The Sunken Gardens is a botanical treasure hidden among the bustling city of St. Petersburg. Its history stretches back 100 years to a simple plumber who dreamed of owning his own garden. He bought a 4 acre plot and drained the small lake on it. Then he began work on his private “sunken garden”—10 feet below sea level! From these humble beginnings grew one of the biggest “must see” attractions of the 1900s, an attraction that can still be seen today.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first pulled into the parking lot. I’ve never really been to a dedicated botanical gardens before, besides those offered by the various theme parks. I knew that this was an “old-time” Florida attraction, the sort of thing people did in Florida before the days of Disney. And I suppose that’s what intrigued me, this was a living museum of sorts, one in which I could follow in the footsteps of travelers from a hundred years ago.
The paths looped through the plants and greenery; small clearings were hidden in the garden. I was amazed at the extensive amount of tropical plants and flowers, and how tall the trees and plants grew. Waterfalls cascaded down rock faces. Creeks and rivers flowed under and alongside the paths.
I found myself humming the theme song from Jurassic Park more frequently than I thought I would, and I dreamed about T-Rex dinosaurs. Which, if I really think about it, is a testament to how grand the gardens are. It had the power to remove me from the middle of a lively city sitting on the other side of the fence to a tropical place far away; all this with simple walk through a garden.
The exotic plants are the main attraction, and the beauty in which they are arranged, but they weren’t the only tropical attraction. There were birds too. Birds that could talk. One of the paths leads to brightly colored birds in cages and I was surprised when one of them said “Hello!” right back at me. Also, there were flamingos on display which could be viewed from various paths.
Overall, my visit was a fantastic experience, and there certainly is a lot to see. I spent about two hours wandering the paths, enjoying the views, talking to birds, and sitting in the gardens; dreaming about this wonderful, secluded place in the middle of a city. This is a great place to visit and I can definitely recommend it to those who are in the area.
The Sunken Gardens is a great place for singles, couples, and families. Children will find a lot here to keep them busy. I’d recommend visiting the gardens if you are in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area, but to hold off on taking a long drive to get there if you are not in the immediate area. It’s an activity that will last from 2-3 hours.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:30PM. Sunday, Noon-4:30PM
Admission: Adults $8│Seniors (62+) $6│Children (2-11) $4│Children 2 and under are free
Free Parking. All areas are handicap accessible. Wheelchairs available on first come first serve basis.
All photos by Valarie Scheeringa