Environment and Nature

Did you know that more people travel to Florida to see wildlife than any other state? It’s true! Observing, feeding, photographing and painting our wildlife and nature scenes generates about $5 billion in state revenue every year. The good news is Sarasota County has been on the ball for quite some time when it comes to identifying and conserving natural lands. The taxpayers overwhelmingly voted in favor of acquiring land for preservation and the county now boasts more than 100,000 acres of public land. People respect open space and understand that a healthy environment is essential for a healthy economy…and awesome recreational opportunities and wildlife viewing.

The appeal of ecotourism is an authentic outdoor experience. We support adventure tourism, nature tourism and ecological tourism with eco-tours on land and water. Venture out to see birds, dolphins, manatees and much more. There is something for every age, interest and ability. Visit our botanical gardens, natural preserves, paddle trails, Florida Great Birding Trail sites and rookeries. . Sarasota County is a haven for birdwatchers who come from all over the world to see any of the 179 species that breed in Florida or the 300 species that migrate here in the winter.

Get out in Sarasota County

Whether you are a visitor, snowbird or native, become an ecotourist and surf through the list below to see, learn and support conservation and sustainable habitat. Discover natural Venice, Osprey, North Port, Englewood and Sarasota. Enter the ECOseeker contest and describe the best 48 hours in Sarasota County to win prizes. Get out and kayak, bike, hike, swim, ride horseback, canoe, geo-cache, adventure race, sail, fish, scuba dive, run on the beach, see it all. Well, what are you waiting for? Go discover natural Sarasota County.

Phillippi Estate Park
5500 South Tamiami Trail

Sarasota Fruit and Nut Society
Ongoing Activity
Ages: 18 and up
The Sarasota Fruit and Nut Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing, propagation and distributing the many rare tropical and subtropical fruits grown through the world.  The public is invited to attend meetings on the 2nd Wednesdays of each month.  Call 941-316-1309 for more information.
Edson Keith Mansino 7-9:30 p.m.

Sierra Club
Ongoing activity
Ages: 18 and up
The Sierra Club discusses a variety of topics to educate the community about environmental issues.  Public welcome.  For more information call 941-316-1309.
Edson Keith Mansion 7-9:30 p.m.

Check It Out!

Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures
Phone: 504-6296

American Littoral Society

Phone: 941-377-5459

Audubon Society (Sarasota County)

Phone: 941-364-9212

Each local Audubon Society offers a wealth of knowledge about local and migratory birds. Best of all, each offers special programs, day trips and overnight tours — a great excuse for families and friends to get outdoors. Call for schedules and activities.

Bay Preserve at Osprey
343 Palmetto Road
Osprey FL
Phone: 941-918-2100

Bay Preserve at Osprey is a 4.3 acre campus for the environment, arts, education and recreation. The preserve is located on the waterfront of Little Sarasota Bay, north of Oak Street and west of Palmetto Avenue, just south of Historic Spanish Point. Bay Preserve at Osprey includes six historic structures, the main house which serves as a Center for the Environment, a carriage house, three cracker style cottages and a boat house with dock. An interpretive nature trail identifies flora, fauna and gives you a breathtaking bay view, all for free. The Sarasota Conservation Foundation will host public tours of Bay Preserve at Osprey, 400 Palmetto Ave, Osprey, FL on the third Monday of the Month at 9:00 a.m until it officially opens the Center for the Evironment in November 2009.

Biotica Ecotours
Phone: 941-350-4905

Capt. Greg Bowdish

Capt. Matt Ercoli

Capt. Rick Grassett
2447 Waneta Dr.
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-923-7799?

CB's Saltwater Outfitters
1249 Stickney Point Rd.
Sarasota Florida 34242
Phone: 941-349-4400

Cook's Sportland
Eric or Malcolm
4419 Tamiami Trail South
Venice Florida
Phone: 941-493-0025

Archery & Accessories, Camping Equipment, Clothing: Camoflage and Western, Canoes & Kayak sales, Fishing Tackle, Golf, Guns & Ammo, Shuffleboard

Crowley Museum & Nature Center
16405 Myakka Rd
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-322-1000

Admission: Adults $7; Children 5-12 years $3, under 5 years free.
Hours: May 1-September 30: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Thurs. — Sun. October 1-April 30: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thurs. - Sun., 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat..
Directions: From I-75, travel east on Fruitville Road for 11 miles. Turn right on Myakka Road at the stop sign and continue 2.5 miles to the center’s entrance.
This non-profit environmental history center is located on 190 acres of native land adjacent to the Myakka river. The pioneer history area includes a museum, homesteader cabin, blacksmith shop, sugarcane mill and the Tatum House, a 110-year-old, two-story “cracker” house. Crowley’s nature trails meander through five native Florida habitats. A one-mile boardwalk takes visitors through the Maple Branch Swamp and Tatum Sawgrass Marsh and leads to an observation tower overlooking the river.

