About The Gardens
Sunken Gardens’ history dates back more than 100 years and includes decades as an iconic family friendly, Old Florida roadside attraction. Today, this spectacular St. Petersburg botanical gem features more than 50,000 exotic tropical plants and birds from around the world. It is St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum.
In 1903, George Turner, Sr., purchased six acres of land in the newly incorporated City of St. Petersburg. Using his skills as a plumber, he drained an ancient lake on the property and began growing tropical fruit trees like papayas, mangoes, bananas, and guavas in the fertile, mucky soil. George and his wife Eula sold their abundant harvest at the family’s fruit stand.
Eventually, George retired as a plumber and began gardening full-time, expanding the variety of plants in his backyard garden, and adding tropical birds and colorful scallop-patterned walkways for visitors. The family started charging 15 cents for garden tours and by 1936, Turner’s Sunken Gardens was attracting visitors year-round.
From the late 1940s through the 1970s, Sunken Gardens was among the most popular roadside tourist attractions in Florida. The gardens drew more than 200,000 visitors each year to see the exotic plants and famous flamingos, bird shows featuring trained parrots, and the “world’s largest” gift shop. Celebrities paid frequent visits and beauty pageants were part of the scene. At one time, Sunken Gardens billboards lined the highways throughout the Southeast, raising St. Petersburg’s national profile as a tourist destination.
In the ‘80s, as theme parks like Disney became popular with families, attendance at Old Florida attractions such as Sunken Gardens plummeted. The Turner family decided to sell the property in 1989, and in 1999, the City of St. Petersburg purchased it, following a citizens-initiated ballot to fund the purchase through a one-time property tax.
Now a four-acre botanical oasis, Sunken Gardens continues to draw visitors from around the world who appreciate the beautiful gardens, the birds and the venue’s eclectic history.