ST. LEO, FLORIDA

By  Mike Miller Updated June 28, 2023

St. Leo, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

St. Leo, Florida is a town of about 1,400 people on State Road 52 about 5 miles west of Dade City.  It is adjacent to the equally small town of San Antonio.

Aerial View St. Leo University and Lake JovitaAerial View St. Leo University and Lake Jovita

Located 33 miles north of Tampa, St. Leo University is the main enterprise in this scenic little place.

HISTORY OF ST. LEO, FLORIDA

St. Leo, Florida and the surrounding area was settled in 1881 by Judge Edmund Dunne. The Judge wanted to establish a Catholic colony.

When he saw the rolling land on the south shore of Lake Jovita, he settled down on the land that is now St. Leo Abbey.

St. Leo, FloridaVintage Postcard, St. Leo, Florida

The Town of St. Leo was founded ten years later and is the oldest incorporated municipality in Pasco County.

ST. LEO, FLORIDA TODAY

St. Leo's western limit is the eastern limit of San Antonio, and the two little towns enjoy being side by side in the Florida sun.

St. Leo, FloridaSt. Leo Benedictine Abbey

The town is approximately 816 acres in size, much of which is Lake Jovita.   

The main place to visit in St. Leo is St. Leo University and St. Leo Abbey.  The Holy Name Monastery is also in St. Leo and is home to 16 sisters of the Benedictine order.

The abbey is open to the public, and there is a nearby large gift shop that focuses on Catholic themed items but is fun to visit for people of any faith.

There is also an upscale golf course development on Lake Jovita just east of the university campus called Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.

It has an area of more than 1,000 acres outside the town limits,  but is certainly part of the St. Leo community.

Another golf course owned by the University is across the highway from the school.

St. Leo UniversitySt. Leo University

St. Leo University is a private Roman Catholic liberal arts university. It was founded in 1889. The university and town are named after Pope Leo The Great.

It is the oldest Catholic college in Florida and the sixth largest in the United States.  It has a total enrollment of almost 16,000 students.

Most of them are military personnel who take advantage of St. Leo's pioneering distance learning programs. The actual count of students on the campus in St. Leo is a bit more than 2,100.

When I visit the campus, it makes me want to go back to college.

It is quiet, traditional and beautiful. A great place to spend a peaceful day.

St. Leo UniversitySt. Leo University

St. Leo University banned racial segregation in 1889 before it was even legal to do it in Florida. They totally integrated their school and campus.

In 1920, the College was temporarily converted into an English style prep school.

Lee Marvin, Actor

One of the students at the prep school in the years before World War Two was actor Lee Marvin.

Although Lee didn't graduate, he was quite an athlete and starred in several sports.

It is rumored that Lee was expelled from St. Leo and joined the Marine Corps just in time to see serious action in the South Pacific in World War Two.

St. Leo in 1959St. Leo in 1959

In 1959, St. Leo shut down the prep school and became a college again.

The aerial photo above shows what it looked like in 1959. The rest is history, with St. Leo being upgraded in 1999 from college to university status.


THINGS TO DO IN ST. LEO, FLORIDA

Saint Leo Abbey
33601 County Road 52, St. Leo, FL 33574 | (352) 588-8624

Saint Leo Abbey, mentioned earlier, is a peaceful retreat and a living monastic community. Visitors enjoy attending the daily Mass and the Gregorian chants, which provide a soothing and spiritual experience.

The Abbey also features beautiful gardens and a gift shop with handmade items from the monks. It’s a perfect place for reflection and to admire the stunning architecture of the Abbey itself.

Lake Jovita
Lake Jovita Boulevard, St. Leo, FL 33576

Lake Jovita is a hidden gem within the rolling landscape of St. Leo. We love taking leisurely walks around the lake, picnicking, and enjoying the natural surroundings.

The lake is also a popular spot for fishing, with abundant bass and catfish. It's a tranquil place to spend a day outdoors, offering picturesque views and a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle.

The Abbey Golf Course and Driving Range
33640 County Road 52, St. Leo, FL 33574 | (352) 588-2016

The Abbey Golf Course and Driving Range is renowned for its well-maintained fairways and challenging layout. Visitors can enjoy playing a round of golf here, surrounded by the natural beauty of St. Leo’s landscapes.

The course offers a variety of holes that are suitable for all skill levels, making it a fun experience for seasoned golfers and beginners alike. Walk-ins are welcome.

Saint Leo University
33701 County Road 52, St. Leo, FL 33574 | (352) 588-8200

Saint Leo University, discussed earlier, is not only an educational institution but also a cultural hub. We enjoy exploring the campus with its modern facilities and vibrant student life.

The university often hosts events, art shows, and guest speakers that are open to the public, providing rich educational and cultural experiences.

San Antonio Pottery
11903 Curley St, San Antonio, FL 33576 | (352) 588-4228

Just adjacent to St. Leo in San Antonio, the San Antonio Pottery offers a hands-on experience with pottery making. We love the workshops where you can learn to craft your own pottery pieces.

The studio is run by a local artist who provides insights into the techniques of pottery making and decoration. It’s a creative and fulfilling way to spend a day.

Holy Name Monastery
12138 Wichers Rd, St Leo, FL 33574 | (352) 588-8320

Home of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida as mentioned earlier on this page. Here is their contact info for you. They offer a variety of individual and group retreats and prayer services.

Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club
12900 Lake Jovita Blvd, Dade City, FL 33525 | (352) 588-2233

As mentioned earlier on this page, Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club is located right next door to St. Leo University. This is the home for Saint Leo men's and women's golf teams. Here is their official address and contact info for you.



ST. LEO FLORIDA INTERACTIVE MAP



Our Facebook page has more than 130,000 followers who love off the beaten path Florida: towns, tourist attractions, maps, lodging, food, festivals, scenic road trips, day trips, history, culture, nostalgia, and more.  We post articles every day.  Please check it out and if you like it, we would appreciate a "like" from you.


SHARE ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA