When people visit Florida, they want to see alligators. The question is whether they want to see them from a distance or up close and personal! Both are possible in Sarasota County. Many people see them on golf courses and in their neighborhoods so keep your eyes open. (Mating season is April-June and that’s when they tend to wander in search of a mate). Alligators are not nice to house pets or each other, they are ferocious opponents and very tough survivors of the swamp. Still, they mostly shy away from humans unless they are fed, challenged or foolishly offered the opportunity for mischief by careless swimmers at dusk.

Alligators bask in the sun to increase the heat of their cold-blooded bodies before returning to the water to cruise and stalk prey. They will hunt anytime, but particularly at night where they are well adapted with a good sense of smell and vision in the darkness. Typically they sleep during the day and feed at night. Kinda sounds like teenagers, doesn’t it?

Check It Out!

Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-361-6511

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, famous for its panoramas of lakes, river, marshes, hammocks and prairies, and for its abundant wildlife populations. Deer, alligators and many species of wading birds are abundant, as well as thousands of waterfowl in the winter months. Ospreys, bald eagles and sandhill cranes are commonly seen. A visitors’ center has exhibits of wildlife and plant communities on display. Park rangers provide videos, guided walks and campfire programs according to seasonal attendance. During the winter, they offer bird watching for beginners. A 7,500-acre wilderness preserve resembles Florida as it looked before the arrival of Europeans. A limited number of visitors are allowed to visit this preserve each day on foot or by boat. All plant and animal life is protected in state parks. Intoxicants are not permitted in any area of the park.

Park Highlights: Over 28,875 acres of pristine area, wildlife trails, canoeing, biking, camping, visitor’s center, elevated tree canopy walk, snack bar and highly recommended airboat rides and tram tours; each ride and tour takes about an hour, and no walking is required.

Canoes and bicycles are available for rental, picnic tables are located near boat and tram tour rides. If you are planning to take one of the tour rides, getting there early is a good idea. No reservations are accepted. Group rates and charters are available.

Tour Highlights: Extremely knowledgeable and entertaining tour guides; ranger-guided walks Sat. mornings at 9 a.m.; “Gator Gal” (the world’s largest airboat); alligators, deer, bobcat and bald eagles in the wild; plenty of fresh air. Fares: Adults $10; children (6-12 years) $5; toddlers (5 and under) free if held in lap.

A Brief History of Myakka River State Park
In the early 1920s, A.B. Edwards, a prominent resident and Sarasota’s first mayor, launched a movement to set aside a natural area for recreation and preservation. Edwards persuaded the Florida Internal Improvement Fund to buy more than 17,000 acres (at 37.5 cents an acre!) from the A.C. Honore Estate. A few weeks after the purchase, Honore and Potter Palmer donated more than 1,900 acres to the state — a memorial to their mother Bertha Palmer. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (one of many federal relief agencies established through President Roosevelt’s New Deal to help ease the Depression) brought in 200 men to make the 26,000 acres usable. From 1934 to 1941 the crew built roads, bridges, cabins, dug drainage ditches and planted over 100,000 trees. Everything constructed was done with native materials. The park opened to the public June 1, 1942.

Oscar Scherer State Park
U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trl.)
Osprey Florida
Phone: 941-483-5956

Hours: 8 a.m. until sunset
Admission: $4 per car (up to 8 people), sunset entrance $3
This park includes The Lester Finley Nature Trail, a special hiking trail constructed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The park originally consisted of 462 acres of scrubby flatwoods and mesic flatwoods; South Creek, a blackwater stream, flows through this area. An additional 922 acres acquired in 1992 contain tracts of depression marshes, pine forests and additional flatwoods on the banks of a small tidal creek. The park is noted for its population of Florida scrub jays, a threatened species (some will land on your outstretched hand). Bald eagles, as well as bobcats, river otters and alligators, are often seen in the winter months, as are many birds. The rare gopher tortoise, gopher frog and indigo snake are occasionally seen here. Pick up an animal identification booklet at the entrance.

Highlights: Self-guided nature trail, voicebox information stations, freshwater lake swimming, picnic area, canoe rentals, fishing, both freshwater in the lake and saltwater in South Creek, campsites with water and electric hookup, plus the very impressive Lester Finley Nature Trail for outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities — a sight-impaired-adapted and wheelchair-friendly hike with touch-activated audio speakers that provide interpretive information.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens
3701 Bayshore Rd
Phone: 941-355-5305

Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day
Admission: Adults $14; seniors $13; children (3-12) $10; toddlers (2 and under) free. Annual passes available (highly recommended for local families)
Sarasota’s only zoological gardens, with 10 acres filled with native and exotic plants, jungle animals, reptiles and birds, “kiddie jungle” where kids can pet animals and hold birds, butterfly garden, impressive reptile and bird shows. Gazebo available for private weddings. Group discounts available.

Known as “The Gardens,” this attraction was once listed in the Sarasota city records as “an impenetrable swamp.” In the early 1930s, a local journalist named David Breed Lindsay bought 10 acres of it, planning to develop the virgin subtropical jungle into a beautiful botanical garden. Exotic tropical plants, flowers and trees were added to the native flora, as well as tropical birds. A neighbor, Pearson Conrad, who operated a nursery, provided many of the plantings, charted the streams, and planned the ponds. When people began to wander the jungle to see the exotic plants, trees and birds, the men decided in 1936 that an admission fee would be appropriate: 10 cents for children and 35 cents for adults. Four years later, Sarasota Jungle Gardens opened as a tourist attraction.

Today, The Gardens features a wide collection of birds of prey, a colony of endangered Greater American flamingos, other wild fowl, exotic birds, and a collection of alligators, snakes, lizards and turtles. Other areas include a Tiki Garden, Garden of Christ, the Children’s Jungle Playground, Bird Pose Area, the Jungle Trails and Open Gardens

Snook Haven
5000 E. Venice Ave.
Venice Florida
Phone: 941-485-7221

Open 7 Days a week serving casual, (and we really mean casual) lunch and dinner. This old Florida favorite features great food and entertainment, outdoor concerts and festivals, private parties with catering in the historic Hospitality House, boat rentals and river cruises. It’s a great place to see alligators, paddle a canoe, and enjoy a grouper sandwich and a longneck beer. Be sure to ask about the killer turtles and visit the killer turtle shop. (We don’t want to spoil the fun).

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