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Learn more about Pinellas County
History & Basic Data:
Pinellas county has been my home and the heart of many wonderful memories for over 20 years. Modern day Pinellas County came into being in 1912. Being born and raised in the Aviation birthplace of Dayton Ohio; I was surprised to learn that Aviation history was made when Tony Jannus completed the world’s first scheduled commercial airline flight with the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line from St. Petersburg to Tampa. Source Wikipedia. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 608 square miles (1,570 km2), of which 274 square miles (710 km2) is land and 334 square miles (870 km2) (55.0%) is water.
From tip to tip, Pinellas County is 38 miles (61 km) long and 15 miles (24 km) wide at its broadest point. However, there are an astonishing 587 miles (945 km) of picturesque coastline. Pinellas County recently was ranked as having the 2nd highest number of registered watercraft in the State behind Broward County. Many of the waterways along Pinellas County are shallow water, some as little as a few feet deep. There are also 35 miles of stunning calm blue water beaches which adjoin the county’s 11 barrier islands. The barrier islands provide habitat for numerous sealife, serve as natural storm breaks for the mainland, and form the basis for our area’s world renown beaches.
According to Wikipedia, Pinellas County is the 2nd smallest county in Florida. Also, according to several publications; Pinellas County has the highest population density in the State of Florida and also the highest in the Southeastern United States. I have often referred to Pinellas County as a one level Manhattan when speaking with out of town clients. The county is part of the Greater Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida Metroplex and is now home to between 3.2 & 4.5 million primary residents depending upon the boundaries used. St. Petersburg is the largest city in the county now with approximately a quarter of a million people and has usurped Sarasota to arguably become the largest cultural hub on the west coast of Florida. The roaring 20’s saw the first land boom in the county where the initial major infrastructure was laid down including the Gandy Bridge which opened in 1924. The Great Depression hit Pinellas county especially hard and after tourism dried up, the City of St. Petersburg defaulted on its bonds. During WWII, many facilities in the county were used as military training, storage and or convalescence centers. The Vinoy Hotel grounds were used as a Army Training school and the famous Don Czar which opened in 1928 and became a legendary Jazz age hotel, became a military hospital during the height of the war.
After WWII, Pinellas County growth and development exploded as former officers and enlisted men desired winter escape 2nd homes during the roaring 50’s. Numerous acres of former submerged lands were dredged and constructed into what are now modern day barrier island upscale neighborhoods. In 1954 the original span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was opened, replacing earlier ferry service. This final strategic connection linked Pinellas County to the southwestern parts of the state. By the late 1950’s, Clearwater was America’s fastest growing city. The barrier islands and the mainland are separated by several bodies of water, through which traverses the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. From north to south they are: St. Joseph Sound between the islands and Dunedin, Clearwater Harbor between Clearwater and Clearwater Beach, and Boca Ciega Bay in the southern third of the county. Connecting Clearwater Harbor to Boca Ciega Bay is a thin, approximately 3.5-mile (5.6 km) stretch of water known as The Narrows, which runs next to the town of Indian Shores.
Pinellas County is consistently ranked as having the best beaches in the United States by multiple sources and publications. Fort De Soto Park (2005) and Caladesi Island (2008) have been named by Dr. Beach as America’s Top Beaches. These two beaches remain unspoiled and untouched by commercial development. Trip Advisor(2021) recently named my home of Saint Pete Beach the top beach in the United States and Pinellas County is only 45 minutes north of Siesta Key in Sarasota, another top ranked beach in the Country. Pinellas County is part of an area of the State of Florida consistently ranked as having one of the most days of sunshine each year. St. Pete Clearwater International Airport(PIE) is undergoing a major renovation/expansion with easy access non stop flights to over 50 destinations. Pinellas County is also less than 30 minutes drive to world renown top ranked Tampa International Airport which is consistently ranked among the best in the country and now offers nonstop service to several European destinations.
Many are surprised to learn that in addition to tourism; Pinellas County has the second largest base of manufacturing employment in Florida. Many up start small companies adorn the landscape. Pinellas County has a diverse, yet symbiotic work industry, including leading employers of aviation/aerospace & the defense/national security, such as Raytheon and Honeywell; medical technologies, business and financial services, and information technology. Several Fortune 500 technology manufacturers Jabil Circuit and Tech Data and a Fortune 500 financial company Raymond James Financial are headquartered in the area adjoining Feather Sound. Other large companies include HSN, Nielsen, and Valpak.
