Florida Stories:  Walking Tours of St. Petersburg and Indian Rocks Beach

    Tom Scherberger

    Want to explore the cultural, historical, and architectural treasures of St. Petersburg and Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.? There are apps for that.

    Just go to Florida Stories Walking Tours, and download the apps created by the Florida Humanities Council.

    With these apps you can learn, at your own pace and on your own schedule, what some of Florida’s most unique towns and cities have to offer.

    St. Petersburg Walking Tour

    Where: St. Petersburg
    Number of stops: 12
    Start: St. Petersburg Museum of History
    Author: Historian Ray Arsenault, author of “St. Petersburg and the Florida Dream.”
    Download the app here: floridastories.oncell.com/en/st-petersburg-176884.html

    Overview

    The St. Petersburg tour takes you from the downtown waterfront to the shuffleboard courts that once defined the city, tying the city’s past as a silver-haired retirement center to the energized and creative urban oasis it is today.

    The downtown streets are lined with bustling restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries, many in restored buildings from the early 20th Century, blending with new residential high rises.

    As the tour winds through downtown, you can appreciate how the city grew by promoting itself to visitors as “a place of perpetual sunshine, warmth, and good health: the Sunshine City in the Sunshine State.”

    The city’s residents have jealously guarded and preserved the downtown waterfront for public use, making it the perfect jumping-off point to explore the city’s history and contemplate its future.

    Highlights

    The St. Petersburg Museum of History is a prime spot on the waterfront near where Tony Jannus piloted the first commercial air flight in the country.

    The Detroit Hotel, built in 1888 and one of the city’s oldest buildings, is part of the historic First Block, which remains a vital part of the bustling downtown scene.

    Crislip Arcade, built in 1925 and nearly torn down in 2008, represents how historic preservation and the arts brought new life to the city.

    The Kress Building, built in 1927, recalls the era of green benches that drew throngs of retirees but is also a reminder of a painful part of the city’s past, when African-Americans were not allowed at its lunch counter.

    Area Things to Do

    Take in world-class art at the Museum of Fine Arts with Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Rodin, O'Keeffe and Andrew Wyeth.

    Don’t miss the Dali Museum, an architectural gem, with the largest collection of the artist’s works outside of Europe.

    Stroll Beach Drive, the best people-watching spot in the city, and stop at one of the many outdoor restaurant tables for prime people watching.

    Gallery-hop along the 600 block of Central Avenue.

    Relax at one of the numerous craft breweries (Cycle Brewing was recently named one of the top 10 in the world by ratebeer.com).

    St. Pete is a bike-friendly city and has short-term bike rentals throughout the downtown area via Coast Bike Share.

    Walking along Indian Rocks Beach.

    Indian Rock's beaches are just the beginnings of its offerings.

    - Ann DeRosia

    Indian Rocks Walking Tour

    Just a splash northwest of St. Petersburg, you can discover the charm of picturesque, quiet Indian Rocks Beach on a narrated, self-guided tour complete with historical images and music.

    Overview

    Where: Indian Rocks Beach
    Number of stops: 14
    Start: Indian Rocks Historical Museum
    Download the app here: www.walkindianrocksbeach.com/downloadtheapp

    Highlights

    Starting and ending at the Indian Rocks Historical Museum, this tour takes about an hour and half and covers roughly two miles, looping through the quaint village.

    The museum promises to bring history to life with abundant photos, maps and artifacts. You can learn about the Polynesian-themed Tiki Gardens, a past tourist attraction; check out relics from the Tocobaga Indians; and even investigate The Mystery Shipwreck.

    Step back in time with an assortment of historic cottages, like those in Haven Beach, a community that was created in 1914 with "homes of high character" for the upper crust. The area became famed as a summertime escape for important Tampa families and high-society. The real estate boom ended by 1926, but the neighborhood played a part cementing the residential nature of Indian Rocks Beach.

    Refuel on the route with options like the original Crabby Bill’s, delivering fresh, local flavor with offerings that include ‘gator tail, fried pickles and the must-try ‘Up the River Red Crab Soup’; opt for a stop at the tiny, bamboo-covered café called the Kooky Coconut, serving up tasty, authentic Cuban sandwiches and other beach-friendly treats; or kick back at JD’s Restaurant and Lounge, made for indulgence with a piano bar, dance floor and legendary all-you-can-eat fish fry, a blockbuster eating-fest that happens each and every night.

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