The small city of Gulfport is situated in Pinellas County, Florida. With a population of only 12,000 people, the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxing. It’s close to the larger tourist hubs of the region, but far enough away to be removed from the hustle and bustle.
Past visitors have referred to it as funky, artsy, and a unique fusion of old and new. With many small, family-owned businesses, brick-paved roads, ancient oak trees, and a lack of chain stores, Gulfport has an air of “Old Florida” magnetism.
There is something for everyone in Gulfport, whether you love the outdoors, shopping, sampling local food, relaxing on the beach, or enjoying the laid back nightlife.
A number of parks, nature preserves, and top bird-watching areas are scattered about the outskirts of town, and many galleries house the unique art of some of the town’s most intriguing residents. About a dozen restaurants serve a variety of local and international cuisines in settings ranging from casual to fine dining, and live entertainment is a staple when it comes to the exciting nightlife.
So, whether you enjoy the excitement of shopping and partying or simply relaxing in the sand and fishing off William’s Pier at sunset, Gulfport has it all, including easy access to larger tourist areas such as Saint Petersburg and Tampa.
Below is a sample of 15 exciting things to do in and around Gulfport, Florida.
1. Gulfport Art Walk
Art is a huge focal point in Gulfport, and this art walk takes visitors along city streets spanning six blocks filled with every kind of art imaginable. The experience is almost surreal, as you witness various colors, shapes, and designs come together to create a visual experience like no other.
Dozens of artists converge on this area on the first Friday and third Saturday of every month. Some of the pieces on display include wood sculptures, handmade clothing, metal art, seashell crafts, clay pieces, and painted glass.
During this Art Walk, many of the businesses, restaurants, and shops are open, and live entertainment is enjoyed at several venues. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, just walking through the booths and witnessing the lively atmosphere along the way is an experience in itself.
2. Brooker Creek Preserve
Natural green spaces are numerous around Gulfport and in the surrounding areas. Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs is a large span of freshwater, marshland, and lush forest, where numerous bird and animal species make their home.
There are a number of scenic trails, and each Saturday, guided tours and special nature hikes are offered, including one that focuses on the migratory birds of the area.
3. Sand Key Park
Sand Key Park in nearby Clearwater is home to several beautiful beaches that are popular with both locals and visitors.
While many people come for the swimming and water activities, others take advantage of the viewing benches that look over a salt marsh and offer excellent views of the various bird species that congregate in the area.
Heron, great horned owl, and moorhen are some of the commonly spotted birds.
4. Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market
Markets have always been a favorite attraction for many travelers, so Gulfport has capitalized on this fact; the town hosts a fantastic open-air market every Tuesday morning.
More than 50 vendors come out once a week to display their unique offerings. You can find almost anything, including handmade jewelry, fresh produce, locally-made clothing, every type of art, and a variety of tea and flowers.
The atmosphere of this market is friendly, quaint, and reminiscent of the old days, when everyone shopped in little family-owned businesses.
Live entertainment occurs on both ends of the market, and the local shops and eateries open their doors to cater to anyone wishing to have a bite to eat or find that special one-of-a-kind treasure to take home.
5. Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park
Islands are fun to explore, and there are quite a few around Gulfport. The barrier island that houses Honeymoon Island State Park has everything needed for an adventurous day spent in nature.
Sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, slash pine forest areas, tidal flats, and plenty of opportunities to spot many species of shorebirds – including osprey and their giant nests – are just some of the things visitors see while exploring the park.
The area can be explored on foot, but you can also kayak around to view it from the water.
When you’re done exploring, why not take the ferry from Honeymoon Island over to Caladesi Island and visit another state park. This island is a little more secluded and offers a variety of natural surroundings, with pine trees, mudflats, and beaches.
6. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium specializes in rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing a variety of injured marine animals. When it comes to the viewing public, the goal is to teach us about the importance of conservation and research.
Visitors can participate in various experiences, including a walk through an underwater viewing tunnel. They can also meet Winter the Dolphin, who starred in the movie A Dolphin Tale, view great white pelicans at Rufus Beach, and watch playful otters at the Otter Oasis.
There are opportunities to learn about sea turtles at Turtle Bayou, and see nurse sharks up close at Shark Pass. Visitors can opt to spend a day as part of the team assisting residents with various aspects of their care or witness the dedicated veterinarians perform routine check-ups and emergency surgery in the surgical suite.
7. Twin Brooks Golf Course
Golf is a favorite sport in Florida, and Twin Brooks 9-hole golf course and driving range is the perfect place to spend an afternoon teeing off. The course features a practice area, golf pro shop, PGA instruction, snack area, and rentals.
8. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the perfect place for the entire family to spend the day. Enjoy learning about local wildlife, swim in the clear waters of Buccaneer Bay, catch some thrills on the waterslides, and paddle down the Weeki Wachee River.
The most popular attraction at this park is the live mermaid performances that happen daily in one of the natural springs.
9. Florida Orange Groves Winery
Visitors to the Florida Orange Groves Winery can sample a variety of fine tropical fruit wines that the winery is known for, and for which they have won numerous awards. So, what makes this wine so special? 100% pure fruit juice only from the fruit on the label.
Tours are offered at various times throughout the week, and a unique gift shop is on site.
10. Croc Encounters
Conservation and education are the main goals of Croc Encounters. Through self-guided and guided tours, visitors get to learn a lot about the lives and conservation efforts of various reptiles, including crocodiles, turtles, snakes, and lizards.
The guided tour allows for opportunities to explore the sanctuary, take part in feedings, and participate in various hands-on learning experiences.
11. Mixon Fruit Farms
Mixon Fruit Farms is full of fun stuff to do for all ages, and as a bonus, many of the activities double as educational experiences. Some of the attractions include the Magical Maze, Play Place, The Gazebo, and the Wetlands Pond.
Wildlife Inc. Rescue reserves space for orphaned and injured animals, and visitors can enjoy an interactive demonstration featuring some of these animals and learn about conservation and animal rescue efforts.
12. Boca Ciega Millennium Park
Seven distinct habitats – such as pine flat woods, a salt marsh, and wetlands – make up Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole. This diverse landscape means a variety of birds make their home here.
Shorebirds, birds of prey, and waterfowl are just some of the species that can be observed from many viewpoints, including the 35-foot-tall observation tower that also has stunning views of the bay.
13. Dali Museum
Salvador Dali was an innovative artist known all over the world for his unique style and presentation, and the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg showcases many of his works.
Visitors can view the largest compilation of his works outside of Europe and see a variety of other ever-changing exhibits honoring the artist, his work, and his life.
14. Fort De Soto Park
Visitors who enjoy hiking, cycling, and paddling have no shortage of these and many more outdoor activities at Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde. That’s because there are numerous beaches, boat launches, and hiking trails to choose from.
No matter what activity you choose to participate in, you will likely see many birds along the way, as the park is home to about 290 species.
15. The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
Hundreds of old and new beautiful works of art created by artist Thomas James are on display at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg. This art depicts a vibrant American West heritage and life on the expansive frontier.
There are also plenty of learning opportunities through various educational programs focusing on history and culture.