In 1903, four acres of land were purchased by George Turner Sr, a plumber by trade but a gardener by heart. He drained a shallow lake, which turned out to be an ancient sinkhole. It dropped 15 feet below street level and provided a wonderful soil perfect for growing fruit and tropical exotic plants. By 1924, he was charging admission ($.25 per person) to let people see his amazing garden. In the 1950s, they started adding exotic wildlife as well.
Then, in 1967, he opened the World’s Largest Giftshop, which is now home to the main entrance to the gardens. Fully restored to its natural beauty after being purchased by the City of St. Petersburg, this location provided a spot of quiet serenity in a bustling coastal town.
Upon entering, you’re greeted with a natural looking green space. I’ll admit, I forgot how close I actually was to a major roadway until right before I left. The trees, multiple varieties of palms, pines, oaks and more, tower overhead, keeping the area cooler in the Florida summer.
Tucked up among the trees and flowers are quiet little oasis where you can sit and just enjoy nature.
There were several areas with animals, including one set aside for birds. There was one parrot who had obviously heard many a crying toddler, because she sounded just like one. I kept looking for a kid who had wandered away from their parents, but there was just a parrot.
Of course, my favorite bird there were the flamingos.
Sounding like a traffic jam, they honked loudly and would knock their beaks together if someone cut them off while moving around.
Water plays a big part in the design of the gardens. With water falls and burbling streams, they also have a koi pond to sit by and relax.
A lovely respite from the busy beaches that stay well occupied at this time of year in Florida. The price is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62+) and $4 for children (2-11). Right next door is the Great Explorations Children’s Museum. They do have combined tickets if you decide to do both.