Things to do and see in Indian Rocks Beach: The Hidden Gem of Florida’s Gulf
Indian Rocks Beach is a charming low-key community along the Gulf Coast of Florida. While the town is just a short drive from the touristy St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, it feels much further away due to the attractive quiet setting. The town supposebly got its’ name from an ancient Indian medicine man who healed his chief via a natural spring located in what is now Kolb Park. Early settlers who saw the Indians heading toward the rock encircled spring would say “the Indians are on their way to the rocks.” You can learn more about the town’s history at the IRB museum.
Today, the area is most well known for its’ beaches and vacation rentals. Nature lovers will appreciate the multitude of outdoor activities in the region, which includes over 3 miles of beaches with 20+ access points, quaint nature preserves, many outdoor eateries, and even a bird sanctuary. If you are seeking a nice beach respite with less crowds, then Indian Rocks is definitely your best bet. While you are in the vicinity, here are a few great things to do!
Spend the day relaxing at the beach
In 2019, Coastal Living Magazine rated Indian Rocks beach the second most romantic seaside getaway in the US. This Gulf community takes on a more relaxed tone as it tends not to draw the partying crowds. The soft white sand, calm waters, and tranquil vibe make it a perfect choice for beachcombing, beach walks, and sunbathing. The water here is pretty shallow, so great for anyone afraid to go out too far out of fear of sharks. Also, it’s a great beach for wildlife sightings. Dolphins and manatees often make appearances – I’ve even encountered them while swimming!
Indian Rocks is the perfect destination for couples and families seeking a low key, “Old Florida” style day of fun-in-the-sun. There is little commercialization on or near the beach and the crowds tend to be less rowdy as vacationers usually head north. Instead of chain hotels and bars, you will find natural dunes and quaint vacation rentals. There are a number of great local restaurants and shops to check out around town after your beach day.
Parking: Tiki Gardens (19601 Gulf Blvd) is a great place to park. It only costs 2 bucks per hour and the lot usually has plenty of spaces. Amenities include restrooms, beach showers, and a water fountain.
Visit the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary
The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is a wonderful free wildlife habitat to check out while you are in the vicinity. This little hidden gem often gets passed by in favor of the beaches. However, this is a great little local place with a great mission. The non profit focuses on the rescue and treatment of sick and injured birds. Their ultimate goal is to release the birds back into the wild. Out of the 2500-3000 birds admitted into the sanctuary each year, almost half are successfully treated and rehabilitated.
Take a walk around the 1.5 acre grounds and you will see about 100 birds at any given time. Most of these residents are permanently disabled. You will see American White Pelicans, Vultures, Blue Jays, Great Blue Herons, Owls, and more. Wild birds often make appearances as well. Best of all is the sanctuary’s observation tower which overlooks the Gulf. Bring your camera – the views are incredible!
Address: 18328 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, FL 33785 (8am-4pm)
Enjoy a cup of joe on the patio of Indian Shores Coffee Co.
Indian Shores Coffee company is one of the best local coffeehouses in all of Tampa. First off, it’s got the best location being located within walking distance of the beach. Second, they serve terrific coffee (which they roast themselves) and espresso drinks, with lots of creative lattes on the lineup. Third, they have an amazing shady patio which you can enjoy anytime of the year. And finally, their homemade pastry treats are pretty delicious as well. Try the Apple Cinnamon muffin.
Address: 19221 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, FL 33785 (7am-5pm)
Feast on fresh seafood at Guppy’s
Guppy’s is an award-winning seafood restaurant conveniently located on Gulf Road. Compared to the other touristy seafood restaurants, this one receives much less traffic, and thus, retains a more local laid-back ambiance. The menu here is also great and they offer more vegetarian choices than nearby eateries. The Chef’s Grain bowl featuring red quinoa, pearled barley, and grilled tofu is an excellent plant-based choice.
As far as seafood goes, they offer everything from swordfish tacos, to a tuna poke bowl, to lobster and shrimp fettuccine, to a homemade fish spread served with crackers. The Lobster Mac and Cheese pictured above is an appetizer, although it’s hearty enough to be a meal. Also, if you are looking to try a slice of Key Lime pie while in Florida, Guppy’s serves up an excellent slice.
- Full Guppy’s menu
- Address: 1701 Gulf Blvd, Indian Rocks Beach, FL 33785 (11:30am-9:30, 10 on Friday & Saturday).
Stroll the boardwalk trail at the Indian Rocks nature preserve
There are a number of great nature preserves in Pinellas County. While the preserve in Indian Rocks is pretty small, it’s a great place to enjoy a short shady walk during the warmer months. A half mile boardwalk trail will take you past beautiful natural Florida fauna and flora. Lots of exotic birds call the preserve home, and if you get lucky enough you may see a manatee.
Best of all, this preserve never gets overrun with crowds. Plus, it’s near the beach and parking is free. Also on-site is a nice little dog park and a playground. Overall, it’s a nice place to take an hour or so nature break.
Address: 903 Gulf Blvd, Indian Rocks Beach, FL 33785 (6am-11pm)
Treat yourself to great pizza at Slyce
Slyce is a great neighborhood pizza joint with locations in Indian Rocks and Madeira Beach. The Indian Rocks restaurant is conveniently located minutes from the beach. After a long hot day out in the sun, it’s nice to have a casual, laid-back restaurant to kick back at. Slyce serves excellent pizza, as well as delicious Greek salad and appetizers (love the garlic knots!). Whole wheat and gluten-free crust are available for anyone on a special diet.
A plain cheese is always the way to go in my opinion. However, they do offer many unique specialities including Greek, Chicago deep dish, roasted veggie, buffalo chicken, french dip, and more. Prices are pretty affordable here in comparison to the overpriced touristy beach places lining the Gulf. Lunch specials are offered Tues-Fri, from 12-3. Friendly service and a casual vibe make it the perfect vacation choice for anyone seeking a great non-stuffy local establishment.
- Full Slyce menu
- Address: 311 Gulf Blvd, Indian Rocks Beach, FL 33785 (Noon-9pm, Closed Mon)