Palm Harbor is a small suburban community located about 30 minutes west of Tampa in Northern Pinellas County. The town is most famous for being home to the prestigious Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club. The many recreational opportunities, easy access to the beautiful Gulf beaches, and abundance of restaurant & shopping options, make it a popular place to live and visit.
Palm Harbor is a great base for exploring the pretty preserves and beaches that make up Florida’s Gulf Coast. From here, you can easily take a 30 min daytrip north to the beautiful beaches of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Or opt to explore the neighboring laid-back Gulf communities of Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, and Safety Harbor. Each of these towns offer their own amenities, from charming Main Streets, to a mineral spa once through to be the fountain of youth, to white sand beaches.
There’s also plenty of fun to be had in Palm Harbor itself. Below are 9 must-dos while visiting this low-key suburban oasis.
Walk the boardwalk at John Chesnut Park
This small shady park is one of the best kept secrets of Pinellas County. It’s a prime place to exercise, picnic, birdwatch, watch wildlife, and enjoy nature. One of the best aspects of this park is the ample wildlife sighting opportunities. There are so many deer out and about at all hours of the day. Also, alligator sightings are not rare, especially during the cooler winter months. Also keep an eye out for gopher tortoises and armadillos.
Three short nature trails, a canoe trail, baseball fields, and volleyball courts will give you plenty of opportunity to get your fitness on. A leafy boardwalk trail takes you through beautiful natural cypress swamps. It’s like a scene out of Jurassic Park. Additionally, another boardwalk takes you to a beautiful overlook of Lake Tarpon. For anyone who appreciates natural beauty, John Chesnut is definitely the place to be in Palm Harbor.
Treat yourself to a fresh acai bowl at Ohana Fresh
Ohana Fresh is a wonderful local Hawaiian themed coffeehouse/cafe located in a cute little house in downtown Palm Harbor. If you enjoy healthy, homemade, fresh cuisine, then you will want to stop by this cafe for breakfast. Featuring smoothies, acai bowls, GF pastries, and fresh squeezed juice drinks, all of which are organic, Ohana is the place for anyone on a healthy diet. They also serve delicious organic coffee, so no need to stop anywhere else.
The staff is super friendly here and overall the vibe is so pleasant and upbeat. You are always greeted with a warm welcome and treated as a valuable customer. Try an acai bowl or stick with a classic smoothie (try the Hula Berry Banana featuring bananas, dates, flaxseed, and blueberries) and take a seat in the beautiful shady outdoor gazebo. Nothing really cools you down more on a hot Florida day quiet like a healthy fruit packed breakfast.
Enjoy breakfast on the patio at East Lake Cafe
East Lake Cafe is a popular local destination for breakfast/brunch. They offer a traditional breakfast menu along with a large mostly shady patio, which can be used comfortably for most of the year (depending on your heat tolerance). Enjoy a savory build-your-own omelet or treat yourself to something sweet like their tasty crepes (try the Greek vanilla yogurt, strawberries, and blueberries option). The serve coffee from Kawha, a local St. Petersburg roaster.
This cafe is a nice alternative to the many standard chains populating the area. Service is friendly and the vibe is cozy and local. Conveniently, the cafe is located within a short drive of John Chesnut, making it the perfect place for a pre-hike meal. On one sour note, they do allow smoking outside.
Relax with an affordable massage at Essentials
We all love massages, unfortunately they can be pretty darn expensive. As massage have been proven to lower stress, improve circulation, and strengthen the immune system, the health benefits outweigh the cost. Essentials is a wonderful place to treat yourself to an affordable guilt-free massage. A one hour massage will only set you back $40, compared to the typical $80-100. Even better, on Tuesdays, you will receive a $5 discount. On Monday & Thursdays, a special facial/massage deal is offered for just $75.
You also have the option of paying a bit extra to upgrade to hot stone, sports injury, or deep tissue. Reflexology, facials, and a pineapple body exfoliant treatment are also available for anyone seeking extra pampering. When it’s too hot to to do much else outside (esp during Florida’s brutal summer season), a massage comes in as both a healing preventative health treatment, and as a an enjoyable escape from the heat!
Indulge in a local pizza at Ozona
There are a number of decent pizza options in Palm Harbor. However, none of them offer quite the creative menu as Ozona. For anyone needing gluten-free or vegan fare, Ozona is one of the best choices in the area. Not only do they offer GF pizza crust and vegan cheese, but they also offer vegan/GF calzones, garlic knots, pastas, and even a vegan apple pie dessert pizza. This place has won many awards due to their diverse menu which includes a variety of pizza styles (NY, Chicago, thin, deep dish, square).
For anyone just looking for good plain old pizza, they offer traditional red & white pie as well. There are so many choices here for everyone really. The garlic knots truly are amazing – definitely the best thing on the menu. Ozona’s vibe is super local – it’s always great to support local business! The inside dining area is small, although they do offer a small shady outdoor patio.
Take a bike ride along the Pinellas Trail
The Pinellas Trail is a lengthy 50 mile multi purpose path which travels through a number of Pinellas County communities. Palm Harbor is an excellent starting point as it’s easy to find parking here and never overly crowded. The path is wonderfully maintained, mostly flat, and pretty much uninterrupted for most of its’ course. Not surprisingly, the trail rates as one of the top in the country.
Start in Palm Harbor’s Wall Springs Park and continue on to Tarpon Springs. This is the perfect distance for a leisurely weekend ride. Make a pit stop in Dunedin to explore the local shops, take a detour over to Honeymoon Island (ranked one of the state’s top beaches), and stop for some authentic Greek food in Tarpon, a town which was settled by Greek sponge divers.
Explore an old mineral springs at Wall Springs Park
This beautiful local park was once home to a healing mineral springs. Up until the 1960’s, people used to come from all over to soak in the mineral enriched waters. While it’s really too bad that it no longer exists, the park now offers a number of scenic hiking trails. Get in an easy nature walk via the swampy boardwalk trail and then climb to the top of the 35 foot observation tower which overlooks the Gulf.
Like John Chestnut, this is a great place to birdwatch, alligator watch, and simply enjoy a little bit of nature away from the suburban congestion. As an added bonus, this park connects to the Pinellas Trail. This is a great place to start your ride as there is plenty of free parking here.
Cool down with a frozen yogurt at Menchie’s
Menchie’s is an amazing frozen yogurt bar chain with multiple locations throughout Tampa Bay. The Palm Harbor location is the best as it it is alway clean, well stocked, and the staff is super friendly. They offer lots of interesting flavors and toppings which you can mix and match. Pricing is a bit expensive, although this is the case at all fro-yo bars today. Consider it a splurge worth spending a few extra bucks on.
Menchie’s flavors are really creative and they even offer a vegan and low sugar option. The Dark Chocolate Mousse made with Almond Milk or Chocolate Hazelnut made with Cashew Milk are both decadent vegan options. A few of the more interesting flavors you may run into include Matcha Green Tea, Pumpkin, Eggnog, Toasty Marshmallow, Oreo Peanut Butter, NY Cheesecake, and Frosted Animal Cookie.
Dine waterside at Ozona Blue
Ozona is a very popular waterfront restaurant where you can enjoy seafood, live entertainment, marina views, and even enjoy drinks by a pool. They are most popular for their seafood entrees and pasta dishes. For anyone looking for something a bit healthier, consider one of their entree sized salads.
The Mediterranean Chicken salad pictured above includes tomato, cucumber, red onions, beets, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, feta cheese, potato salad, and grilled chicken, topped with a delicious Greek vinaigrette. The salads are filling, yet light enough that you have room to try a slice of delicious Florida Key Lime pie.