Boca Ciega Millennium Park is managed by the Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources department. I have not been able to find any posted hours, although the closing time is noted on signs within the park. This park is gated, but there is no entrance fee at this time. There are a variety of trails, pavillions, a playground, restrooms, fishing access, a boat launch, a dog park, and picnic tables.
There are no air conditioned buildings at this park, and there is no welcome center. There is, however, a monument at the entrance of the park containing a time capsule for future generations! Some of the restrooms here are only open on the weekends, although the restroom next to the playground is open during the week. There are no changing tables in any of the restrooms. The playgrounds are divided into little kids (aged 2-5) and big kids (aged 5-12) areas. The ground under the play equipment is covered with AstroTurf instead of mulch, and signs indicate that they are planning on installing a new playground in the near future. Surrounding the playground are shelters, shaded picnic areas, a restroom open 7 days a week, and a water fountain just in case you need it. There is a lot of sun here, though, so make sure to bring sunscreen! The signage in this park is excellent, there are symbols at each pull-off displaying what you can expect to find at each stop. There are even squirrel crossing signs along the roads that D and I found hysterical!
There are three types of trails within the park: A recreation trail, a boardwalk, and a nature trail. On the recreation trail, bikes, skateboards, and other such devices are permitted. This is a paved trail that runs approximately the entire length of the park. There is also a boardwalk which traverses the mangrove forest and ends with a viewing tower overlooking the gulf intracoastal waters. Finally, there is a nature trail located behind the playground. Once you get started, it is rather poorly marked, but a fun little trail nonetheless! The trails themselves are easy to see, however there are many forks and not a lot of signage indicating which direction to take. They are not paved and in some places nearly overgrown with vegetation (or maybe I just went the wrong way!). If you don’t mind getting immersed in nature and going off the beaten path, this one is a lot of fun! It’s also short, so don’t worry about getting lost! The parts of this trail that I have been on are all upland ecosystems, so don’t worry about getting muddy or wading through a swamp either.
We just recently started adventuring out with all of the kiddos into new territory – kayaking! We have been on nature walks at Boca Ciega in the past, but we chose this park to venture out into the water for the first time! We got there a little later than we would have liked but made it nonetheless! We were fully equipped with our 4-person kayak and K’s Lifetime Youth kayak. So far, she’s been loving having her own little boat to paddle! We’ve taken it out in a little canal behind our house a few times, but this was her first time using it in a real waterway! To check out the one we use, click here. The seat back could provide more support and there is virtually no storage, but since we are using it exclusively for her to get used to paddling and we have her tethered to us at all times, we are happy with it. It comes with a lifetime warranty, so we fully expect all four of the children to start out using this kayak when they are ready (which is the only reason we didn’t get K the pink one). If you only have one kid, get a fun color! There are several to choose from!
Overall, we had a blast! Please make sure that if you go here with your kids you pay attention to the tide tables or else you will have to haul your kayak through some very shallow mangrove tunnels. I speak from experience, here! The kids loved splashing along in the shallow water! It was shin-deep for approximately 300 feet. D and I did not particularly enjoy dragging our 75 pound kayak through the tunnel, though. Lighter kayaks may not pose so much of an issue, but ours is massive and heavy and generally not fun to carry or drag any distance.
Speaking of distance, please also make a note that this is what I would call a “primitive” kayak launch. There was no pavement, no dock, no way to drive your kayak close to the water. We had to carry all of our equipment down a sloping dirt path that lead to a small mangrove tunnel.
Once we got out on the water, we saw a plethora of critters on the seafloor since the tide was so low. We saw hundreds of mollusks, most of which I assume were Lightning Whelk, and little fishes everywhere. As we were returning to shore, we even caught a glimpse of a cownose ray that skimmed along the murky bottom, fleeing from our paddles. The most notable sighting of the trip, however was a bottlenose dolphin that was surfacing at intervals sometimes within 15 feet of our kayaks! Everyone was thrilled to see such an amazing sight as the dolphin’s dorsal fin popped out of the waves and spewed a mist of seawater in the air. It followed us – or we followed it? – for about 15 minutes or so before we parted ways and headed back towards the mangrove tunnel that would take us back to our car.
After a long (and exhausting) trek back through the mangrove tunnels, we settled down around the kayak cleaning station. The kids enjoyed a refreshing snack of cucumbers, Gatorade, and pretzels while the grown ups got to work rinsing off the kayaks and packing up our gear. A spunky raccoon popped in and out of the surrounding mangroves, watching closely just in case we left some food for him (which we did not do). This is why it’s so important not to feed the animals when you are in parks and campgrounds! Yes, it was exciting to catch a glimpse of him, but we needed to shoo him away several times.
Last Updated 8/07/2018