Thinking of visiting St. Petersburg, Florida, or St. Pete, as it’s affectionately called? Well, you don’t need a car to explore this arty, funky, creative, queer, liberal, colorful gem of a city! With rainbow flags flying everywhere and colorful murals dotting the walls and alleyways, St. Petersburg feels like a cross between SF’s Castro District and East Austin. It also happens to offer phenomenal public transportation.
The Central Avenue Trolley that runs between St. Pete Pier and St. Pete Beach.
Free trolleys in St. Petersburg
The Central Avenue Trolley
To take advantage of two FREE public trolleys, I recommend staying near Central Avenue. Firstly, it’s a major artery that runs through St. Pete. Secondly, it offers a FREE trolley called the Central Avenue Trolley. It’s incredibly handy since it takes you east to downtown and St. Pete Pier, and west to St. Pete Beach. In the event that you take the trolley past Grand Central Station and all the way out to St. Pete Beach, it costs $2.25 for adults.
I found this out because the trolley stopped a block away from me in the Grand Central District. By the way, this is a great part of town to stay in, i.e., it’s a very cool arts and entertainment area filled with quirky and eclectic galleries, restaurants, bars and shops.
The Grand Central District is also home to many of St. Pete’s famous murals which abound everywhere – on the walls, in the shops, down the alleyways.
A quirky convenience store in the Grand Central Station District in St. Pete, Florida.
Blue-sequin surfer girl with matching surfboard at the Imagine Museum, St. Pete, FL.
The Downtown Looper is another free trolley
When you visit downtown St. Petersburg, there is a second FREE trolley called the Downtown Looper that cruises through downtown. It connects the city’s major downtown destinations such as the Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Museum of History, St. Pete Pier, and Mahaffey Theater, to name a few. St. Pete has a lovely downtown and the Downtown Looper is generally a great way to see it.
St. Pete Pier, Florida.
Waterfront mural, St. Petersburg, Florida.
High-rise condos in downtown St. Pete, FL.
Other buses in St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Pete has a city-wide bus network. For example, I took Bus #4 from downtown to visit the enchanting Sunken Gardens, a must-see for plant lovers. As I write this, regular bus fare is $2.25 and day passes are $5.00. The buses are definitely a good deal!
The Suncoast Beach Trolley to Clearwater Beach
St. Petersburg also has you covered if you want to visit the beautiful coastal communities and see the gorgeous beaches. In fact, the Suncoast Beach Trolley takes you 18 miles up the coast from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach. It takes about an hour to get up to Clearwater Beach but it’s definitely worth it.
Clearwater is known for its gorgeous white sand beach as well as a long pier where you feel you are walking out into the Gulf. But note that there are a lot of major hotels in Clearwater so expect to see a lot of tourists. Although it’s a big change from the quiet coastal communities you pass through as you head to Clearwater, I still enjoyed it immensely.
Clearwater Beach, Florida.
If you’re looking for a more low-key beach, try Treasure Island Beach which generally isn’t overrun. Once you’re there, check out the Thunderbird Beach Resort which has a pool and tiki bar that are open to the public. It’s also where I recently caught a singer with the most beautiful voice strumming her ukelele as the sun set.
The ferry from St. Pete to Tampa
I loved taking the scenic Cross Bay Ferry from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa.
The author on the ferry from St. Pete to Tampa, Florida.
Once the ferry arrives in Tampa, you can stroll through picturesque downtown Tampa or head to Ybor City, a Tampa neighborhood that is a National Historic Landmark District. Ybor City dates back to the 1880s when it was a melting pot of Cuban, Spanish, German and Italian immigrants and home to the world’s most famous cigar factories.
Cigar shops, bars, restaurants and historical buildings abound in Ybor City.
How to get to St. Petersburg, Florida, by air
Fly to Tampa Airport. Then take an Uber to St. Pete. I landed at “rush hour” and learned that there is no rush hour, so I quickly reached my destination.
If scooters and bicycles are more your thing, the city offers plenty of them.
On a different note: Need a snack or something to munch on for your excursion? Check out my healthy recipes here.