St. Petersburg’s Sunken Gardens first began welcoming visitors in the 1930s. Over eighty years later, visitors from near and far are still dropping by to experience the beautiful and relaxing garden for themselves.
The History of the Sunken Gardens
The history of the Sunken Gardens dates back more than 110 years, to when a Florida local, George Turner, bought a block of land with a large lake in 1903. A keen gardener, he drained the lake and filled the empty bed with exotic plants from all over the world to create a lush tropical oasis, right on the Florida roadside.
Word of his beautiful garden spread gradually, until in the 1930s he decided to open up the gardens to the public, for a fee of 25c. It soon became one of Florida’s most popular attractions, with visitors of all ages stopping to admire the plants, trees and animals.
In the late twentieth century, the gardens did close for a while, however they were bought by the City of St Petersburg in the 1990s, and lovingly restored to their former glory.
One recent project taken on by a group of passionate “St. Petes” locals was to replenish the Sunken Gardens’ flamingo flock. While the garden has always had flamingoes, the flock had dwindled to just two birds, who had roamed the garden since 1957. With the help of the “Flamingoes Forever” group, the Garden was able to buy 20 more flamingoes, so future generations can also enjoy the sight of these fascinating pink birds.
The Sunken Gardens’ popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Every year, tens of thousands of people stroll through the stunning garden. As you meander through the overgrown pathways, the buzz of insects and the smell of fragrant flowers in the air, it’s almost impossible to believe the roadside is just few hundred feet away.
The Sunken Gardens are located right next door to the Florida Children’s Museum, and are open every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving Days. They are open from 12:00pm to 4:30pm on Sundays, and from 10:00am to 4:30pm every other day of the week.
In the warmer months, it’s a good idea to arrive nice and early as it can get very hot and humid inside the gardens.
There is an entrance fee, which helps to maintain the garden. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62+) and $4 for children.
There is plenty of on-site parking, which is free of charge. Once you arrive, the entrance is well sign-posted, and there is a clear loop that takes you past the garden’s most beautiful sights. This includes a peaceful koi pond, a bird exhibit with parrots and Macaus (complete with information about each bird, including their favorite sayings), and a waterfall. If you look closely, you might also spot some moss-covered alligator snapping turtles!
In total, there are over 50,000 plants in the garden, sourced from countries as far away as Madagascar. It’s a gardener’s paradise, and there are frequent workshops and demonstrations on gardening and other topics throughout the year. It’s worth taking a look at the City of St. Petersburg’s events calendar [LINK: http://www.stpete.org/events/] to see if anything is on at the time of your visit.
Even if there’s not, it’s still a beautiful place to take a stroll through. Don’t forget to bring your camera to snap some pictures of all the unique flora and fauna you can spot in the garden!
The Sunken Gardens is located at 1825 4th Street north, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704