Mostly a residential community, the city of Seminole is at the heart of the action on the Pinellas Peninsula.
The coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and its white sandy beaches, is literally a couple of minutes away at Madeira Beach. Meanwhile if you cross Long Bayou you’ll be in St. Petersburg.
The most exciting local spots are parks. If that sounds underwhelming, let me assure you that these are no ordinary parks. Among soaring pines, bayside mangroves, and distinguished live oaks, there’s wildlife everywhere you look.
You can venture along boardwalks past alligators and wading birds, or discover the state’s natural bounty at the Florida Botanical Gardens. Seminole is served by the Pinellas Trail, hooking up downtowns, visitor attractions and natural sites to one convenient bike path.
1. Pinewood Cultural Park
A must for anyone visiting the area for the first time, Pinewood Cultural Park has two big attractions on one site.
The Florida Botanical Gardens can be found here, and I’ll talk about them in more detail next.
Meanwhile, the Heritage Village portion of the park has close to 30 historic buildings on 21 acres. There’s much to see, including a sugar mill, a school, a church, a sponge warehouse, a windmill, a water tower, and several residences.
The visitor center has exhibits recalling centuries of local history. Check out the Pinellas Passport exhibit, which covers everything from agriculture to tourism in Pinellas County.
The Heritage Village Website publishes a schedule of weekly docents and demonstrators so you won’t miss anything.
2. Florida Botanical Gardens
Pinellas County takes care of this marvelous botanical attraction at Pinewood Cultural Park. First planted in the early 1990s, Florida Botanical Gardens has a whole tapestry of demonstration gardens.
I could take endless inspiration from spaces like the Cactus/Succulent Garden, with desert plants like agave and prickly pear.
Elsewhere, the Herb Garden brims with culinary and medicinal herbs, while The Native Plant Garden shows off Florida’s botany, from sugarberry to firebush.
Parents and children alike will be spellbound by the butterfly garden, and if you come during the holiday season, the Christmas light display is an uplifting annual tradition.
3. Walsingham Park
Abutting Pinewood Cultural Park to the south is a magnificent 350-acre, with the 100-acre Walsingham Lake at its core.
What amazes me about Walsingham Park is that it’s in the middle of a huge metropolitan area, but feels off the beaten track.
A six-mile paved trail follows the contours of the lake, passing amenities like a pier, fitness area, dog park, playground and picnic shelters.
In fact there are eight picnic shelters in all, all equipped with grills. For a picnic in perfect seclusion, I don’t think you can do much better than this place.
Walsingham Lake also brims with wildlife, from alligators to turtles and wading birds like herons and egrets.
4. Pinellas Trail
One of Florida’s best bicycle trails crosses Seminole on its way from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg.
The Pinellas Trail is an excellent alternative to motor vehicles in Seminole. Most of the items on my list are either on the trail or are connected by spurs or sidewalks.
In fact, you can use it to get to myriad stores, restaurants, and visitor attractions up and down the Pinellas Peninsula. There’s also astonishing scenery on the route. One of my favorite local sections is the bridge crossing Long Bayou into St. Petersburg.
When I wrote this article, the trail was more than 60 miles long, closing in on a planned 75 miles, to be completed later in the 2020s.
Most of the trail is on the old right-of-way of the historic Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line railroads.
5. Lake Seminole Park
Pinellas County’s Lake Seminole is one of the area’s most popular destinations for hikers, bikers, fishermen, and kayakers.
Fronting the eastern shore is a verdant parcel of wildlife habitat and sanctuary, on more than 250 acres. I don’t think you’ll be shocked to learn that alligators inhabit Lake Seminole Park, but there’s much more to see.
Turtles, raccoons, eagles, hawks, and wading birds like egrets and ibises are just a few of the animals living in this vibrant place.
The park trails are nothing short of breathtaking, conveying you through dense hammocks with venerable live oak, cabbage palms, and tall pines. The main loop is two miles long,while there are 13 picnic shelters, playgrounds, a boat ramp and a ballfield.
6. Boca Ciega Millennium Park
You can use the Pinellas Trail to get to this spectacular park on Boca Ciega Bay. A prime spot for birdwatching, Boca Ciega Millennium Park is on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The park is a little under 200 acres, but has a diversity of habitats, among them mangrove swamp, pine flatwoods, hardwood hammock, and salt marsh.
There’s a fantastic elevated boardwalk by the edge of the bay, and this will lead you to a 35-foot observation tower. I could spend hours up here soaking up the views over the Intracoastal Waterway and looking out for storks and egrets.
7. Archibald Beach Park
I have to remind myself that the Gulf of Mexico shoreline is a mere five minutes from Seminole. So if you want to feel those white sands between your toes, the simplest choice is Archibald Beach Park in Madeira Beach.
Here four wooded walkovers take you over the low dunes to a glorious swath of spotless sandy beach. You don’t really need to stray from this beach, as there are showers, restrooms, and a large covered picnic area.
