Vanlife: Architecture, History, Pottery, Beach Walk & Hiking

Permanent Vanlife is still about one year away, so I decided to get a feel for it, by planning multiple one-week trips in the van, throughout the US Southeast. This time I visit South Florida.

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South Florida

Church by the Sea

On this first day I make a quick stop at the Church by the Sea in St.Petersburg. The ordinary church tower looks like a funky chicken from a certain angle. It takes only a few minutes, if you are in the area; afterwards you can spend the rest of the day on the beach nearby. Parking is an issue though.

Jungle Prada Site

On the other side of the inlet and still in St. Petersburg, I spend more time exploring the mostly local park. It is the location of a gold-digging conquistador’s landing in the Americas. This is also where you can find the remaining shell mounds of the Tocobaga tribe, after which the site is named (Jungle Prada Site).

But most visitors are unaware of the history and spend most time at the water’s edge or drop their boat off to spend a day on the water. There is a small trail and viewpoint and fishing is popular here.

Morean Center for Clay

This is supposed to be the largest pottery in the Southeast, with more than 50 ceramics studios and artists creating functional and non-functional clay art. A gallery hosts frequent exhibitions & events.

The pottery is housed in a historic seaboard freight train depot, that was built in 1926; the building’s design and construction was renovated, yet much of the original still exists.

Another important feature can be found just outside the center: a section of the Berlin Wall has gained renewed importance, as less than 500 miles away from its original site, a similar war for power and separation is fought.

St. Petersburg Post Office

This post office has been a functional landmark in continuous operation since 1916. In 1975, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Its Mediterranean Revival-style architecture, with glazed, concrete brick are a beauty to behold.

Near the rear of the building, accessible by a circular, cast iron stairway, is a small postal museum, with exhibits that include an old leather mailbag and postcards.

Apollo Beach Nature Preserve

A small dog-friendly beach park with a lookout tower and a short nature trail. The hiking trail leads to an inlet where private boats are beached on a sandbar and where small, narrow beaches line the clear blue water of Tampa Bay.

Little manatee River State Park

A 6.5-mile hiking trail is located in the north wilderness area in the park. This stacked loop trail is accessible from U.S. 301 North from the trailhead entrance on the north side of the Little Manatee River. The rustic trail takes hikers through many of the unique natural communities in the park, including riverine hammock and floodplains, scrubby flatwoods, mature sand pine forests and remnant sandhills.

The trail crosses Cypress Creek, a major tributary of the Little Manatee River, and the scenic point where the creek feeds into the river.

There are several points where the tall bluffs of the river bank offer picturesque overlooks along the Little Manatee River. Access to the trail requires a fee.


  • Church by the Sea ➜ 27.7933, -82.7909
  • Jungle Prada Site ➜ 27.7885, -82.7540
  • Morean Center for Clay ➜ 27.7673, -82.6628
  • US Post Office ➜ 27.7717, -82.6389
  • Apollo Beach Nature Preserve ➜ 27.7911, -82.4188
  • Little Manatee River State Park ➜ 27.6752, -82.3488

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