Two St. Petersburg–area parks will appeal to hikers and bird-watchers. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve (1101 Country Club Way S., 727/893-7326, www.stpete.org/boyd, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun., closed Mon., $3) has over three miles of trails through marshes and pine forests, is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, and also has a small bird of prey aviary.
The National Audubon Society has praised the bird-watching opportunities available at Sawgrass Lake Park (7400 25th St. N., 727/217-7256, www.pinellascounty.org/park/16_sawgrass.htm, 7 a.m.–sunset daily, free); a mile-long boardwalk provides an excellent vantage point to spot herons, storks, and egrets, as well as the occasional alligator. Guided tours are available at both locations.
Egmont Key State Park is the site of the ruins of the turn-of-the-20th-century Fort Dade and a still-operating lighthouse, but most visitors come to walk the trails—the island is a National Wildlife Refuge—and to fish and swim in relative solitude; there are no vendors, no lifeguards, and no bathrooms. Admission to the park is free, but it’s only accessible by boat.
Tropical Island Getaway (4630 29th Ave., 866/624-4500, www.tropical-island-getaway.com) runs a four-hour snorkeling and dolphin-watching cruise ($30 adults, $20 children) from the Gulfport Marina in St. Pete Beach that takes passengers to Egmont Key.
Boating and Fishing
Tampa Bay Boat Charters (259 98th Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, 813/495-0646, www.tampabayboatcharters.com) offers motorized excursions to remote islands in and near Tampa Bay, as well as sunset cruises. Several fishing charters are available in the area; Baracudaville Charters (6701 34th St. S., St. Petersburg, 727/776-7335, www.baracudaville.com) has fly-fishing and flats-fishing trips along with standard inshore and blue-water charters, while Pristine Florida Fishing (1112 Gulf Oaks Dr., Tarpon Springs, 727/385-0382, www.pristinefloridafishing.com, half-day from $325) has a 21-foot fishing boat for both snook and tarpon expeditions as well as eco-tours.
Outfitter Bill Jackson (9501 U.S. Hwy. 19 N., Pinellas Park, 727/576-4169, www.billjacksons.com) sells gear for fishing, kayaking, hunting, scuba diving, and much more, and he frequently offers wreck-diving tours, scuba certification classes, and kayaking trips.
Major League Baseball
The area’s MLB team, the Tampa Bay Rays (www.devilrays.mlb.com), plays April–October at Tropicana Field (1 Tropicana Dr., St. Petersburg), and baseball fans in the area can catch spring training in February and March.
Not only do the Rays open their spring games to the public, the Philadelphia Phillies play in Clearwater at Bright House Networks Field (601 N. Old Coachman Rd.) and the Toronto Blue Jays take to the diamond in Knology Park (373 Douglas Ave.) in Dunedin.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition