Nature Trails and Preserves

Take a hike!... or maybe a paddle
Sarasota County offers many outdoor recreational opportunities on a variety of trails, including water trails along the Myakka River and Dona and Roberts bays, paved trails like the 10.6 mile Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Trail, or more natural foot paths like the 18-mile Myakka Island Wilderness Trail. Sarasota County also has 61 miles of equestrian trails. For birding enthusiasts, Sarasota County trails offer numerous protected areas, from hardwood hammocks to coastal islands, for viewing many bird species in their native habitat.

Sarasota County has acquired thousands upon thousands of acres of natural lands to protect and conserve their ecological, historical and cultural values. These preserves provide the public with many opportunities for nature-based recreation and environmental education. Lucky for us, some of the sites purchased have been designated as public preserves providing recreational opportunities. For information about upcoming nature walks, click , select “Nature Walks” from the “All Events” drop down menu and click “GO.”

If you want to see birds, hike, bike, kayak and otherwise get out and go, spend a few minutes on or click on the names of the natural lands below for more information about each site.

Natural Lands Parking ADA Accessibility Nature Trials Marked Nature Trials Unmarked Benches and Tables Restrooms Equestrian Use Leashed Pets Canoes and Kayaks Kiosks Bicycles Fishing
Bayonne Parcel X     X X              
Citrus Hammock X     X X              
Curry Creek Preserve X X   X X     X X X X X
Deer Prairie Creek Preserve X   X   X X X X X X X X
Jelks Preserve X   X   X X       X   X
Manasota Scrub Preserve X X X   X         X    
Myakka Islands Point       X X              
Old Miakka Preserve X   X   X         X    
Pinelands Reserve X         X            
Pocono Trail Preserve       X X             X
Red Bug Slough Preserve X   X   X     X   X X X
Sleeping Turtles Preserve North X   X   X X   X     X X
Sleeping Turtles Preserve South       X X           X X
South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve     X   X             X
T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Preserve X X X   X X X   X X X X

Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail

It’s the saltwater version of the Appalachian Trail. Beginning at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, extending around the Florida peninsula and Keys, and ending at Fort Clinch State Park near the Georgia border, the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail is a 1,515-mile sea kayaking paradise. The trail includes every Florida coastal habitat type, from barrier island dune systems to salt marsh to mangroves. Several historical sites and points of interest are accessible by kayak along with colorful fishing communities and urban centers.
The Sarasota segment begins at Lido Beach and ends at Stump Pass Beach State Park. The trail stretches through 36 miles of spectacular scenery. Before you go, be aware of the long stretch of 23 miles from Oscar Scherer State Park to Weston's Resort which has limited camping opportunities. As with most South Florida segments, boat traffic can be heavy, especially on weekends. The primary campsites and distances between are Lido Beach to Oscar Scherer State Park, (13 miles) and Oscar Scherer State Park to Weston's, (23 miles).

Gulf Coast Heritage Trail
Maps provided by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program to assist travelers on their quest to discover the natural, cultural, and historic gems along the trail’s 117 sites.

The Great Florida Birding Trail
The Great Florida Birding Trail (GFBT) is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). At its core is a network of 489 sites throughout Florida selected for their excellent birdwatching or bird education opportunities. This 2000-mile, self-guided highway trail is designed to conserve and enhance Florida's bird habitat by promoting birdwatching activities, conservation education and economic opportunity.


No. Site Name County Nearest City Phone
1. Quick Point Nature Preserve Sarasota Longboat Key 941-316-1988
2. Arlington Park Sarasota Sarasota 941-861-5000
3. Pinecraft Park Sarasota Sarasota 941-861-5000
4. Celery Fields Sarasota Sarasota 941-861-5000
5. Crowley Museum & Nature Center Sarasota Sarasota 941-322-1000
6. Myakka River State Park Sarasota Sarasota 941-361-6511
7. Red Bug Slough Preserve Sarasota Sarasota 941-861-6259
8. Siesta Beach Sarasota Sarasota 941-861-5000
9. Oscar Scherer State Park Sarasota Osprey 941-483-5956
10. T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve Sarasota Venice 941-861-5000
11. Jelks Preserve Sarasota Venice 941-861-5000
12. Venice Area Audubon Society Rookery Sarasota Venice 941-496-8984
13. Shamrock Park and Nature Center Sarasota Venice 941-861-5000
14. Caspersen Beach Sarasota Englewood 941-861-5000
15. Lemon Bay Park and Environmental Center Sarasota Englewood 941-861-5000
16. Blind Pass Beach Sarasota Englewood 941-861-5000
17. Indian Mound Park Sarasota Englewood 941-861-5000

The John Ringling Causeway Bridge
One might wonder why a bridge would be listed in a “Gardens, Nature Tours and Nature Centers” section. This is no ordinary bridge. The widest of its kind in the world (107 feet wide and 3,097 feet long), this dramatic-looking $68 million wonder is — essentially — Sarasota’s only mountain. Or hill. Okay fine, a height of 68 feet may not produce spontaneous nosebleeds. Still, it is perfect for bikers, joggers or those who just want to get a bird’s-eye view of our sumptuous surroundings. And it is beautiful, day or night.

