Whatever You Need, the Pinellas Trail Gets You There
By Saundra Amrhein
In the hush that falls upon stretches of the Pinellas Trail, you hear only cicadas in the trees and the hum of your bike tires across blacktop.
Palm and pine trees line the paved path. Auburn pine needles crunch softly under your wheels as you glide by lawns of magenta bougainvillea and Adirondack chairs parked in the grass.
The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail along Florida’s west central coast can be enjoyed by cyclists all year round. On this morning, just before noon, a few people are braving the heat – a dog-walker and a dedicated road cyclist, sweat beading on cyclist’s forehead as he zooms by.
While the tree cover makes the trail enjoyable throughout the year, many wait for the cooler months of fall, most relishing it in the winter months starting in January, says Bob Nohren, owner of the Energy Conservatory Bike Shop just off the trail in Dunedin.
Nohren has owned his shop for 35 years and in the mid-1980s was part of the advisory committee on building the linear trail. He remembers how three dozen people from across the country rented bikes to visit the trail’s initial sections, taking pictures and notes to bring back to their communities.
Today, the Pinellas Trail stretches 38.2 miles from St. Petersburg at the southern end to Tarpon Springs on the northern end, attracting thousands each month to walk, jog, cycle or skate along the abandoned railroad corridor. They connect to county parks, coastal regions, and pass through the cities of Clearwater, Largo and Gulfport and others as well as charming downtown Dunedin. Bridges, overpasses and underpasses help limit traffic stops.
“I’m amazed at the number of people who come to see the trail,” Nohren says of customers, many of whom hail from the Northeast, the Midwest and Canada.
What’s on the trail
About a dozen bike shops can be found close to the Pinellas Trail. Dunedin is a great place to start, especially if you want to explore the northern part of the trail. Nohren gets you squared away with a 24-hour bike rental for $20, including a helmet, lock and maps. A short jog to the west puts you on the trail. About two miles north is the Dunedin Causeway, where you can leave the trail and take the causeway straight out to pristine Honeymoon Island State Park. Cyclists enter for $2. You can swim, fish, snorkel, picnic, or take the ferry out to the white-sand beaches of Caladesi Island.
Back on the trail headed north, visit Tarpon Springs, about 10 miles from Dunedin, home of the Greek sponge docks, with streets full of antique stores, art galleries and restaurants. There are plenty of places to eat along the way, or wait until you return back to Dunedin.
After enjoying its waterfront and parks, try homemade ice cream, Florida’s oldest brewery or anything from tapas to gourmet barbeque to Italian or vegetarian Mexican food.
Whatever you need, the Pinellas Trail can get you there.
“I ride to work on the trail,” Nohren says.