Cashing in on the Polynesian craze of the 1960s, husband and wife team Frank and Jo Byars created a South Seas-styled attraction in Indian Shores in 1964.
Titled Tiki Gardens by the Byars (who called themselves “Trader Frank” and “Wahine Jo”), it was a mixture of botanical gardens, a collection of animals found in many other Florida attractions and a seemingly random mixture of Polynesian culture. Large carved statues supposedly representing the gods and spirits of Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa and elsewhere in the southern Pacific were the most prominent features.
A gift shop (that grew to several shops) and a restaurant completed the attraction that lasted until the 1980s. Tiki Gardens was the opposite of most attractions. Sales in the shops tended to be more important than the attraction itself, though the gardens were nicely maintained. The gardens had a mixture of parrots, peafowl, monkeys and other exotic animals amongst the statues and water features.
After 1959, when Hawaii was made the 50th US state, the popularity of the exotic locales of the south sea isles was at its peak in the US. Today, Tiki Gardens would likely be charged with cultural misappropriation for its use of religious and social images and activities.
Tiki Gardens regularly cross-promoted with other Pinellas County attractions such as the London Wax Museum, the Bounty and Sunken Gardens.
Eventually the Byars sold it to other investors who then sold it to Pinellas County in 1990. Today it’s a parking lot for beach access with little remaining except the Tiki Gardens name. I’m sure that has been cryptic for many recent tourists.
By the way: wahine means “woman” in a few Polynesian languages.
See below for brochures and other items from Tiki Gardens.