Pinellas County is rich with historical sites and stories, and fortunately, Florida Humanities has created a free walking tour app accessible to anyone with a cell phone or mobile device.
As of now, 36 Florida cities and locations are available to download. One of the most popular is the recently added tour of Indian Rocks Beach.
Locals already know that IRB is a fishing paradise and the beaches and sunsets are some of the best in Pinellas County – but thanks to the new walking tour, much more can now be discovered about its culture and history.
The GPS-enabled Florida Stories tour begins at the Indian Rocks Historical Museum and guides you with narration and pictures through 13 other stops you can walk to at your own pace.
Florida beaches brought tourism in the early 20th century and they still do, but there is nothing comparable to the character and charm of today’s Indian Rocks Beach. Maybe it has to do with the historic cottages and the walkways that carry visitors to a time when life was slower paced.
In 1914, the Tampa Tribune quoted Indian Rocks Beach pioneer Horace Hamblin who coined the phrase, “Indian Rocks Beach, where the surf sings one to sleep.”
But Indian Rocks Beach isn’t a sleepy community anymore. It’s home to the original Crabby Bill’s and there are plenty of other eateries and entertainment spots, such as the Kooky Coconut and JD’s Restaurant and Lounge – which by the way, are all of historical relevance and on the tour.
The walking tour was developed by Indian Rocks Beach Action 2000, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the history and charm of Indian Rocks Beach alongside the Indian Rocks Historical Museum in collaboration with Florida Humanities [formerly known as the Florida Humanities Council].
“We were looking at different applications through the Florida Humanities Council’s Florida Stories and filling out paperwork for grant money – but there was no grant money,” explains Daryl Frahn, IRB Action 2000 vice president. So, she and four other members of IRB Action 2000 and the Historical Museum worked to raise funding.
It took the community and the two nonprofits coming together to make it happen. They raised the money and felt supported in the process. “It was a lot of work but a labor of love,” says Terry Hamilton-Wollin of the Historical Museum.
“There are a few houses that have historical significance but the stories behind them are amazing.” Frahn recounts a story about one of the stops — the 8th Avenue cottages, three jewel-colored cottages built in the 1930s. The cottages didn’t have numbered addresses, but common for the times, they were given names – Sugar Boy, Adorable and Bide-A-Wee.
”In doing the research we found there have only been three owners,” she says, “and we were able to find the grandson of the original owner. He is in his 80s.”
The grandson told them something they may not have learned had this project not been funded – one of the cottages was named for him, Sugarboy, his childhood nickname.
“We are just so excited,” says Frahn, “We did an abbreviated guided tour with our city officials and key business leaders and it was a huge success. There is an economic advantage to historical tourism. We hope it will bring a completely different type of visitor.”
Spend a day at Indian Rocks Beach and learn the stories behind your favorite restaurant, discover the activity that connects us back to the Tocobaga Indians, take in the charm of Florida cottages and walk a shell-lined road as you enjoy the charm — and the past — at Indian Rocks Beach.
You can find the Florida Stories app here
To find more Florida walking tours, visit floridahumanities.org