Pinellas County, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Tampa Bay to the east, is the sixth most populous county in the state of Florida with nearly 930,000 residents.
The name Pinellas is derived from the Spanish words Punta Pinal meaning "point of pines." The name accurately described the 280-square mile peninsula when the first known European inhabitants, led by the Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez, landed in the area in 1528.
Pinellas County was officially formed in 1912, when it separated from neighboring Hillsborough County. The county seat is in Clearwater, the county’s second largest city behind St. Petersburg to the south.
More than 40,000 businesses call Pinellas County home. Pinellas County’s top key business sectors are health services, tourism services, manufacturing and financial services. The region is ranked number 20 in the U.S. for job growth and carries the country’s 13th largest media market.
Pinellas County is perhaps best known for its beautiful “sugar sand” beaches that are consistently rated as some of the best in the nation. In 2005, Fort DeSoto Park in southern Pinellas was named “America’s Best Beach” by the nation’s foremost beach expert. In 2008, Caladesi Island State Park in the northern part of the county received the same honor. In 2014, TripAdvisor named three St. Pete/Clearwater area beaches to its annual list of the 25 Best Beaches in America.
The county’s more than 580 miles of coastline and average of 361 days of sunny weather each year provides residents and visitors with ample opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities in the sun, sand and surf. These natural assets attract millions of tourists year-round. The New York Times listed St. Petersburg in south Pinellas in its ranking of “Top 52 Best Places to Visit in 2014” - in the company of the world's most "vibrant cities and spectacular coastlines, unexpected spots and new attractions."
In addition to its world famous beaches, Pinellas County has more than 20,000 acres of parks and preserves. Picnic shelters, dog parks, camping areas, playgrounds, boat ramps and trails are among the many amenities enjoyed by residents and visitors.
The county also maintains:
• Heritage Village, a 21-acre “living history museum” nestled in a natural pine and palmetto landscape
• the Florida Botanical Gardens, cultivated gardens with scenic landscapes and natural habitats unfolding across more than 100 acres
• the Pinellas County Extension, which offers educational seminars for the public on issues pertaining to sustainable living, lawn and garden, natural resource conservation and 4-H youth development
• two natural preserves, which together protect more than 12,000 acres of natural ecosystems and habitats
Additionally, Pinellas County takes great pride in its 47-mile long linear park and recreation trail, the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. The trail, which stretches from the county’s southernmost city to its northernmost city, provides a unique, protected green space for walking, jogging, skating, and biking, and includes rest stops, parking plazas and nature paths.
Pinellas County has robust offerings for postsecondary education including Pinellas Technical College (part of Pinellas County Schools), the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College and Stetson University College of Law.
Pinellas County is recognized for its stellar visual and performing arts venues. The county has more than 20 museums, including the world class Salvador Dali Museum, and hosts a renowned, permanent Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg. In addition, Pinellas County has 20 theater companies, five performing arts facilities and is the home base of the Florida Orchestra.
The Tampa Bay area has multiple professional and semi-professional sports teams. Pinellas County is home to the Tampa Bay Rays major league baseball team, which was the American League East champion in 2008 and 2010. In addition, the greater metropolitan area has a professional football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII champions, and the professional hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, which won the Stanley Cup for the 2003-04 season. Pinellas hosts two professional baseball teams for spring training, and a professional soccer team, the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Tampa Bay area is one of only handful of metropolitan areas in the United States to boast two international airports. St. Pete-Clearwater International and Tampa International Airport are both easily accessible from all points in Pinellas County and offer hundreds of flights daily.
With unsurpassable natural beauty, a focus on recreational amenities that improve quality of life, a commitment to education and the arts, a thriving business community and robust tourism industry, Pinellas County tops the list as a great place to live.
(Sources: Pinellas County Government, www.pinellascounty.org; Pinellas County Economic Development, www.pced.org; St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.visitstpeteclearwater.com)