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Points of Interests in Florida: Pinellas County
Let me start off by telling you a bit about this small county. Located on the west coast of Florida, there is quite a bit to see. Aquariums, museums, art galleries, car shows, small attractions, plenty of beaches, and historical sights can be found all over this beautiful county. There is something for everyone, especially those taking a family vacation. The county is very easy to travel around by major streets, mainly US 19, which runs through the middle of the county from north to south. There are two major airports that you can fly into, St. Pete/Clearwater Airport located in Pinellas County, or Tampa International, located in Tampa. Now, let us take a look at the bigger cities of the county, namely the ones people are always visiting.
First up, Clearwater Beach, voted the best beach town in Florida. There is quite a bit to see here, located across the bridge from Downtown. White-sand, different shops that cater to many, and multiple restaurants serving up some of the best seafood can be found on this beach. There are many activities as well, from jet ski rentals, dinner cruises, dolphin tours, parasailing, and even a pirate ship cruise, a hit with the kids. There is also a nightly festival, called Sunsets at Pier 60, where locals set up small stands along the famous Pier 60 and sell homemade crafts, art, photos, and some even make customized bracelets and necklaces. Buskers can also be found performing around the main beach, each night is different with the buskers, one night you could see drummers using buckets, another night you could see belly dancers and fire eaters. Movies are also played, just be sure to check the schedule to see if there is a movie you would like to see. Clearwater Beach is also the location of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter the dolphin lives, star of Dolphin Tale.
Clearwater Beach Walkway
Now to the city with Scottish ties, Dunedin, located between Clearwater and Palm Harbor. A small town with quite a bit of history to it, main street is where you can find a wide variety of shops, and plenty of restaurants to check out. The city is also known for its Highland Games and Festival, which is usually held in the nearby Highland Park. Also, there is plenty of free parking along the streets, as well as a few free parking lots located just off of Main Street. Several business cater to visitors that take advantage of the trail that runs through downtown, such as a coffee house located in a renovated boxcar, reminiscent of the trail's railway past. AS you adventure more towards the water, you can take the Dunedin Causeway to Honeymoon island, one of the few natural beaches in Pinellas County. After paying a small fee, you can park where allowed, and explore the island's many areas. There is the main beach, complete with a gift shop and snack bar, the dog beach, specifically for your furry friends to enjoy, as well as nature trails for hiking. The trails are perfect for bird watchers, as many of Florida's native birds call the woods their home. If you happen to come during the right season, you may also catch a glimpse of a Bald Eagle nest, though they tend to block off a decent area around the nest so people won't disturb them. Located on Honeymoon Island is a ferry, which you can take out to Caladesi Island, located just off shore. You can either hunt for shells, sunbathe, hike through the three miles of trails, or kayak through a three mile kayak trail through mangroves.
St. Petersburg/St. Pete Beach
Le us travel to the southern part of Pinellas County, welcome to St. Petersburg. The beach here has been voted TripAdvisor's No.3 beach in the U.S. in 2017. The shores of St. Pete beach include the longest, undeveloped stretch of public beach in the county at Pass-a-Grille Beach. There is plenty of lodging choices, from historical Old Florida motels and inns, to the Don CeSar, known as the Pink Palace, and the TradeWinds Resort. The Corey Avenue district, which has thrived in the heart of St, Pete Beach for over six decades, has a variety of funky specialty shops, galleries, restaurants and more. There is a small beach bar open until early morning, well known by locals, called The Drunken Clam. Though if you prefer for a more upscale evening, the Rum Fish Grill serves martinis, or head to Harry's Beach Bar for an al fresco after-dark retreat.
Back to the north part of Pinellas county, welcome to Tarpon Springs, the sponge capital of the world. A Greek community, home of the sponge docks that helped create the community. Tarpon Springs is not only famous for the world's finest sponges, but also for some of the finest Greek restaurants, markets, and bakeries in the country. Aside from the sponge docks and restaurants, there are also tours, plenty of sightseeing cruises, attractions, sponge diving, unique Greek and Florida souvenirs, plenty of shopping, and live entertainment.
Fort De Soto Park
A much-praised county park covering five islands, and is part of the boating community of Tierra Verde. This is more then a simple beach, with plenty of trails to hike, bike and kayak rentals, and plenty of spots to fish. There is also a large, historic fort open to the public to explore. North Beach, named best family beach, is easy to spot thanks to the large pirate ship playground located near the entrance. As you venture towards the beach, you come across a wide tidal pool, which children love to splash around in and run between that and the gulf. This beach is also perfect for collectors, as you can find shells of every color, as well as sand dollars of all sizes. However, make sure the shells and sand dollars are dead, since taking live sand dollars is illegal. Take note, dead sand dollars are white in color. The park's gift shop also stocks plenty of preserved specimens for collectors as well.
Located off shore of Fort De Soto is this beautiful, national wildlife refuge, only accessible by boat or ferry. On this island is a lighthouse, which has stood since 1858. During the 19th century, Egmont Key served as a camp for captured Seminoles at the end of the Third Seminole War, and was later occupied by the Union Navy during the Civil War. In 1898, as the Spanish-American War threatened, Fort Dade was built on the island and remained active until 1923. Due to the location of this island, there is no drinking water and no stores, so be sure to pack water, food, and sunscreen when venturing out to this island.
Ok, so not exactly hidden, but all up and down the gulf coast of Pinellas are smaller beaches. These beaches include Fred Howard Park, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach (called Mad Beach by some, don't do that), John's Pass, and Pass-a-Grille. There are also multiple attractions all around Pinellas County, as well as riding horses on St. Pete Beach. However, be sure to book ahead since spots fill up fast.
Some rules about Florida, be respectful.
- Do not leave trash all over the beaches, clean up after yourself.
- There is plenty of traffic, so be sure to plan ahead for travel times.
- Do not harass the wildlife, meaning if you see signs for sea turtle nests, stay away from them. If you see manatees, leave them be, they are gentle, slow moving creatures.
- Do not feed the wildlife, mainly dolphins and alligators. They will start to see people as a source of food, putting themselves and people in danger.
Well, that's it for now! There will be more to this series, so stay tuned. Who knows where else in Florida we will explore. There are endless possibilities in the Sunshine State!