Nature Activities & Our Barrier Islands:
Pinellas County is a nature lovers paradise. One of my favorite memories are the countless days spent jet skiing or snorkeling on calm blue waters watching the dolphins frolic. There are multiple barrier islands with their own distinct history and rich in cultural traditions.
Barrier islands and passes
Pinellas Trail- Pinellas County has a fantastic 37-mile running and cycling trail that used to be a former railroad bed and that traverses the entire county from St. Petersburg in the south to Dunedin-Tarpon Springs area in the north.
Anclote Key– offshore of Tarpon Springs and the northernmost point in the county-The Tarpon Springs area is rich in Greek culture with many wonderful Greek Restaurants and boutiques.
Howard Park– a man-made pocket beach created in the 1960s and a great place for family gatherings or ust to relax.
Honeymoon Island-One of my favorite places in the state with areas to hike, take a peaceful kayak ride or just meditate. Weekends and holidays can get really busy.
Caladesi Island-Located between Clearwater Beach and Honeymoon island, this island best accessed by boat is one of my favorite places to kayak or snorkel in the entire area.
Clearwater Beach-The World Famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Movie Dolphin Tale helped the public rediscover Clearwater Beach and after a decade of redevelopment and several billion dollars later; this barrier island by far affords a visitor the most diverse set of activities to enjoy. Take an Uber or rent a bicycle as traffic can be extremely heavy.
Sand Key- the longest of Pinellas’ barrier islands- Reminds one of Fort Lauderdale with its towering opulent residential towers. However, unbeknownst to many, Sand Key State Park is a picturesque secluded oasis of calm gulf waters usually sparsely populated and great for a weekday of afternoon play.
Indian Rocks Beach/Indian Shores– Picture the Florida Keys meets hip and funky meets quaint beach towns. These two adjoining towns have become an international favorite among northern vacationers and AirBnB owners as the City of IRB allows nightly short term rentals in many of the communities. Numerous scrape and builds of older small motels have made way in recent years for magnificent luxury gulf front communities. Many small restaurants and bars have opened up in recent years. Indian Shores is home to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, currently the largest non-profit wild bird hospital in the United States. Source Wikipedia
Belleair Beach– Several miles of magnificent over-the-top mansions adore this section of pristine beach where sedate peacefulness abounds. Forget an espresso or trip to the store as the Island frowns upon retail therapy.
Redington Shores/North Redington Beach/Redington Shores– Each of these 3 communities have very different governments and layouts but all share a logistical advantage of affording their owners equal distance drives up to Clearwater Beach or down to Saint Pete Beach and quick access to the heart of the mainland. Long a favorite for snowbirds and 2nd home vacationers escaping the hustle bustle of the north all the while still affording many leisure activities. The former Tides Resort was frequented by the Rat Pack during their heyday.
Madeira Beach/John’s Pass– This area is the nightlife hub of Madeira Beach if not the entire county with multiple life music venues facing the Intracoastal waterway and multiple small gift shops and restaurants for the entire family. Take a fishing charter out on the gulf or a Dolphin sightseeing trip right from the pass.
Treasure Island– My favorite family beach. The public beach is enormous and there are many activities throughout the year such as Sunday drum circle, Sand Castle competitions, fireworks and a lovely pedestrian beachside boardwalk.
Long Key (St. Pete Beach)– My own home and such an important part of my life. Saint Pete Beach offers the largest diversity of Barrier Island living. We have a full downtown with an active city government, many quaint non franchised businesses along the central business district, weekend morning markets, arts and crafts shows, fireworks and multiple large scale hotel resorts with tons of activities. Go sailing, parasailing, fishing, scuba diving, paddleboarding, boating or sit your behind on the beach for a lazy summer day. There are over 40 restaurants on the island or take a quick 16 minute drive to downtown St. Petersburg.
Pass-a-Grille– Home to some of the most stunning beach homes on the west coast of Florida and being tucked at the very southern deadend of the county; affords peaceful artsy beach days without the hustle bustle of the northern beaches.
Shell Key– For years I would take my jet ski from South Pasadena to Shell Key Island which is only accessible by boat. There are no commercial structures or wild parties. I loved reading a good book on the island on a sunny summer day.
