Southeast St. Petersburg guide: From hidden waterfront gems to Black history
Note: This guide first appeared in our email newsletter series, One Day in Tampa Bay. Subscribe to that newsletter and check out our other offerings at tampabay.com/newsletters.
Today we’re heading to southeast St. Petersburg. This area is just south of the University of South Florida’s St. Pete campus and includes sunny parks, delicious local favorites and a lot of history.
The lesser-trafficked spots below have a relaxing, locals-only vibe. If you love the waterfront views of Vinoy Park and the Pier but hate the crowds, these are the places to visit instead.
First stop: Old Southeast Market. Grab a morning snack (we opted for boba tea with popping pearls and jellies), shop for Tampa Bay-themed stickers and clothing, or pick out items for a picnic by the water.
The market is stocked with goodies, including Old Florida Gourmet brand tortilla chips, craft beer, bottles of wine and kombucha. There’s even ice cream for your dog. For larger appetites, the deli counter features favorites like Cuban and Reuben sandwiches and a classic banh mi (there’s a great vegetarian banh mi, too), as well as a selection of fresh poke bowls.
Don’t miss the blue Coast bikes for rent in the parking lot, or the spacious back patio on which to enjoy a meal.
The market is a short walk from Lassing Park, a long stretch of grass, palm trees and benches on Beach Drive SE between 15th and 22nd avenues SE. It’s a peaceful place to bring that picnic, string up your hammock, play fetch with your dog and gawk at the beautiful waterfront homes. There are no public restrooms, but you can go inside Old Southeast Market.
No trip to southeast St. Pete is complete without a ride over Thrill Hill (Third Street S, south of 15th Avenue SE). This humpback bridge was first built over Salt Creek when a trolley line was constructed in the Old Southeast neighborhood over a century ago. These days, locals know it as the bump in the road that gives you that roller coaster feeling in the pit of your stomach if you zoom over it fast enough. (Just under 30 miles per hour is the sweet spot.) Keep an eye out for cyclists!
For lunch, swing on over to The Big Catch at Salt Creek, a waterfront bar and restaurant tucked away next to the Harborage Marina. The casual spot features a Floridian fish camp theme, with fresh seafood plates, sandwiches, salads and shareable snacks. Don’t skip the fried grouper bites.
The best seats in the house are near the back bar, right on the water. (These are conveniently close to the stage, too, where live musicians hold court several nights a week.) A killer cocktail list includes drinks like the Salt Creek Paloma, made with Espolon tequila and sparkling grapefruit juice, and the Angry Margarita, made with muddled jalapenos and a chili salt rim — watch out, that one has a kick.
For a similar vibe but off the water, Mullet’s Fish Camp & Market features plenty of outdoor seating and a seafood-focused menu where guests can create their own adventure by choosing from a variety of fish, cooking styles and sides.
Our pick? The Faroe Island salmon sandwich, served “Bobby Lee” style, sauteed in hoisin, ginger and garlic butter with crunchy Asian-inspired slaw.
Other food and drink options nearby:
Nueva Cantina serves a mean margarita and plenty of snacky, shareable appetizers like nachos, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, Oaxacan chicken wings and ceviche. You’ll recognize the spot by its large, colorful sugar skull mural on the outside and its spacious patio deck, great for lounging over a few drinks. The restaurant offers one of the area’s best happy hour deals, with $5 margaritas, $4 well drinks, imported draft beer and wine from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For all the Florida feels, hit up The Chattaway, where the outdoor patio features picnic tables surrounded by a canopy of lush plants tucked inside pink bathtubs. People rave about the cheese Chattaburger, but the English-style fish and chips (made with cod) are also a good bet. In the evenings, the restaurant and bar frequently hosts local music acts, and children and pups are always welcome.
Explore a new neighborhood
After Lassing Park, keep strolling south along Beach Drive SE, then hang a right on 23rd Avenue SE and a left on Bay Street SE. Walk until you get to the Driftwood neighborhood. You’ll know you’ve arrived in this community off Big Bayou when you see the arching Driftwood sign. Admire the canopy of mature trees that shade the collection of homes designed during the 1930s. According to Tampa Bay Times archives, it’s been home to a number of significant locals, like George “Gidge” Gandy Jr., who helped his father and brother build the Gandy Bridge. “Driftwood’s colorful past makes it all that much more appealing to its bohemian residents,” reads a 2015 Times story. “It was once a landing site for bootleggers smuggling in alcohol during Prohibition. It also claims the distinction, detailed in a historic marker, of being the only site in Pinellas County that was fired upon during the Civil War.”
Make your way to Historic Roser Park and walk along the canals. The hilly, picturesque neighborhood runs from east to west between Fourth and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. streets S, with Booker Creek and Ingleside Avenue bordering the north and south. It was founded in the early 1900s by Charles Martin Roser, an Ohio native who was said to have invented the Fig Newton cookie.
Times tip: Stroll the tree-lined walking trail along Booker Creek and admire the colorful old architecture, from prairie homes to craftsman bungalows. It feels unlike any other part of Tampa Bay.
Another nearby area to check out: The Deuces, St. Pete’s historic 22nd Street S corridor. Born out of the city’s era of segregation, which pushed out many Black families and businesses as Interstate 275 was constructed, the district became a booming business hub. In its heyday, music greats like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday came to perform here. Its legacy is carried on today. Visit the Woodson African American Museum of Florida and the nearby African American Heritage Trail to dive further into the area’s past.
You can also walk, run or bike along the trails at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. It’s home to a number of permanently injured and non-releasable birds of prey. Take in the nature preserve on a ranger-led bike tour, or join a small group on a guided night hike. Check the St. Pete parks website for scheduling and pricing.