Many of us are looking for ways to remain active while also staying a safe distance away from others. That's why Sarah Phinney started 'Sarah's Walking Club’ to highlight some hidden, and some not so hidden, trails and parks across Tampa Bay.
Weedon Island Preserve in St. Pete is considered by some to be the best-kept secret in Pinellas County. While its paddle trail draws a good number of visitors, but there are plenty of other places to explore in the preserve.
Where is it?
Weedon Island Preserve can be found near the Gandy Bridge in St. Pete. The address is:
Continue until you see the main parking lot for the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural & Natural History Center. It’s on the right, kayak rentals are on the left (more on that later!).
There is no fee to get in. Dogs are not allowed and bikes are not allowed on the boardwalks or walking trails.
What’s the history?
Weedon Island Preserve has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Indigenous peoples occupied the area for a long time. In fact, the preserve is an active archaeological site.
In the early 1900s, an airport was built on the island. Visitors can even see what’s left of one of the buildings in a fenced-off area near the parking lot.
You can learn more about the historical significance of Weedon Island by visiting the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural & Natural History Center.
What is there to do?
Weedon Island Preserve stretches more than 3,000 acres.
Walkers will find more than two miles of boardwalks and paved trails, as well as some overlook areas and a 45-foot observation tower.
There are also nature trails to explore, including the Boy Scout Trail and the Lookout Point Trail.
Visitors will likely see mangrove crabs scurrying across the boardwalks. The population at the preserve numbers in the millions, says Weedon Island Preserve Park Ranger Andy Bianchi.
“They’re beautiful little creatures,” said Bianchi. “They’re all over our boardwalks and all over our mangroves. They scatter away really quick as soon as they see you.”
Walkers with keen eyes may notice banana spiders as well. Those too are harmless.
In other areas of the preserve, visitors could see gopher tortoises, armadillos, snakes, wading birds and more.
Remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Most of the places to walk are in the open sun.
Also, no-see-ums are known to be brutal in the morning at the preserve in the morning, but Bianchi says they tend to die down after the sun comes up.
How can I get out on the water?
Bianchi says the main attraction at the preserve is the self-guided four-mile kayak trail that immerses paddlers in the massive mangrove forest.
If you don’t have your own kayak, rentals are available on-site through Sweetwater Kayaks.
You’ll want to check the tides before you come out. It’s best to have at least 1.5 feet of water to get through the tunnels.
“Keep in mind the tides because it is a lot better to kayak out there with high tide,” said Bianchi.
When should I visit?
Weedon Island Preserve is open daily from 7 a.m. until about sunset. It is closed the day after Thanksgiving and on Christmas.
The Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center is open Thursday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. It is also open on Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm. It’s closed Monday through Wednesday and on all county holidays.
Join Walking Club!
Post photos of your adventures, ask questions and learn about upcoming Walking Club stories in Sarah’s Walking Club group on Facebook!