Fourth largest city in the State of Florida, Port St. Petersburg lies on the northwestern shores of Tampa Bay. Port St. Petersburg is nine nautical miles (16 kilometers or 10 miles by air) north-northwest of Port Manatee, which is located across the mouth of Tampa Bay. Second biggest city in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, Port St. Petersburg is just over 17 nautical miles (27 kilometers or 17 miles by air) southwest of Tampa. In 2010, the US Census reported that almost 245 thousand people lived in Port St. Petersburg.
Tourism is the base of the Port St. Petersburg economy. It has a large retirement population. Port St. Petersburg also has strong high-tech, fishing, services, and manufacturing sectors. It is also a center for oceanographic research. Being a busy tourist destination, Port St. Petersburg offers a wide range of recreational opportunities to both residents and visitors. Sailing and sports fishing are very popular. Port St. Petersburg is home to one of the oldest greyhound racing tracks in the United States.
Before Spanish explorers arrived in the area in the 16th Century, the area around the future Port St. Petersburg was inhabited by the indigenous Calusa people. Panfilo de Narvaez visited the region in 1528, and Hernando de Soto arrived in 1539.
In 1876, the Port St. Petersburg was founded when John C. Williams from Detroit, Michigan, bought the land. Co-founder Peter Demens won a coin-toss and named the new town after his birthplace of St. Petersburg, Russia. When Port St. Petersburg was incorporated in 1892, about 300 people lived there.
In 1897, Port St. Petersburg's electric service was turned on. The city's first major industry, fishing, began when Henry W. Hibbs from North Carolina started a wholesale fish business at the railroad pier. One year later, Hibbs Fish Company shipped over one thousand pounds of fish from the Port St. Petersburg every day.
The first trolley in Port St. Petersburg began operating in 1904. When dredging of the shipping channel was completed in 1908, Port St. Petersburg was able to handle more and more varied cargoes. When additional dredging was finished in the 1910s, more than four thousand people called Port St. Petersburg home.
Airplane service began from Tampa to Port St. Petersburg in 1914, establishing the first commercial airline which was called the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The Benoist XIV flying boat was piloted by Tony Jannus. Today, the airline industry presents the Tony Jannus Award each year to recognize outstanding achievement.
In the 20th Century, Port St. Petersburg continued to grow. When air-conditioning made living in the hot muggy south more attractive, the population of Port St. Petersburg boomed. In the 1970s, Americans from the Midwest and the Northeast Coast discovered Port St. Petersburg as a great place to retire. By 1980, more than 238 thousand people lived in Port St. Petersburg. Growth began to level out in the 1980s, and the population has increased by less than ten thousand. Suburbs and other areas within the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Area have grown.