Pioneer settler Harvey K. Hendrick, who arrived in Indian Rocks Beach around 1890, would remark years later, “I liked the place, I thought it was the most beautiful place on God’s green footstool, and I think so yet.”
Throughout its history, Indian Rocks has been considered a special place by those fortunate to discover it.
Tocobaga Indians visiting in the 1500s found healing springs along with an abundance of sustaining fish and wildlife.
Pioneer families came to settle the Indian Rocks area on the mainland
beginning in the mid-1800s. They were attracted by an abundant supply of fresh water, which the natural springs provided, a soil and climate suitable to agriculture, and the bountiful fishing opportunities offered by the Gulf of Mexico and bay waters.
In 1883, four men sailed southward from Cedar Key, exploring the gulf coast in search of the ideal spot to settle. Arriving in the Narrows where the old bridge was eventually built, they proclaimed, “This is it.” Of the party, J. H. Hendrick and L. W. Hamlin would homestead their chosen place, now known as Indian Rocks Beach.
The barrier island became “Tampa’s playground” when the Tampa & Gulf Coast Railroad built a spur from the big city to the beach in 1914. Tampans flocked to their newly discovered paradise, seeking relief
from the summer heat and the pressures of boom era city life. The shoreline retreats they built, ranging from cottages to grand beach homes, offered a slice of heaven to the vacationers.
Following World War II, a new generation of ex-G.I.’s and their baby boom families discovered the wonders of Indian Rocks Beach. The 1950s and ’60s saw creation of the longest fishing pier in Florida, and the biggest attraction of all: Tiki Gardens. The multi-acre Polynesian paradise drew 300,000 visitors a year during its prime years.
The dream of owning a waterfront home became possible when dredge and fill operations created fingers of suitable land from a mangrove swamp.
A cooperative community spirit gave Indian Rocks Beach an enduring cohesiveness that is so attractive to residents even today. Churches, civic organizations, social groups, and government entities combined to sponsor events and offer activities and services that brought residents and visitors into community with the city and each other.
New winter residents, the snowbirds, arrived in the 1970s, filling the condominiums along the shore. Their presence bolstered the local economy, and brought an influx of new ideas and tastes from around the country and the world.
A diverse, colorful blend of people from all age groups, and places old and new, gives Indian Rocks Beach its unique, eclectic “cottage” character. It is a mix that residents prize and visitors seek out year after year.
The most beautiful place on God’s green footstool? Harvey K. Hendrick could say of today’s Indian Rocks Beach, “I think so yet.”