Crowley’s monthly programs include crafts for children, guided walks and tours, and presentations with experts in the field of history, wildlife conservation and native flora and fauna. Memberships are available for individuals, families and corporations.

Crowley Nursery & Gardens
16423 Jomar Rd
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-322-0315

Offers a small petting zoo and butterfly garden for your enjoyment, plus edibles, oddities, vines, water gardens and exotics for sale.

Dolphin Dive Center
6018 S. Tamiami Trl.
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-924-2785

Englewood Conservation Association
Tom Chown, President
Bay Park Boulevard
Englewood FL
Phone: 941-475-6833

Meetings held at Lemon Bay Park

Enterprise Sailing Charters
2 Marina Plaza
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-951-1833

Environeers Outfitter’s
John or Ann Krotec
5373 Fruitville Road
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-371-6208

John knows survival and he knows this area. Periodically, he coordinates a survival school in our area. Contact him for more info. Don’t call or email. Go to the store. They have everything for camping, climbing, heat, cold, rain, desert and they have done it all before. It’s worth a trip just to see the pictures and talk to the Krotecks because these people know the outdoors. They also offer orienteering courses, overnight local backpacking trips, and international climbing and trekking trips (South America).

Florida Ever-Glides Segway Tours
200 S. Washington Blvd.
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-363-9556

Florida House Learning Center
4600 Beneva Rd
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-316-1200

The Florida House has moved to a new site and is currently being updated as new energy, water, green building and universal design features are installed. This demonstration project is expected to reopen fall of 2009. Meanwhile, a virtual tour of the Florida House is available at

The Florida House is a model home and landscape that features environmentally friendly materials and methods. This sustainability project shows citizens how to conserve resources, protect their homes from storms with shutters, teaches energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy house concepts, and the use of recycled products. The landscape is a model Florida yard, demonstrating the use of native and drought-tolerant plants, micro-irrigation, composting, edible landscaping, xeriscaping, and ways to reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides and their detrimental run-off into Florida’s waters.

Florida West Scuba School
509B N. Tamiami Trl.
Venice Florida
Phone: 941-486-1400

Friends of Oscar Scherer Park

Phone: 941-483-5956

Friends of Sarasota County Parks, Inc.
6700 Clark Rd
Sarasota FL 34241
Phone: 941-861-9831

1001 Blvd of the Arts
Sarasota FL 34236
Phone: 941-309-4949

Experience hands-on science fun for the whole family in eighty-five interactive exhibits at G.Wiz, a science and technology center located on Sarasota's bayfront.  Visit the EcoZone, play the laser harp, or see your own heartbeat, while enjoying changing scientific exhibits, activities in the state-of-the-art 33,000 square foot facility.

Great World Nature Tours
Tim Mattox
8374 Market Street
Lakewood Ranch FL 34202
Phone: 941-907-7272
Fax: 941-907-6709

Beach Horses
We are the only horseback riding stable in the State of Florida that offers horseback riding on the beach and swimming with horses. So far as we know, we are the only outfitter on the planet that offers Horse Surfing.

We are totally committed to sustainable ecotourism. We make every effort to minimize waste, water consumption, and adverse environmental impact, Whenever possible we use products and services. We believe a responsible tourism industry can help reduce poverty, promote human rights, and foster peace and understanding throughout the world.

Photography and Videography
We have taken thousands of high quality still images and hundreds of videos of our horseback riding experiences. Some places charge you as much as $15 for just one low-res picture. We take over 100 high-res images/hour! Check out our photo gallery.

Special Occasions
If you are looking for the perfect birthday gift, anniversary gift, Gift Certificates are available in any dollar amount.

Event Planning
We plan and coordinate special events such as corporate outings, family reunions, marriage proposals, birthday parties, and singles events. Please let us know if we can help you. 

