A recognized site on the Trail of Florida Indian Heritage, Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center on Weedon Island showcases close to 2,000 years of history. Today, few other places allow you to get out into the wild in such close proximity to a major city as Weedon Island Preserve, located just 20 minutes north of downtown St. Petersburg.
The bays and lagoons that once drew Native Americans now attract thousands of visitors each year. Paddlers can meander down the southern trail, which begins at the fishing pier (a great place to hook snook, redfish or trout) and winds its way through the mangrove islands for four miles, at one point skirting the open waters of Tampa Bay. But paddlers needn't worry about boat traffic—the preserve is a no-combustion motor zone, which means the only way in or out is through arm power.
And that's just fine with the paddling guides from nearby Sweetwater Kayaks; they know that the quieter you travel, the more birds you'll see. Count on spotting great blue heron, snowy egret, roseate spoonbill and the occasional osprey hunting the grass flats.
The preserve is no less inviting on foot. You can hike a multitude of trails through the 3,700-acre wilderness. The one-mile Boy Scout Loop takes you through pine flatwoods and maritime hammocks; then two miles of boardwalk trails carry you over tidal flats and mangrove tangles and deliver you near the preserve’s Cultural and Natural History Center. Here you can view exhibits on the island’s prehistoric inhabitants.
The highlight for many Weedon Island visitors, however, isn’t on the ground at all. On a clear day, the 45-foot observation tower, accessible via the west boardwalk trail, offers an unhindered view of St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay and ospreys soaring overhead.