Are you looking for the best things to do in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida? We have the perfect guide to help you start planning your ideal vacation.
Peaceful waters paired with white sands make Florida’s gulf coast beaches a popular vacation destination in the United States. Iconic beaches such as Clearwater Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and St. Pete’s are a short drive from Indian Rocks.
As the sun dips below the Gulf of Mexico for a breathtaking sunset, it is easy to see why this small Florida beach town has captured the hearts of many.
Whether you want to discover the secrets of historic Fort De Soto, take a stroll through a scenic nature preserve, a relax on the beautiful beaches, there are tons of fun things for the whole family.
How To Get To Indian Rocks Beach Florida
Indian Rocks Beach is on a barrier island along the Gulf Coast of Florida in Pinellas County.
Many visitors to Indian Rocks Beach will fly into Tampa International Airport. Indian Rocks Beach is roughly a 35-40 minute drive from the airport, depending on traffic. Other guests may opt to fly into St. Pete’s/ Clearwater International Airport, which is closer.
Indian Rocks Beach, lovingly known as IRB by locals, is centrally located, with the Clearwater area to the North, Largo to the east, and St. Pete’s Beach to the South. Spend time exploring each of the small seaside towns, including; Indian Shores, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and Redington Beach.
Where To Stay In Indian Rocks Beach
Vacation rentals are the most popular places to stay in Indian Rocks Beach. A few hotels are along the beach, such as the Holiday Inn and Suites, but most are in Largo. We have had luck renting through Airbnb, our most recent one being a three-bedroom condo.
The Top Things To Do In Indian Rocks Beach Florida
When you want to take a break from the clear waters and the beach, we have rounded up the best things to do in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.
Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve
A great place to add to your itinerary is the Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve. Stroll along the boardwalk looking for wildlife amount the mangroves. It is a birder’s paradise as many local and migratory birds find the preserve home.
The preserve is small, with the boardwalk snaking its way through the mangroves until it reaches the Intercoastal Waterway. However, a portion of the boardwalk connects to 10th Avenue Park, which has two wonderful playgrounds and a fitness trail.
Are you traveling with your furry companion? The Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve is home to a dog park!
Florida Botanical Gardens
One of the best FREE places to visit is the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. The Florida Botanical Gardens is part of a massive park complex consisting of the gardens, the Heritage Village, and scenic Walsingham Park.
Depending on how much you want to see, I plan for 2-3 hours to explore the Botanical Gardens and the Heritage Village. Admire the majestic Palms, play with fluttering butterflies, and stroll through Tropical Fruit Garden. Download the Florida Botanical Garden Map to help plan out your visit.
The Botanical Gardens consist of a 100-acres full of nature trails, picnic areas, and meticulously manicured gardens. The Botanical Gardens and the Heritage Village are connected so guests can follow trails to the village.
TIP: Parking is free! There are various parking lots around the Botanical Gardens and the Heritage Village. Check their hours, as they vary depending on the season.
The Heritage Village is a living museum that features restored homes and buildings from years gone by. Step into the past as you venture into each building to learn about its history and see fascinating artifacts. On select days, guests to the Heritage Village can get guided tours of the houses and see various demonstrations such as weaving and spinning.
Tips For Visiting The Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village
- Bring a stroller for little legs. There is a lot of walking involved.
- A new children’s garden is going in this year (2023)
- Bring insect repellant and sunscreen.
- There are ponds with alligators present. Keep a close eye on your children.
- You can spend 3-4 hours exploring the Gardens and the Village.
- Bring water and snacks, or pack a picnic.
- You can take a self-guided tour of the Heritage Village.
- Buy a cold refreshing beverage from the vintage convenience store in the village. You even get it out of an old operating refrigerator!
George C. McGough Nature Park
The George McGough Nature Park is in Largo, only minutes from Indian Rocks Beach, and free to the public. Visit the bird sanctuary where many injured birds have been rescued. Read their fascinating stories about how they found their way to Nature Park and now act as an ambassador for their species.
