The great thing about living in downtown St. Pete is that you get all the advantages of city living like nightlife, great restaurants, and diverse cultural scene plus the benefits of urban escapes only a short car ride away.
Here are our Top 5 places to visit when you need a break from the city:
Just a little over an hour drive away on Florida’s white-sanded Gulf Coast, Venice Beach is known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. The Venice coastal area sits on top of a fossil layer that runs 18-35 feet deep and was once teeming with sharks. Bring a shovel and a straining basket and you might find all kinds of shark teeth along its 14 miles of beaches to take home with you, even ones from the pre-historic giant Megalodon shark! The Venice Pier is a good place to start your hunt. Be sure not to miss Venice’s downtown, with Italian architecture and landscaped boulevards dating back to 1925 and similar to the Italian City which it is named after.
If hiking, biking, or canoeing are more your speed, you’ll enjoy Myakka River State Park. Located nine miles east of 1-75 in Sarasota, Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest state parks in the United States and is abundant in native Florida wildlife like wild pigs, beautiful sea birds, and crazy big alligators. The park has trails to bike or hike with an elevated boardwalk giving you views of the Myakka River and the Florida vegetation. There are bike and canoe rentals available and airboat rides running throughout the day.
Touted as the only city with live mermaids, Weeki Wachee is one of Florida’s oldest and most unique destinations. While it is famous for its aqua clear spring water, mermaid show and water park, Weeki Watchie also makes for the perfect natural getaway. Visitors can canoe, kayak or rent boats to travel down the Weekie Watchie River and into Old Florida, where otters, turtles, fish, and manatees can be seen. Take a drive north of Tampa to experience one of Florida’s newest state parks.
A six-mile waterway fed by local springs and connecting Kings Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Crystal River is often called “Manatee Haven” due to the fact that in the winter months, when the water temperature cools, Crystal River can be home for over 400 manatees. The springs, river, bay, and Gulf combine to allow for swimming, diving, boating, kayaking, water skiing, and fishing. A trip here still offers a day of beauty and a glimpse of Old Florida in the heart of the Nature Coast. In addition to aquatic activites, miles of hiking/biking trails, and a quaint downtown will make you glad you visited. During scallop season (July 1-Sept 24) you can dive in less than 8 feet of water and go on a treasure hunt for bay scallops that will make for a yummy meal at the end of the day. Do the research on the fishing licence required, best areas, or guide rental if you plan on scalloping.
Don Pedro Island State Park, a barrier island located south of St. Pete and across the Intracoastal Waterway from Cape Haze, is only accessible by boat, kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP). Taking an eco-tour by kayak or SUP here makes for a great outdoor adventure, or visitors can choose to unwind and sunbathe on the mile-long white sandy beach. The area is teeming with starfish, dolphins, manatees, tortoises and a variety of seabirds.