St. Petersburg is one of my favorite Florida cities and I love everything from the vibrant murals to the many breweries here. However, I was surprised to learn on my last visit there that a gorgeous oasis is just blocks away from the downtown! Andrew and I visited the Sunken Gardens on Valentine’s Day 2020 and immediately fell in love with this beautiful place.
If you are in the St. Pete area and enjoy walks through nature, I highly recommend going to the Sunken Gardens. You can spend at least a couple of hours here check out the different plants, fish and birds and learning about the environment. They offer free tours, but this post should explain most things you need to know if you rather explore in your own.
Visiting the Sunken Gardens
You will find the Sunken Gardens in the Historic Northeast district of St. Petersburg, just one mile north of the downtown. It is pretty unassuming from the outside, with a simple sign and free parking lot. Tall trees surround the garden, so you really don’t know what you are in for from the main road!
As of 2020, admission to the Sunken Gardens cost $12 for adults. Seniors are $10 and kids are $6. It is open from 10 AM to 4:30 PM most days, except Sunday when it opens at noon. They offer free tours throughout the day and when you get your ticket, you can ask when the next one is.
In addition to the gardens to explore, they also have an event space where they frequently host seminars or activities. Check their Facebook page to see if any of interest are coming up before you go! There is also a gift shop full of Floridian and nature gifts for all ages.
Highlights To See
Surprisingly, the Sunken Gardens span four acres, so there is a lot to see. It is over 100 years old and was created when a gardener drained a lake to create this garden. It was one of the most popular roadside attractions throughout the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s!
There are so many different kinds of plant life to see. Probably the most impressive part for me was the rainbow eucalyptus tree. I had seen these in Maui on the Road to Hana and did not expect to see one of these colorful beauties again!
I definitely recommend spending time in each of the gardens. The cactus garden and the Japanese garden both have some unique plants to see. I also liked looking for different types of royal palms and plants like bromeliads.
I did not expect there to be so many cool water features here, including waterfalls. The rushing water added such a peaceful ambiance to our stroll. You can also see the koi fish in these ponds, which you really have to stop and watch. We saw one jump out of the water shockingly high! You can even buy food to feed them, which is a very fun experience.
The one other thing you can’s miss here are the birds. They have a huge flamingo garden where you can watch the pink birds walk around. However, there are also exotic birds like kookaburras, parrots and more. I had never heard the noise a kookaburra makes before and it really was crazy to hear!
Our Experience at The Sunken Gardens
On our visit, we got there right at 10 AM because we had a full day ahead of us. The weather was also looking like a chance of rain, but luckily it held out the whole time we were there! The garden is open during rainstorms and you will not get refunded due to weather.
There was a tour starting, but we preferred to go on our own. We made our way through the palm grove first to the North Lawn and Cactus Garden. This is where we saw the snapping turtle and some unique succulents!
From here we meandered through the tropical fruit garden, the low pond area and the orchid arbor. We thought the flamingo area was at the end, but then were surprised to also see the exotic birds! It took us about an hour to make this loop.
Once we had gone through, we knew what parts we wanted to spend some more time at. We also bought some fish food from the gift shop to feed the koi because we realized that would be fun after seeing them. We spent the rest of our time here mainly around the koi ponds, waterfalls and flamingos, taking pictures and admiring the atmosphere. If we had more time, I would have loved to have brought a picnic!
We went on a Friday and the crowds were pretty low, even with it being Valentine’s Day. It seems like you might encounter more people on the weekends or later in the day. If you want good pictures, I recommend going right when it opens because there are less people to deal with!
Events and More
Not only is The Sunken Gardens a amusing place to tour, but it is also a great place to learn about nature. They frequently host all sorts of events, from special tours, to workshops, to lectures. Some events coming up include the Earth Day Scavenger hunt and a veggie seed starting workshop.
There most popular event every year is the Orchid Festival. This is annual gathering where you can learn about and purchase orchids. There is also live music, beer and wine for purchase and hourly lectures. This is all included with garden admission as well!
If you are looking to get active at the Sunken Gardens, there are ways to do that as well. Currently, they offer a hoola-fit workout where you do different hoola-hoop dance exercises. They also offer yoga and yoga for kids frequently. Make sure to check out their Facebook page for info on future events and whether it is included with admission or an additional fee.
Know Before You Go: The Sunken Gardens
The Sunken Gardens is the perfect way to experience the unique environment and culture of St. Pete! I thought this was a wonderful way to relax and learn a lot as well. Whether you are a visitor or a local, I think everyone should visit the Sunken Gardens at least once. Here’s everything to know before your visit.
- The Sunken Gardens is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately it is currently closed due to the Coronavirus, but will open again soon.
- Hours for the Sunken Gardens are 10 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Saturday, and noon to 4:30 PM on Sunday.
- Admission currently costs $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for children 17 and under.
- Parking is free and plentiful at the Sunken Gardens.
- You can book private tours, weddings, field trips and more here.
- Applications for volunteers at the Sunken Gardens are available if you would like to help the Sunken Gardens.
Have you ever been to a botanical garden before? This was one of my favorites! For more ideas for things to do in St. Pete, check out my travel guide here.
For the ultimate Tampa Bay area bucket list, check out my Etsy shop where you can buy a printable version available for instant download!