Stroll along the turtle pond to witness the local turtles congregate for sunbathing, then take a walk along the boardwalk to feel as if you have been transported into a magical tropical jungle. The park is lovingly known as turtle park because of the massive turtle population!
The Nature Center is not to be missed, as it dives into the Florida ecosystem and the native species that call the area home. Various animals are there as they rehabilitate or live there because of permanent injuries.
Kids will love the playground that is complete with a zipline!
Tips For Visiting The George C McGough Nature Park
- Bring a stroller for little ones. The trails are stroller friendly.
- Pack a picnic. There are various picnic areas and shelters throughout the Nature Park.
- Bring sunscreen and bug spray.
- Parking is FREE. There is a parking lot and street parking.
- There is a canoe launch.
While visiting Lardo, take advantage of this authentic Italian Pizzeria! Sardo’s is a staple in the area, and with good reason, the owner, Santo’s passion, shines through in everything. The atmosphere is vibrant, and the food is fantastic. Whether you order carry-out or dine-in, this is one spot you want to take advantage of.
Tip: The slices are HUGE!! Order appropriately, or enjoy the leftovers! I am pretty confident a whole pizza is the size of a truck tire.
Splash Harbor Water Park
While my family loves the beach, we are the biggest fans of swimming in the ocean. That is when we explore local waterparks such as Splash Harbour Water Park. Take a break from the beach by cooling off at Splash Harbor Water Park.
One of the highlights of Splash Harbor is the Great White Lazy River, a 600-foot-long relaxing lazy river that features waterfalls, sprays, and mists to keep you cool while you’re soaking up the Florida sun. The Treasure Cove Splash Zone is ideal for kids with three slides, interactive water activities, and a dumping bucket.
Budget Tip: Save money by visiting the waterpark after 3 pm for 5 dollars off. Guests can also check to see if their hotel offers waterpark admission discounts, such as the Holiday Inn.
Spend The Afternoon In St. Petersburg
The charming, old Florida ambiance of St. Pete Beach entices guests and keeps them coming back. There are many fun things to do in St. Petersburg, from historic roadside attractions to eccentric museums. Spend the day exploring St. Petersburg with a visit to the Sunken Gardens, taking in the works of art at the Dali Museum, or spend the afternoon browsing the boutiques.
Discover our guide to things to do in St. Petersburg to help you plan your visit.
Fort De Soto
While visiting St. Petersburg, plan a trip to historic Fort De Soto. Fort De Soto has a fun and fascinating history dating back to the Civil War. Strategically located on Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, these keys were used to block Tampa Bay during the Civil War, only to be abandoned until the Spanish American War.
The site has now been converted into a state park, offering a variety of outdoor activities and tours of the historic batteries. Spend the day paddling along a canoe trail, spot a few feathered friends while hiking, or spend the day at one of their award-winning beaches. We have compiled a complete guide to planning the perfect day at Fort De Soto.
Exploring Neighboring Beach Towns
Pack a beach bag and spend the day exploring the neighboring beach towns along the coast. There are various beach access points to Clearwater Beach, Madeira Beach, Indian Shores, and Treasure Island.
Stop by John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, a top tourist attraction in Madeira Beach. Stroll the lively boardwalk full of restaurants, bars, shops, and docks while live music floats through the air.
Grab a cold one at Sea Dog Brewing in Treasure Island, or plan a visit to Clearwater Aquarium, the home of the inspiration for the movie, “Dolphin Tale.”
Discover great local eateries, local parks, and some of the best places to visit along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Enjoy Fresh Florida Oranges
Fresh Florida oranges can be found statewide at groves, stores, and local fruit stands. However, there are benefits to picking oranges yourself. Travel can offer various unique experiences, including learning where our food comes from. Our children need to know and understand that, as well as ourselves.
