Philippe Parkway — Destination: Safety Harbor

Philippe Parkway is a link between the nearly century-old Pinellas County cities of Oldsmar and our destination–Safety Harbor.

Philippe Parkway at its intersection with State Road 580.
Philippe Parkway at its intersection with State Road 580.

Philippe Parkway starts out at State Road 580 just west of Oldsmar.  The parkway was named after french-born Odet Philippe (pronounced “O-day Phil-EEp”), the first European to settle on the Pinellas County peninsula.

Although Philippe’s name pronunciation is “Phil-EEp,” bay area residents generally use the pronunciation “Philip-EE” when referring to the roadway and Philippe Park.

 

Philippe Parkway now begins a quarter-mile west of its former starting point, due to an intersection realignment in 1988.  The red in the above map shows the original road.

From there, it continues first east, then southeast.  This stretch of highway was part of US Highway 92 from 1926 until its realignment through South Tampa and across the Gandy Bridge in the 1950s.

Most of what once contained orange groves now contains homes, however, the 1942 built Mar Bay Motel remains.  It’s a classic motel from the pre-interstate highway golden age of travel.

Mar Bay's sign, with the classic neon "no vacancy" sign on top.
Mar Bay’s sign, with the classic neon “no vacancy” sign on top.

Philippe Park

Philippe Park is Pinellas County’s oldest park, established in 1948.  Before becoming a park, the park’s main road was part of State Road 590.

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Tree-canopied section of the main park road.
Tree-canopied section of the main park road.

An Indian mound built by the Tocobaba people who originally inhabited the area is located at the park, providing a terrific view of the waters of Safety Harbor.  Centered atop the mound is a large oak tree.  Winding steps come from the mound down to the water’s edge.

The top of the mound.
The top of the mound.
View from near the top of the mound.
View from near the top of the mound.
Steps leading from the water towards the mound.
Steps leading from the water towards the mound.

A burial marker is also located within the park, marking the death of Odet Philippe, although the location of his actual remains are unknown.  Philippe lived on the site until his death in 1869.

Sign indicating the location of Odet Philippe's marker, from the main road.
Sign indicating the location of Odet Philippe’s marker, from the main road.
Odet Philippe's marker.
Odet Philippe’s marker.

At the park’s north side is a boat ramp, complete with boat parking.  Picnic pavilions are throughout the park, most of which are oak shaded.  Travelling towards the south end of the park is Philippe Point, a cape which extends into the bay waters, and features a small beach and sandbar that can be exposed at low tide.

At the extreme south end of the park, the park road concludes at a loop near the mouth of a small canal.  Pedestrians can cross a bridge over the canal, and end up on another old section of Philippe Parkway, North Bayshore Drive.

Pedestrian bridge linking Philippe Park to Safety Harbor.
Pedestrian bridge linking Philippe Park to Safety Harbor.
Odet Philippe is credited with bringing grapefruit crops to Florida in 1823.

 

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Onward, To Safety Harbor

From the entrance of Philippe Park, Philippe Parkway continues due south to its Enterprise Road intersection.

From there, Philippe is mostly a two-lane highway, and a destination for bicyclists attempting to make a loop from the Courtney Campbell Causeway, across the top of the bay to Memorial Highway and the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

Philippe Parkway makes one more westerly turn before turning south again, nearing the downtown area of Safety Harbor.

Before hitting downtown, Philippe Parkway crosses Mullet Creek on a bridge built in 1926; the same year of the opening of US Highway 92.

Philippe Parkway soon hits its final destination; the intersection with Main Street in Safety Harbor.  At the end of Philippe Parkway sits the Safety Harbor Library as well as the world-famous Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

The northern end of Philippe Parkway. At left, the Safety Harbor Library.
The northern end of Philippe Parkway. At left, the Safety Harbor Library.
Entrance of Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.
Entrance of Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

Downtown Safety Harbor

Downtown Safety Harbor sits on the northwest shoreline of Old Tampa Bay.

State Road 590 discontinues State of Florida maintenance through downtown Safety Harbor.  It once again becomes state-maintained at Main Street and 10th Avenue, at the western edge of downtown.

 

Keeping southbound on Philippe Parkway after going through the 4-way stop at Main Street, the roadway becomes S. Bayshore Boulevard until reaching the west end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater.

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The Safety Harbor City Marina, Park, and Pier are all located just south of the spa.  The park extends to the north of the pier in the form of a long, grassy area which can host outdoor events such as concerts and flea markets.

Overlook of the marina and the park.
Overlook of the marina and the park.
Fountain at the east end of the park.
Fountain at the east end of the park.

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Grassy waterfront area at north end of the park.
Grassy waterfront area at north end of the park.

Main Street

Main Street features a variety of shops, restaurants, and offices, and is the true heart of Safety Harbor.  Buildings dating back almost 100 years line both sides of the street and feature many different types of architecture, such as Mediterranean, Art Deco, Key West, and classic Old Florida.

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Along Main Street.
Along Main Street.

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Take one, leave one--and we did!
Take one, leave one–and we did!

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John Wilson Park, located at Main Street and 4th Avenue, is a slightly more inland alternative to the waterfront Veterans Memorial Park.  This smaller park features shady oak trees, and its centerpiece is a large gazebo which features gatherings and concerts.

John Wilson Park's gazebo.
John Wilson Park’s gazebo.

Restaurants of numerous varieties can be found on or within a block of Main Street.  There are a few chain establishments, but most are still “mom-and-pop” operations.  The Paradise Restaurant at the corner of Main and 5th Street is one we really liked, and has something for everyone.

Additionally, shops and restaurants can be found on 2nd Street North, one block north of Main Street.

A variety of different styles of houses can be found around the downtown area.  Some of my favorites were some newer contemporary Key West style townhouses, located on 2nd Street South.

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Safety Harbor Facts:

  • The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa sits atop Espiritu Santo Springs (Springs of the Holy Spirit), a natural mineral spring named by explorer Hernando de Soto in 1539.
  • The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa is both a (National Landmark) and a (Florida Heritage Landmark)
  • Safety Harbor doubled its population in the 1970s, and again in the 1980s, and has leveled off between 15,000-17,000 since 1990.
  • Safety Harbor was incorporated in 1917, and had roughly 200 residents that year.
  • The previously sleepy downtown district began a turnaround in the late 1990s with a streetscape project on Main Street, attracting additional development into the mid 2000s.

For a look at more photos, please click here and here to visit the Take the Highway Photography Facebook page.

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