonies and the remains of the Fort de Soto, begun during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
This informative book offers details of 20 best beaches and coastal cities in Florida
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20 Best Florida Beaches and Coastal Cities