Tarpon Springs

Accessible solely by boat, this island off the coast of Tarpon Springs is given due reverence by folks who appreciate its lonely, four-mile-long stretch of coastal terrain and its exclusion from developers and commercialism. Home to a range of bird species, the island is open for day use on the south end, which also hosts a presidential-created lighthouse (circa 1886) not open to the public. On the north end, overnight camping is available. A 10-minute boat ride from the mainland. Great for wandering.

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South of St. Petersburg, this nature preserve sprawls across 245 acres of terrain, encompassing marshlands, lake shores, and forests. Wildlife, from birds to alligators, populates the area, which is crossed by boardwalks and nature trails. Tours and special activities are held in the park regularly, including nighttime hikes and kids' day camps. A good way to escape the development of the city without being too far from civilization.

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Tierra Verde
Fort De Soto Park
Photo courtesy of VSPC

Located in the boating community of Tierra Verde, Fort De Soto Park is more than just a beach. It's a drop-dead gorgeous park spanning five islands and more than 1,000 acres on the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Voted “Best Beach for Families” by USA Today in 2014, the park offers seven miles of white sand beaches and a wide range of water activities. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board and explore the calm waters. There's also campsites, picnic tables, playgrounds, boat launches, two fishing piers and a historic fort from the days of the Spanish-American War. Hike or bike (beach cruisers are available to rent) on the park's nature trails where you will likely see indigenous flora and fauna. There is no cost for visitors entering the park on foot, but cars are charged a $5 parking fee.

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This lovely, beachside county park, inexplicably, doesn't pull in the crowds that some of the area's other beaches do – which is just fine with those who like its relatively quiet surroundings. Surfers, in particular, head to Sand Key when winds and waves kick up, but it's also frequented by early risers who like to take in the morning with a relaxed stroll along the water. Among the amenities offered are restrooms, picnic facilities, and lifeguards.

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If you're searching for an off-the-map spot that's significantly less traditional than the typical parks found in St. Petersburg, FL, pay a visit to Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. First-time fisherman and professional anglers alike relish the opportunity to rig up a line on one of the world's longest fishing piers, while casual visitors appreciate the stunning panoramic views and the dazzling sunsets. Snacks, drinks, bait and other supplies are available around the clock.

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Brooker Creek Preserve is one of the top parks in the St. Petersburg, FL area. Whether you're a nature lover who likes the idea of experiencing Florida almost exactly as it was 150 years ago or a fitness buff looking for some challenging trails, this is the place for you. The wildlife viewing here is unparalleled – you'll likely catch sight of gopher tortoises, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and river otters to name a few.

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Pinellas Park

One of the parks in St. Petersburg, FL that is most conducive to leisurely strolls, Sawgrass Lake Park offers 400 acres of maple swamps, serene boardwalks and phenomenal wildlife viewing. Pop up to the observation tower for some truly spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, or drop by the Education Center to learn about this interesting habitat. Make sure to bring your camera so you can catch pictures of gators, herons and other wildlife!

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St. Petersburg

Of all the parks in St. Petersburg, FL, Vinoy Park offers perhaps the best and most unobstructed view of Tampa Bay. This is a great place to take in the scenery, enjoy a picnic, toss the pigskin around, or go for a walk or jog. The park is adjacent to the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, one of St. Petersburg's most iconic and historic structures, and it is known for hosting concerts and festivals year-round.

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Among St. Petersburg, FL parks, the Weedon Island Preserve styles itself as the distinguished "ecological jewel within an urban landscape." Sprawling across 3,700 undeveloped acres, the preserve offers a versatile range of enticing activities. Visitors can stroll the extensive trails and boardwalks, learn about the ecology and history of the area at the Nature Center, or embark upon a kayaking adventure. Admission is free and the locale is convenient, so start exploring!

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Although a causeway connects Honeymoon Island to the mainland, Caladesi is accessible only by boat. Nevertheless, both islands are undeveloped, boasting incredible natural scenery and plenty of opportunity to observe native flora and fauna. You'll also find picnicking facilities, nature trails and restrooms. Most folks come to swim, decompress, sunbathe, stroll, and search for shells, all of which are excellent on these undisturbed preserves. Fishing is also favorable, and if you've got dogs, Honeymoon allows them on the beach (with a leash). Ferries run every half-hour in winter and every hour in summer, beginning at 10am. Be aware that the ferry stops running between 4:30 and 6pm, depending on the number of visitors to the island. In addition, admission into the park is covered by paying the ferry admission.

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