Island Style Wind & Watersport
2433 N. Tamiami Trl.
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-954-1009

Just Ducky Sightseeing Tours
Capt. Stewart
1011 S. Tamiami Trl.
Nokomis Florida
Phone: 941-485-6366

LeBarge Sightseeing Cruises
U.S. 41 at Island Park Circle (near Marina Jack)
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-366-6116

Daytime Narrated Sightseeing Cruise: 2-4 p.m. daily: adults $20, children 4-12 $15, children 3 and under free
Sunset Entertainment Cruise: 7-9 p.m. daily (depending on time of sunset): $23 per person.
Dolphin Watch Tour: Tues./Thurs./Sat. morning at 11 a.m. narrated by marine biologist (guaranteed to see dolphins or free pass for any regular scheduled cruise): adults $20, children 4-12 $15, children 3 and under free
25-mile trip on Sarasota Bay. Daytime cruise features running commentary on points of interest and wildlife, sunset cruise takes you out to the Gulf to see a spectacular Sarasota sunset and enjoy live entertainment. Food and drink are additional. Private charters available. Call for schedule and reservations (recommended).

Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club

Phone: 941-925-8081

Mote Marine Aquarium
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy.
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-388-4200

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily 365 days a year
Admission: adults (over 12) $17, seniors (over 65) $16, youth (4-12) $12, children 3 and under free
Have you ever seen a giant squid? Come and see Molly Mollusk, Mote Aquarium’s 25-foot specimen of the Giant Squid, so rare and elusive no one has ever seen one alive! Molly is the centerpiece of Mote’s newest exhibit, “Mysterious Mollusks,” featuring cuttlefish, scallops, green mussels, octopus and various shell exhibits.

Also at Mote is the Shark Attack Theater, Remarkable Rays Exhibit, and 135,000-gallon shark exhibit. Displays at Mote Aquarium explain more than 45 years of research conducted by Mote scientists and encourage understanding and appreciation for aquatic environments. Don’t miss seeing the sea turtle exhibits, and Hugh and Buffet, Mote’s resident manatees. Knowledgeable guides are ready to answer questions about the exhibits and the work of scientists at Mote.

Also available are tours on the Sarasota Bay Explorer for a relaxing one-hour-and-45-minute tour of Sarasota Bay waterways. View nesting sea birds and see firsthand the fascinating creatures living in local grass flats.

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.

North American Butterfly Association (Manasota Chapter)

Phone: 807-2416

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 Audubon Society
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-351-1554

Sarasota Bay Explorers Nature Tours & Cruises
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy.
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-388-4200
Ticket prices vary by type of cruise; combination tickets (cruise plus Mote Aquarium visit) are available. Call for details. A wonderful extension to a visit to Mote Marine Aquarium. Offering several types of eco-tours including our renowned Sea Life Encounter Cruise, Guided Kayak Tours, Nature Safari and private charters aboard the Miss Explorer. You may see dolphins, manatees or osprey. You will discover the remarkable creatures living in our local waters. A short stop on an uninhabited island is included. Each trip is narrated by a marine biologist. Reservations requested. A wonderful extension to a visit to Mote Marine Aquarium. Offering several types of eco-tours including our renowned Sea Life Encounter Cruise, Guided Kayak Tours, Nature Safari and private charters aboard the Miss Explorer. You may see dolphins, manatees or osprey. You will discover the remarkable creatures living in our local waters. A short stop on an uninhabited island is included. Each trip is narrated by a marine biologist. Reservations requested.

Sarasota Conservation Foundation

Phone: 941-918-2100

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

Sarasota Succulent Society
1310 38th St
Sarasota FL
Phone: 941-924-2703

Open Mon., 9 a.m.-noon and the third Sat. of each month, weather permitting.
The Sarasota Succulent Society is a hidden treasure that you may not be aware of. Perhaps best described as “a funky old Florida garden,” the house specializes in succulents (cacti and other fleshy plants that hold water). Prices are beyond reasonable; this is truly an act of love and really not to be missed. Plant sales every year.

Scuba Quest Pro Dive Center
1129 S. Tamiami Trail
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-366-1530

Siesta Key Watersports
1536 Stickney Point Rd.
Sarasota Florida 34242
Phone: 941-921-3030

Silent Sports Outfitter
2301-E N. Tamiami Trl
Nokomis Florida
Phone: 941-966-5477

TKM Stables
5611 Tropicaire Blvd
North Port Florida
Phone: 626-6787

Walk On The Wild Side
629 41st Street
Sarasota Florida
Phone: 941-351-6500

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