Florida is full of high-profile tourist sites, but for locals, the best places are usually those hidden gems that only a handful of people seem to know about and appreciate. In Pinellas County, which is home to Clearwater-St. Petersburg, the 35 miles of white sand beaches are the big draw for tourists (and residents too). But the county has more than 4,000 acres of parks as well, and one of the best is the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.
Run by the county government, the Pinellas County Florida Botanical Gardens are comprised of 30 acres of cultivated gardens and 90 acres of natural landscapes. There are a dozen demonstration and formal garden areas, including a Tropical Fruit garden, Palm and Bromeliad Gardens, and a large and comprehensive Herb Garden. The natural areas include an aquatic landscape demonstration area, planted exclusively with Florida native plants, and a 60-acre site being actively restored to reflect Florida’s native flora and fauna.
The cultivated gardens are all well-tended, with plant signs that include care info so you can decide if the plants and trees will work in your own garden too. The paths throughout are wheel-chair friendly, and there are plenty of benches and chairs inviting you to stop and appreciate the beauty around you. Florida wildlife is here in abundance, including alligators, turtles, wading birds, butterflies, and songbirds. What’s not here in abundance? People! On a recent lovely Sunday afternoon, we saw only a handful of other people as we strolled the garden paths.
Oh, and did I mention the best part? Admission is FREE! Explore a cultivated rose garden or a collection of Florida native plants, hike through a natural landscape or relax in an Adirondack chair by a pond, spend an hour or a day – it’s all here for locals and visitors alike to enjoy every day of the year.
Jill’s Tip: Wednesday through Sunday, drop by the adjacent (and also free!) Heritage Village to see homes and buildings dating back to the 19th century.
If You Go:
- The Florida Botanical Gardens are open every day of the year from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free.
- The park is located just a few miles inland from the beaches. Click here for a map and driving directions.
- Well-behaved dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash. Owners must pick up after their dogs.
- County buildings and the Gift Shop are open certain days and hours. Click here for the current schedule.
Do you have a favorite “local gem” in the Southeast that other garden and bird lovers should know about? Tell me about it in the comments below, and be sure to include a link to a website if one is available. I’d love to feature your favorites in future “Places to Go, Things to Do” posts!