It’s been a while since David and I have posted on our blog. Over the past few months, we traveled quickly from Oregon to the East Coast and we settled in the Tampa, Florida area where we have spent time with our family. We have celebrated the holidays and the marriages of both of our daughters. One of our daughters was married here in warm Tampa in January and the other daughter was married in snowy Sisters, Oregon. Yes, 2 weddings in less than 2 months on 2 different sides of the U.S.! Both weddings were beautiful and we feel blessed to have two wonderful sons-in-law in our family!
In advance of these happy celebrations, David and I chose to stay in one place and to limit our contact with others not in our “bubble.” This year of COVID has significantly impacted everyone. Both weddings were kept quite small due to coronavirus restrictions. Unfortunately, many family and friends were not able to come in person to help us celebrate the newlyweds but those who could not travel were able to attend the festivities virtually. Thankfully neither David nor I nor any of the guests who did attend the weddings contracted the virus which was another blessing.
Now that things have settled down a bit, David and I have gotten out and about more and have been exploring a number of places that we have not seen in the Tampa area. Even though we have been here numerous times, there are still many places that we have not visited. The Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg was one of those. Our daughter and son-in-law encouraged us to go there and we were happy that we did!
To reach the Sunken Gardens from the east side of Tampa Bay, you can drive across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This iconic bridge is the symbol of the Tampa Bay area. Opened in 1987, this impressive bridge is 4.14 miles long and a section of it soars to a height of 430 feet. Its height allows large tankers entering the bay to pass underneath the bridge without any stoppage of vehicular traffic over the bridge.
This is the second structure built across the Lower Tampa Bay connecting the cities of St. Petersburg and Bradenton. The first bridge opened in 1954 but, tragically, a freighter, the MV Summit Venture, hit a support during a storm resulting numerous deaths and extensive damage to the parts of the bridge. At the time, they repaired the damage but ultimately replaced the original bridge with the current one. Some of the remnants of the first bridge serve as popular fishing piers. In 2017, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge’s columns, main spans, and cables were adorned with 1,800 LED lights that provide additional visibility both over and under the bridge. This lighting changes colors and is a beautiful sight to behold during the evenings.
After crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, we made our way to the Sunken Gardens. These lush gardens have long been a popular roadside tourist attraction in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 1903, George Turner, Sr., who was a local plumber and a gifted gardener, acquired a four-acre tract of land in the city. He drained the shallow lake on the property. For more than 20 years, he collected exotic plants and created a renowned botanical wonder. His gardens include tropical plants like papayas and citrus plants, as well as Royal Palms and bougainvillea. By 1924, Mr. Turner began to collect a 25¢ admission fee and in 1935 it officially opened as Turners Sunken Gardens. Later, in 1950, he introduced exotic wildlife. While there, David and I saw Amazon parrots, macaws, cockatoos, Chilean flamingos, and North American box turtles. In the ponds, we spotted a North American alligator snapping turtle and Koi from Asia. The flora in the Sunken Gardens is vast and diverse. Some species that we saw in these beautifully manicured gardens included Orchids from Colombia, Crotons from Indonesia, and Rainbow Eucalyptus from the Philippines. Many of the flowering plants were in full bloom adding to the beauty of these lovely gardens. It was so restful to stroll through this unique botanical garden.
The Sunken Gardens was designated an historic landmark in 1998 and the City of St. Petersburg purchased them the following year. The city restored the entrance to the gardens and it continues to maintain what is, according to them, “one of Florida’s oldest family owned roadside attractions.”
David and I thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility and beauty of the Sunken Gardens. For us, this oasis in the midst of a bustling city was just what the doctor ordered.