Our recent visit to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve was both a great surprise and a welcome find. Boyd Hill was the St Petersburg Park Superintendent who had the vision for this amazing park, back in 1958. Combined from several pieces of land, Boyd Hill is now nearly 300 acres of Old Florida scenery and wildlife, nestled along side the more than 600 acre Lake Maggiore just South of downtown St Petersburg. It’s actually located just four miles South of downtown on Country Club Way S, just off of Martin Luther King Street S. The proximity to downtown resulted in locals referring to Boyd Hill as St Petersburg’s “Central Park”, and makes for some great views of downtown from throughout the preserve.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve has slightly more than six miles of hiking trails, and has the interesting feature of preserving five different types of ecosystem within the confine of the park. The five ecosystems included are marsh, swamp, pine flatwoods, sand scrub, and hammock. Because of the diverse ecosystems, Boyd Hill also features a wide cross section of wildlife including birds, water fowl, alligators, tortoises, butterflies, and small mammals. We were lucky enough to see several of the local residents including Florida alligators, a large Gopher Tortoise, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, lots of butterflies and dragonflies, and numerous smaller birds.
Two of the side hikes are on a network of boardwalks through the marsh and swamp areas of the Preserve. They are relatively short, but are a nice way to see the different animals and foliage found in that type of environment.
The hiking trails are all wide, flat, and very accessible. But, the park also offers a tram ride that can be scheduled daily at 1:00 pm or weekends at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. The tram ride was very informational, and lasted about 90 minutes. The driver was an experienced local volunteer with a wealth of knowledge about the park and the animals and plants that are found there.
Boyd Hill is also the home of a large Birds of Prey sanctuary, which is home to a wide variety of injured or un-releasable Birds of Prey including a Bald Eagle, Red-Shouldered and Red-Tailed hawks, and several owls. Another interesting feature of the park is a display of five statues made from recycled materials like car bumpers and other discarded scrap metal. The sculptures were created by Paul Eppling, a noted St Petersburg sculptor who is known for the downtown St Petersburg “Security Lizard” among others.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is a great local getaway, right in the heart of St Petersburg. Highly recommended for locals or out of towners who are interested in enjoying old Florida scenery and animals.