Fort De Soto– My favorite place in Tampa Bay. Miles and miles of unspoiled parkland with calm shallow kayaking bay waters on one side and dramatic movie quality crystal white sand beaches on the other side. North Beach is a favorite for locals and wedding ceremonies. There is even a great gated dog park and dog beach to spend quality time with your furry best friend. No other place in the area offers the diversity of unspoiled nature, views and feel of old back in time Florida as does this area.
Pinellas County has an endless diversity of vegetation with our year long growing season. Diverse ecological subsystems exist including areas of freshwater wetlands (dominated by bald cypresses and ferns), coastal mangrove swamps, sporadic hardwood hammocks (dominated by laurel oaks and live oaks, cabbage palms, and southern magnolias), low-lying, poorly drained pine flatwoods (dominated by longleaf pines and saw palmettos), and well-drained, upland sandhills (dominated by longleaf pines and turkey oaks) and sand pine scrub (dominated by sand pines, saw palmettos, and various oaks). Source Wikipedia.
Numerous bird species make their home in Pinellas County. Wading birds like great blue herons, egrets, white ibises and roseate spoonbills, aquatic birds like brown pelicans, white pelicans, and cormorants, numerous species of shorebirds, and very-common birds like seagulls and passerines like the blue jay, mockingbird, and crow. Ospreys are a commonly seen bird-of-prey, with other birds of prey like turkey vultures, red tailed hawks, great horned owls, screech owls, barn owls, and bald eagles, among others, seen as well. One of my favorite memories was a video my wife took in Fort Desoto of a nesting Red Tailed Hawk. Source Wikipedia.
Gopher tortoises are found in many areas. Sea turtles nest on the shores or Pinellas’ barrier islands and there are numerous near shore, dolphins, sharks, manatees and stingrays viewable with patience. During Tropical Storm Gordon, we had a Sea Turtle climb into our backyard during high tide. Unfortunately, rude boaters have killed or seriously insured slow moving Manatee which remains a tragedy throughout the state. Source Wikipedia
Species of fish commonly caught in the waters surrounding the county include spotted seatrout, red drum or redfish, snook, pompano, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, grouper, mullet, flounder, kingfish, and tarpon. Grouper are a prized catch and a very cunning intelligent fish to attempt to catch. Source Wikipedia.
Pinellas County has a humid subtropical climate with a short winter/spring and long hot summers when a majority of the annual precipitation falls. Freezing temperatures occur once every few years for a day or so. Pinellas County abuts lighting alley, one of the lightning capitals of the world and what makes for a great afternoon natural fireworks show.
Education & Arts:
Pinellas County is home to several top notch institutions of higher learning, including Eckerd College, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, both of which have top rated Marine Science programs, the multi-campus St. Petersburg College, and the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, which is one of the finest law schools in the country.
The county is also home to many K through 12 private schools, including Admiral Farragut Academy, Canterbury School, Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Keswick Christian School, Shorecrest Preparatory School, Indian Rocks Christian School and St. Petersburg Catholic High School, among others. Source Wikipedia.
One of our favorite things about living in southern Pinellas County are the numerous art galleries, museums and performing arts venues. The area has always been a bastion for upstart artists and home to a thriving glass blowing community with nationally renowned glass artists such as Chuck Boux and Duncan McClellan calling St. Petersburg home or having major studio presence in the area. Additionally, Dale Chihuly has an enormous permanent display of art in St. Petersburg at Chihuly gallery on Central Avenue. There are numerous other museums including the world famous Salvador Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art in downtown St. Petersburg, Morean Arts Center, Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, Great Explorations Children’s Museum, and Imagine Museum.
Performing arts venues include: Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, The Mahaffey Theater, Jannus Landing, Palladium, freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg American Stage in St. [email protected] all of which are in St. Petersburg.
Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg is home to the Tampa Bay Rays major league baseball team. Formerly a team we all felt sorry for but that in recent years has become one of the best in baseball. Two other MLB teams come to Pinellas County for their spring training: the Philadelphia Phillies play at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater while the Toronto Blue Jays play at TD Ballpark in Dunedin.
Why We Call Pinellas County & Saint Pete Beach Home:
I cannot imagine a more laid back eclectic place with such a diversity of activities and people from all over the world. As a Mid Century Modern aficionado; Pinellas County affords some of the best examples of simple 50’s architecture and living. The weather is tremendous and there is always something to do.
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