PHOTOGRAPHY JEFF FAY & JOHAN VELEZ
Safety Harbor, nestled along the northwest coast of Old Tampa Bay, is one of
Central Florida’s hidden jewels. Literally. It says so on the sign headed into
town, and they are not exaggerating. This unique waterfront community
possesses a hometown vibe and a family-friendly attitude, but manages to shed the “quaint”
label like rain sliding off sailcloth. It is hospitable without being rustic, a safe haven for kids but
equally alluring for “grownups.” And, while it is home to one of the nation’s most celebrated
spa resorts, Safety Harbor embraces waterfront elegance without pretense — an egalitarian
acceptance that invites everyone to feel right at home.
In spite of these many charms, millions of daytrippers, tourists and locals from neighboring
Clearwater pass on through, headed toward the gorgeous beaches on the Gulf side of the
Pinellas peninsula. Some never realize they are passing up the opportunity for world-class
pampering and the perfect spot to fi ll a stringer with tasty redfish, or that they are missing out
on some truly eclectic shopping and the chance to play under the sunshine on an isolated sea.
So, whether you want to do any or all of those things — or you just want to find a fun, familyfriendly
spot to unwind on a Friday night — drop your anchor for a day in Safety Harbor.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Safety Harbor offers an escape to a quaint, quiet, small town.
Discover the marina, walk the main street, find a bite to eat,
or relax under the oldest living oak tree in the county.
SAFETY HARBOR SAFE BETS
Great Greek fare for lunch, but also offers surprisingly
“Southern-style” breakfasts and omelets with a
Located at 226 Main St.; 727.726.3471.
Safety Harbor City Marina
Convenient, clean and quiet,
this is a great spot for fi shing, boating and, occasionally,
manatee viewing. Veterans Memorial Park, adjacent to the
marina, offers three small picnic pavilions and a butterfl y
garden. The marina is also next door to the Safety Harbor
Resort and Spa (see breakout), so if your “his” and “hers”
ideas of relaxation tend to differ, everyone can still go
Located at 110 Veterans Memorial Ln.;
Whistle Stop Grill & Bar
This lunch and dinner joint is
prized for its good food, laid-back atmosphere and sweet
potato fries. Open-air seating under a covered ceiling gives
the Whistle Stop a “beach bar” vibe. The menu mixes pure
Florida with southern Americana. Located at 915 Main St.;
Safety Harbor Galleria
Cruise this co-op studio of handmade, upcycled and vintage
crafts and decor in 10 minutes, or browse all day and keep
discovering new reasons to stay a little longer. Located at
123 Second Ave. S.; 727.799.1600.
Funks Way Art Market
A groovier flavor of feng shui, furniture and furnishings
crafted out of recycled or repurposed items. Each one-of-akind
piece has a story to tell. Located at 228 Main St.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Parking downtown is easy and free. There is parallel parking for passenger
cars along Main Street, and spacious lots at Second and Third Avenues South.
The weekly Thursday Farmer’s Market offers seasonal, locally grown produce
and fresh flowers. Look for it near the gazebo in John Wilson Park, 401 Main St.,
from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Other special events run throughout the year. For
information, click over to safetyharborevents.com or call 727.724.1572.
Green Spring Bistro
(greenspringsbistro.com) — Here, “Gulf Coast cookin’
… and then some” means local seafood favorites and
Mediterranean-inspired selections. Blue crab, gumbo and
shrimp with grits share a menu with Beneli and Mahi.
Located at 156 Fourth Ave. N.; 727.669.6762.
Tapping the Vine™
(tappingthevine.com) — The place to go for “just drinks” or
dessert. The food is good, but the libations are even better.
Located at 737 Main St. Suite 100; 727.330.7514.
Get out on the water with these guided “eco-heritage
kayak adventures.” Independent adventurers may also rent
kayaks. Tours depart from the Safety Harbor Marina at 110
Veterans Memorial Ln.; 727.389.8687.
the bay and connect with Safety Harbor history. Walk
to the top of the Tocobaga Temple Mound for the best
view in town, then grab a seat on a bench and bask in the
gorgeous waterside scenery. Enjoy playgrounds, terrific
biking and hiking trails throughout the park and a can’t miss
photo op in front of a massive, centuries-old live oak.
Located at 2525 Philippe Parkway.
HISTORY + CULTURE
Though archeological evidence reveals that this
area has been inhabited for over 6,000 years, the
first historical record dates only to 1528, when
Spanish explorer Pánfilo de Narváez encountered the native
Tocobaga tribes. Another Spaniard, Hernando de Soto, led a
second expedition here in 1539, searching for the Fountain
of Youth. While he did not find the mythical fountain, de
Soto did discover a natural mineral spring he dubbed Espiritu
Santo Springs. The reputation of these “healing waters”
grew, and by the early 1900s, Espiritu Santo water was being
distributed worldwide. Today, people from all over the world
travel to Espiritu Santo Springs to spend a day in luxurious
relaxation at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.