The Snack Shak is right here if you need a bite, but there are also restaurants a short walk away, along with Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf.
8. John’s Pass
In 1848 the local coastline was changed forever when a hurricane ripped a hole in the barrier island just offshore. This inlet became known as John’s Pass, and is named for the first man who navigated it, John Levique.
A fishing village up to the 1970s, the west side of the inlet is now a lively entertainment district. As well as scenic waterfront boardwalks, John’s Pass has more than 130 businesses, from souvenir shops to seafood restaurants.
There’s still a small commercial fishing fleet based at John’s Pass, and I love watching the boats come in and out of port. The dock here is also a hub for businesses offering water sports, dolphin-watching tours, and deep-sea fishing.
9. Seminole City Center
In the absence of a traditional downtown area, Seminole has a sprawling 377,000-square-foot outdoor mall.
An enduring part of the cityscape, this site was given a complete redevelopment in the 2010s. Now more than ever, Seminole City Center is a place to shop, dine, relax and be entertained.
In terms of dining, you can choose from the likes of Outback, Jersey Mike’s, Chipotle, Applebees, Cold Stone Creamery, and Green Market Cafe.
There’s a big contingent of other service businesses here, from salons to banks to opticians, dentists, and the Esporta premium fitness club. A favorite of mine is the Studio Movie Grill, which I’ll talk about later in this list.
10. Seminole City Park
Right on the Pinellas Trail, this public park is on the shores of a picture-perfect pond. There are beautiful live oaks on the shore, and the banks are teeming with turtles and waterfowl all year.
On the western shore is an amphitheater, hosting the likes of the Annual Music in the Park Concert Series. With shows taking place on Friday evenings in September and October, this event has been running for almost 30 years.
Close to the trail is the Seminole Historical Society and Museum, open every Thursday, and on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
11. Studio Movie Grill
When the Seminole City Center replaced the old Seminole Mall in 2017, one of the new star attractions was this dine-in theater.
Studio Movie Grill is part of a national chain, with locations from California to Texas. All 12 screens are fitted with luxury leather recliners with swiveling tables.
From the comfort of your seat, you can order from a large menu of American comfort classics, including wings, pizza, sliders, burgers, and shareable dishes like cheese sticks and nachos.
There’s also a choice of cocktails, wines, beers, and fabulous ice cream milkshakes. In the end I doubt there’s a more luxurious way to enjoy a first run movie.
12. Seminole Lake Country Club
Designed and built in the ‘60s, this semi-private championship course is equally challenging, scenic, and fun.
Seminole Lake Country Club is on the scenic shores of Long Bayou and Cross Bayou, and shines for its open fairways and large, undulating greens.
This facility differs from many Florida courses thanks to its use of paspalum grass. This might seem like a small factor, but it’s one of the things that contributes to the excellent conditions.
Differing from Bermuda grass, this is the choice of most top Florida courses in the 21st century, recovering quickly from heavy rains. What you get are tees, fairways, and putting surfaces up there with the best in Pinellas County.
13. Rapp Brewing Company
I don’t know about you, but, for me, nothing caps a hot day in Florida better than a cold beer. On Endeavor Way in Seminole, Rapp Brewing Company is one of the few microbreweries in the area, making small-batch, hand-crafted beers.
Typically they’ll have over 40 beers available, so you’re sure to find something to tempt you. If you’d like to sample a variety of beers without overdoing it, an eight-selection flight is the way to go.
I’m a self-confessed finicky drinker, and normally prefer malty dark ales. I loved their Robust Porter, which had a sophisticated roasted character to it.
Though food isn’t served on-site, there are often food trucks in the lot. There was currywurst on my visit, but you might get anything from schnitzel to New England-style lobster rolls.
14. Seminole Lanes
During the dog days of summer, the weather in Florida can be oppressive, making outside activities unpleasant.
If you find yourself in Seminole when the temperature and humidity are rising, I’d recommend a game or two at Seminole Lanes.
This enormous 60-lane bowling alley is family owned, and dates back to 1976. Along with bowling, you’ve got a billiards lounge, an arcade, and a laser tag arena.
In the evenings, Thursday through Sunday, the lights go down at Seminole Lanes for some intense Galactic Bowling.
Finally, if you come any other day there’s a host of specials, including Winning Wednesday, with unlimited bowling for $13 at the time of writing.
15. Treasure Island Fun Center
The largest arcade in Pinellas County can be found in Seminole. The Treasure Island Fun Center is a local brand that has entertained families since 1967.
A popular pick for children’s birthday parties, the current location has 16,000 square feet of games and entertainment. If you’re just dropping by, I’d recommend an Unlimited Play package.
For $5 per child, at the time of writing, you get two hours of unlimited play. This offer includes pinball machines, air hockey, pool tables, kiddie rides, and tons of video games. Also here is Pegleg’s Pizza, making classic arcade-style pizza to order.