History of Indian Rocks Beach

While the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg were settled in the 1800s, the beaches didn’t even have a bridge until almost 1920. For Indian Rocks, things started to pick up around the latter part of the 1800s. A group from Cedar Key, Florida, explored the area that became Indian Rocks and found a few settlers along the beach. The Hendrick family, according to a 1925 newspaper account, landed in the area in 1883 and had homesteaded there. A settlement, named Anona, has existed in the vicinity (on the mainland) since the mid-1800s. With the opening of a road from the waterway to Largo, the Indian Rocks area became a favorite spot for picnickers.

Indian Rocks was among the first coastal settlements in Tampa Bay. (The origin of its name is unknown. “Beach” wasn’t added to it until the end in 1949.) Visitors were ferried across the bay to the beach, arriving by train from Tampa. The first bridge from the mainland to the beach was completed in 1916. It swung open with a giant key, allowing boats to pass through. A historical plaque marks its location in the “Narrows.” Among other early landmarks were the Indian Rocks Sundries, the Indian Beach Hotel and a railroad spur crossing the bay.

While the community grew and developed during its early days, growth started to accelerate rapidly in 1945, after World War II. But by the time the motel boom hit in the 1950s, Indian Rocks had little available land left. Therefore, it retained much of its original cottage character. In the 1970s, some of those cottages made way for condominiums. (You can find much more information at the Indian Rocks Historical Museum, along with hundreds of photos from years past.)

Today, Indian Rocks Beach is a thriving community that has maintained much of its original character. It supports a lively mix of recreational activities, small businesses, and friendly neighborhoods. Enjoy paradise!

Along with being a laid back beach town focused on outdoor fun, Indian Rocks Beach has a mind-expanding menu that allows visitors to delve deeper into its past and present.

Indian Rocks Historical Museum

The past comes alive at the Indian Rocks Historical Museum. The building itself is historic – it’s one of the oldest beachfront houses in the city, built in 1939. It started out on the beach and is now situated in Chic-A-Si Park. Along with a timeline of the area, exhibits focus on past landmarks, including Pueblo Village, Tiki Gardens, and the Big Indian Rocks Fishing Pier. A favorite of locals and visitors are the photo albums filled with images of all the city’s streets as they once were. You’ll also see postcards, maps and other graphics that bring history to life. You can even purchase historic photos in the museum gift shop. Visit the Museum website here.

Historical Markers

mostly along Gulf Boulevard. These give passers-by information about places that are significant in the local history. The historical markers project is a joint effort of the museum and IRB Action 2000. Some celebrate places that still exist, while others are reminders of IRB past. Marker subjects include stone houses, small businesses and of course the famous “Old Florida” cottages. These quaint, colorful structures at one time dotted the community, helping to give it its laid-back beachy vibe. Thankfully, many still remain.

Historic Walking Tour

The app Walk Indian Rocks Beach takes you on a narrated, self-guided tour of 14 stops with historical images and music. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, you can experience the rich heritage and charming sights that make Indian Rocks Beach special. The free self-guided audio app can be downloaded to a smart phone or tablet. The app is published by Florida Humanities, Florida Stories and was developed by IRB Action 2000 and the Indian Rocks Beach Historical Museum, with input from residents. They not only wanted to recognize the importance of historic resources, but also encourage preserving and protecting these places that make IRB so unique.  Information about the tour can be found here.