Safety Harbor derives its name from the collective sigh
of relief shared by the 18th century merchant seamen who
anchored here. Piracy was the bane of the Caribbean, the
Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. But when ship crews finally
reached this protective anchorage, they believed themselves
beyond the threat of seagoing brigands. Thus, the former
Worth’s Harbor became known, colloquially, as “Safe
Harbor,” then, formally, as “Safety Harbor.”
Despite the promise of restorative waters and protection
from pirates, this area was not permanently settled until
1823, when a Frenchman, Count Odet Philippe, father of the
Florida grapefruit, homesteaded Safety Harbor. Since then,
the town has followed a different path than its more touristy
neighbors, managing to maintain a small-town ambiance on
a peninsula that thrives on the tourist trade. But, for in-the-know
daytrippers who relish the quiet beauty and hometown
atmosphere, Safety Harbor remains an ideal holiday hideaway.
Monthly block parties transform downtown
Safety Harbor into a modern-day Rockwell
print come to life. Pirate jugglers pause to
twist balloons for wide-eyed children holding dripping ice
cream cones as Boy Scouts and baseball teams sell drinks
and snacks to raise money for summer trips. Teenagers
shout encouragement to friends dangling from the climbing
wall, while others fl irt over cups of Starbucks® coffee. Local
bands draw crowds toward downtown parks, while solo
saxophone and six-string players jam on street corners.
Stroll down the road and the soundtrack changes. First
rock, then jazz, blues and rock again. Somewhere, someone
is belting out an 80s power ballad, while a pop-rock duo
can be heard singing four decades of radio hits through the
open door of the local pub.
Downtown shops bring their wares outside and local
craft vendors share space on the sidewalk. Want something
unique for the RV? Browse eclectic selections including
photo-realistic hand-drawn portraits, incense and tropical
paintings, as well as vinyl records and MLB baseball bats
repurposed as groovy home decor. Hungry? Grab pizza by
the slice, gyros any way you like ’em, salty-sweet kettle
corn, ice cream cones and other mouthwatering culinary
treats. Thirsty? Sample sangria, sip soda or slake your thirst
with a cold beer or old-fashioned lemonade.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Main Street is closed to vehicles starting about
5 p.m. The festivities run until about 10 p.m.
Parking is available along Philippe Parkway and at
the lots on Second and Third Avenues South.
The trek to Safety Harbor was made complete
with unexpected whimsical discoveries. SHAMc,
the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center
(safetyharborartandmusiccenter.com), was just preparing
for their début opening. Artist Todd Ramquist was installing
the pieces of picket fencing painted by community members
and renowned artists. SHAMc was granted $50,000 by the
Pepsi Refresh Project and raised an additional $120,000 to
provide a place for children and adults to learn, experiment
and share a world full of music and art.
Todd and Kiaralinda, a couple since seventh grade, also
established another neighborhood icon — “Whimzeyland,”
known affectionately within the community as “the bowling
ball house.” The self-dubbed “Whimzey Twins” renovated their
home with mostly recycled and repurposed goods that began
by painting a few bowling balls. A sculpture of 200 bowling
balls grew into a home that is a living, ever-changing piece
of art. The window framing is decorated with mosaics that
bling, the landscape is brightened with water-bottle flowers
and the gazebo is a magical silver space fabricated with fish packaging
bubble wrap. And, that is only the exterior; every
interior surface, from the kitchen cabinets to the bathroom
ceiling, has been redesigned with the spirit of the artists.
This may not be the style that you call home, but it is
inspiring to see a vision of wonder and whimsy turn into a
reality for all to admire in amazement.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Visit Whimzeyland at 1206 Third St. N., Safety Harbor,
FL 34659. The home and studio is located one block
north of Main Street, near the intersection of 12th
Avenue and Okeechobee Street. During the daytime,
visitors are free to wander the grounds. The artists
travel during summer season.
Safety Harbor Resort & Spa is a modern day Mecca
of refined rejuvenation that has been known as
the place “where healing waters fl ow” for nearly
five hundred years. In the early 1500s, Spanish explorers
searching for the Fountain of Youth discovered the mineral
springs here. Nearly four centuries later, the water was
introduced to a worldwide audience, bottled and shipped as
a healing tonic. Then, in 1945, Dr. Salem Baranoff founded
Safety Harbor Spa, a “retreat for mind, body and spirit.”
Today the 50,000-square-foot spa and wellness center
is recognized nationwide as one of America’s fi nest spa
destinations. Schedule a pampering session or just set aside
some time and enjoy the pools, mineral springs and fitness
centers. Whether you are looking for “me” time or “us”
time, the spa offers several enticing themed packages for
daytrippers. The Fountain Grille restaurant offers delicious,
moderately priced meal options for breakfast, lunch and
dinner. Prefer a light lunch? Get it poolside at the Tiki Bar.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Regular daily deals offer specific spa services at reduced prices. Safety Harbor Resort
and Spa is located at 105 N. Bayshore Drive in Safety Harbor. For more information
or to book your package, visit safetyharborresort.com or call 888.237.8772.
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