Saturday, September 9, 2023

Tiki Gardens, Indian Rocks Beach South Shore, Pinellas County, Florida


     Ah, Tiki Gardens then located on Indian Rocks Beach South Shore, Pinellas County, Florida.  So many memories.  When my paternal grandparents, Grams and Pop Pop, retired to St Petersburg, Florida we visited in the summer of 1963 and 1964.  Our first visit was when the roadside attraction opened in 1964.  It is questionable whether we visited the forerunner of Tiki Gardens, the Tiki Gardens Signal House in 1963 before it was destroyed by fire.   

Tiki Gardens Postcard
Area where the gift shops were located

     The 1964 trip must have made an impression.  In 1964 I would have been going into my senior year at high school.  I had a job and had money in my wallet when we made the drive to Florida.   I can remember the tikis, the fauna and flora and the GIFT SHOP.  It was special.  I have always been intrigued with anything from Asia.  The shop was loaded with trinkets and I filled a basket with them.  Fans, dolls, fabric and do-dads.  Probably the gift shop is my best memory of Tiki Gardens 

      I had a life long close relationship with my paternal grandparents, Grams and Pop Pop.  In addition to family vacations and events spent with them in Florida, I also spent my Easter vacation during college years, 1966-1969 at their condo in St. Petersburg.  Without a doubt, at least one afternoon was spent wandering around Tiki Gardens during each week-long vacation and my lasting memories were probably from this time period.

Tiki Gardens Post Card
showing the addition of Trader Frank's Restaurant

Mom in front of Trader Frank's

Ted and myself in front of
Oro the two faced wind God

Ken checking out a bird
Little Kahuna God of the Birds

Jeff and Mom

     In the summer of 1970, the family traveled back to Gram and Pop Pop's for the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.  You guessed it.  An afternoon was spent at Tiki Gardens.  It was now fully developed.  I seem to remember there was a restaurant (Trader Frank's), boat rides through the lagoons and an even better and larger gift shop.  Now I was married and had a full time job.  The money was burning a hole in my pocket. 😁

     In the summer of 1977, my Mom and I arranged a vacation in St Pete.  Pop Pop had passed; however, Grams was still alive and we spent a glorious week with her.  We rented a car and naturally we drove to Indian Rocks Beach to visit Tiki Gardens.  I have no pictures of that visit and frankly the memories have vanished.  I'm certain there must have been a few trinkets that caught my eye.

     A decade later, the summer of  1987, brought me back to Florida.  This time the destination was Disney and a trip over to Treasure Island in Pinellas County to visit Grams and see the sights.  Now I was traveling with my husband and two young sons.  It would be the first time they would meet their Great Grandmother Hughes.  Also on board were my Mom and two brothers.  I was not the shutterbug I am now.  I never took any pictures of my boys with Grams or the family at the restaurant.  Certainly we drove to see Tiki Gardens.  No photos.  Was it still in operation?  My memory fails me.  Fortunately, my husband does remember that we did visit Tiki Gardens.  It would be before the amusement attraction closed in 1988.

     It has taken me a couple of years to get around to blogging about this special vacation attraction.  The trigger was a family gathering following my paternal Aunt Faith's funeral.  A number of items were shown from her estate and there was an old plastic bag from Tiki Gardens.  I'm sure Aunt Faith and Uncle Ed visited Tiki Gardens every time they were in St Petersburg.  I grabbed that bag.  

     In researching information on Tiki Gardens I found a few very informative websites.  Sadly, it was the building of Disney World that was the demise of Tiki Gardens.  I wonder if any of the other attractions we visited in 1963 and 1964 still are in operation?  

Winter Haven, Florida
Now Legoland Florida Resort

Post Card

No climbing on trees--Ha Ha

Mom, myself and Jeff

Post Card

Ken, myself and Jeff
at the Wishing Tree

Silver Springs, Florida
Still in operation
Post Card

Dad's picture through the bottom of the glass bottom boat
Maybe a fish

St Augustine, Florida
Still in operation as Marineland

St Pete Beach

Dad's photos

Weeki Wachee, Florida
The mermaids still perform

Weecki Wachee photo

Ocala, Florida

Ken and Mom

Busch Gardens in 1964
Tampa, Florida
Still in operation

Red bird caught red-handed pulling off a button
on Ken's shirt.  Ha Ha

     This blog has provided a delightful walk down memory lane for me.  Fortunately with the advent of Disney in Florida, not all vintage attractions closed their doors.  And now the big question.  What do I do with the Tiki Gardens souvenir bag?

A great website recalling Tiki Garden's past


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© 2023, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser

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