ST. PETERSBURG, FL — A failed program to control mosquitoes in the 1920s has transformed Weedon Island into a favorite Tampa Bay kayaking destination today.
The biggest draw of Weedon Island is the mangrove tunnels that the park maintains throughout the area,” said Steve Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks. “Back in the 20’s they went through and dug ditches to drain off the water and eliminate the mosquitoes. A lot of places in Florida did that. It didn’t work of course, because mangroves are in a tidal zone. Over the years the ditches have overgrown, but some have been maintained as a kayak path.”
Weedon Island Preserve, properly a peninsula rather than an island, is a 3,000-acre park maintained by Pinellas County. Kayaking here provides outstanding wildlife viewing, especially manatees and birds in the winter. Fishing is also outstanding, Farrow said. “During the summer the oppressive heat makes it less enjoyable but the water is warmer and you’ll see more fish activity.”
The park maintains a four-mile looping path through the mangroves that is easy paddling with protection from wind, waves and strong currents. The only caution is to check the tides before setting out so that a leisurely paddle doesn’t become a very unpleasant hike.
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If you’re not bringing your own kayak, Sweetwater provides rentals as well as educational tours and comprehensive classes. Steve says that his brother, store owner Russell Farrow is he most certified paddler in the state and has paddled professionally as far away as the Arctic Circle.
The rental fleet is predominantly Emotion AdvantEdge Kayaks. “We use this kayak because it’s very stable and anyone with or without skill can paddle this kayak without difficulty. It’s also designed to stay dry which is nice when the water is cold.” They also offer fishing kayaks and RTM Brio kayaks that comfortably seat two adults and a child.
After a day if kayaking, Farrow points visitors to the nearby Crab Shack on Gandy Boulevard (“it looks like an old crusty looking fish house, food is outstanding.”) or JJ’s Market & Delicatessen which offers sit down-dining as well as quick deli sandwiches.
Kayaking Weedon Island:
Weedon Island Preserve
1800 Weedon Drive, NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
Rentals are available through Sweetwater Kayaks starting at $17 hourly for one person or $40 for four hours. Two person kayaks cost $25 hourly or $56 for four hours. Paddleboard rentals cost $20 hourly or $50 for four hours. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Phone: (727) 570-4844.