A visit to the grove is not only fun but educational. Did you know an orange can get sunburned? Or a wall of trees is planted around the perimeter of the grove to help shelter it during a hurricane. The farmers happily share their knowledge and teach others about the orange growing process.
The closest u-pick grove to Indian Shores is Dooley Groves, about an hour away. If you don’t want to pick your own, you can find those juicy, delicious Florida oranges closer to Indian Rocks at Yellow Banks Grove (this is their storefront, not the actual grove).
See The Manatees
Open from November 1st to April 15th, the Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center gives visitors a look at these gentle giants seeking refuge from cold waters. The Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach circulates water from Tampa Bay for cooling, then sends the water flowing clean and warm back into the bay. The manatees flock to these warm waters during the winter months.
The Manatee Viewing Center is FREE for all guests and includes a beautiful nature center all about manatees, a sting ray touch pool, a butterfly garden, and is only part of the Florida Conservation and Technolgy Center.
Planning Tip: I would make this a whole day trip paired with a visit to Dooley Grove, which is close by. Guests can spend 2-4 hours exploring all the Florida Conservation and Technology Center offers, including the manatees.
The Columbia Restaurant In Tampa
Venture into downtown Tampa to treat yourself to a traditional Spanish restaurant that has been a local staple since 1905 with its original ornate location in Ybor City. Today, it’s Florida’s Oldest Restaurant and the world’s largest Spanish restaurant.
Come for the 1905 Salad stay for the ambiance, as the eclectic Spanish decor is a feast for the eyes.
Tip: Try to visit between peak times for better service and a less crowded experience.
Clearwater Beach is one best beaches in the USA. However, it does not have clear waters. On the contrary, the waters are often a blue or green hue. It is its powdery white sand that attracts visitors from around the world.
In Clearwater, you can enjoy sunsets at Pier 60, a nightly festival featuring music, crafts, and street performers. The city also hosts the annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Don’t miss the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where injured dolphins and sea turtles are rehabilitated.
Aloha To Go
One of the best restaurants we visited during our visit to Indian Rocks was Aloha To Go. For an authentic Hawaiian feast, get the Big Kahuna Combo or try one of their fresh Poke Bowls. The restaurant is small and does not serve alcohol, so carry-out is an excellent option if it is busy.
Seaside Bird Sanctuary
Located on 3 acres of beachfront property on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida, The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary has become a West-Central Florida attraction and a popular destination for tourists.
With the goal to rescue, treat, and rehabilitate sick and injured wild birds to release them back into their native habitat in the wild, the Seaside Bird Sanctuary is an integral part of the community.
Guests can enjoy presentations and feedings and stroll through the 1.7-acre sanctuary, which is home to over 100 permanently disabled birds. Remember to swing into the gift shop.
Indian Rocks Historical Museum
History fanatics will love learning how the small town of Indian Rocks grew to become a popular tourist destination. New exhibits feature memorabilia of popular tourist attractions of the past, a shipwreck exhibit, and more.
Fun Fact: The origin of the name “Indian Rocks” is shrouded in the mists of time. Still, the most commonly offered explanation relates to the miraculous healing of native Indian Chief Chic-a-Si. Want to know the whole story? You can learn that and more at the Indian Rocks Historical Museum!
Go On A Fishing Charter
Various fishing Charters are available for all types of skill levels. Whether you want a two-hour inshore experience or a full day on the Gulf of Mexico, there is a fishing charter for you.
Grab Ice Cream At Kooky Coconut
A great way to round out your day is with a scoop of Ice Cream at the Kooky Coconut. With public beach access only a few steps away, the Kooky Coconut is ideal for enjoying a scoop of ice cream before those sunset walks on the beach.
Their ice cream is locally made with tons of great flavors and a fantastic lunch/dinner menu ideal for taking out to the beach.
Need help deciding which Florida beach to vacation at? Read these related articles about other popular Florida vacation spots.
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