Shark Tooth Hunting on Venice Beach
For more information, contact the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce at 488-2236.
Venice is called “The Shark Tooth Capital of the World” for good reason; it’s almost impossible to go there and not find sharks’ teeth on the beach. We’re not talking about just one or two sharks’ teeth. We’re taking about lots of sharks’ teeth — so many that the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce gives packages of them away free to children who stop by. Here’s why there are so many on Venice Beach: All sharks continually shed their teeth and grow new ones, as many as 24,000 in a 10-year period. Many of the teeth you will find here are prehistoric; sharks have inhabited the area for millions of years. After dropping to the bottom, their teeth wash up on shore with the waves and changing tides. You’ll find a variety of grey, brown or black teeth, stained by the mineral deposits where they have been buried; finding a white tooth from living sharks is unusual.

Types of shark teeth most commonly found include Bull, Dusky, Lemon, Mako, Tiger Shark, Sand Shark, Carcharodon and Extinct Mako. Teeth range in size from one-eighth of an inch to three inches or more (these are very rare). Digging for teeth and prehistoric bones is illegal; however, you can sift the top layer of sand with a professional sifter, a wire mesh basket attached to a long handle, or bring a colander from home. The teeth make great souvenirs and the kids will go wild.

Sarasota County has been really conscious of the need to conserve natural lands. The county website lists too many parks, preserves and beaches to list them all but here are a few highlights:

Check It Out!

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.

Brohard Beach
1600 Harbor Drive
Venice FL 34285

Developed sandy beach between Venice Municipal Airport and the Intracoastal Waterway and Gulf of Mexico, connected to Caspersen Park Beach. Total beach area is three miles with 4,800 linear feet of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. 740-foot public fishing pier, great bird watching (for visitors from Great Britain, we mean the kind with wings) parking, restrooms, picnic tables, snack bar and bait shop. No lifeguards on duty.

Carlton Reserve
1800 Mabry Carlton Way
Venice FL
Phone: 941-861-5000

This 24,565-acre reserve was purchased in 1982.While exploring the Reserve’s network of trails, visitors may see diverse natural communities- including dry prairie, pine flatwoods, mesic hammocks and seasonal wetlands. Visitors can also observe white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcats, swallow-tailed kites, various wading birds and an assortment of wildflowers, such as pine lily, tarflower and purple iris. Non-native feral hogs, commonly seen on the reserve, compete with native wildlife for food and their rooting for plants and insects disturbs sensitive soil ecosystems.





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.

Deer Prairie Preserve
7001 Forbes Trail
Venice FL
Phone: 941-861-5000

This 6,400-acre preserve, located along the wild and scenic Myakka River. While walking the preserve’s trails, visitors will see a variety of native habitats including pine flatwoods, prairie hammock and seasonal wetlands. Portions of the trails provide scenic overlooks along the banks of the Myakka River and Deer Prairie Creek. A variety of wildlife species inhabit the preserve including gopher tortoises, alligators, river otter, wild turkey, swallow-tailed kite, Florida scrub-jays and an assortment of wading birds. Native flowering plants, such as St. John’s wort, tarflower and pine lily thrive throughout the landscape, with particularly striking displays during the spring and fall.
The preserve has more than seventy miles of hiking trails, which are unpaved but accessible for most visitors. All trail intersections are marked with numbered trail markers and certain trails may be shared by hikers, bicyclists and equestrian users.



Historic Spanish Point
337 N. Tamiami Trl
Osprey FL
Phone: 941-966-5214

Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Admission: Adults $7; children (6-12 years) $3; seniors admitted for $5 on Mon.. Children under 6 free.
A pristine 30-acre environmental, archaeological and historic site representing three important eras in the area’s history, including an archaeology exhibition about the gulf coast region’s earliest people, pioneer life and later settlement by wealthy transplants living “the good life” here. This is the only place in the United States where you can be surrounded by a 15-foot prehistoric shell midden. View a recreated dwelling from 1,000 years ago and explore shady nature trails through native plant communities and stunning views of Little Sarasota Bay from boardwalks. Guided tours daily, call for tour times. Tram tours available with advance reservation.

Indian Mound Park
210 Winson Ave.
Englewood FL 34223

Indian Mound Park has significant historical value. There are a number of Native American Indian mounds on the site that add cultural value to the recreation highlights. Boat access is by an asphalt boat ramp with three docks. This 10-acre park features the following park amenities:
bay access
boat ramp
boating destination
picnic shelter - reservable
rest rooms
scenic vista

Jelks Preserve
2300 N. River Road
Venice FL

This 614-acre preserve was purchased in 1999 through the one percent county sales tax and a very generous contribution from the Jelks Family Foundation, for which the preserve is named. The Jelks Preserve is one of the publicly-owned properties bordering the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, forever protecting a piece of the riverine floodplain. One can view the river at three different locations, while relaxing in the shade of mature live oak trees, festooned with epiphytes.
While exploring the preserve’s network of trails, visitors may see diverse natural communities including hammocks, pine flatwoods and seasonal wetlands. Visitors can also observe gopher tortoises, swallowtail butterflies and swallow-tailed kites, an assortment of song birds and wildflowers, such as Carolina jessamine and coralbean. While some trails may be cool as they meander to the river through canopied hammocks, others may be open and sunny as they traverse pine flatwoods.
The preserve has more than eight miles of trails, including the 3.3 mile outer loop trail. The trails are unpaved but accessible for most visitors.



Manasota Scrub Preserve
2695 Bridge St
Englewood FL

This 145-acre is named after one of the earlier landowners, the Manasota Land and Timber Company and the scrub vegetation that exists primarily on the west side of Bridge Street. Although this is a small pocket of vegetation in a suburban community, one can observe a variety of upland and wetland communities along a system of trails. Visitors may also spot resident wildlife such as gopher tortoises, northern quail, swallowtail butterflies and great-horned owls. An assortment of wildflowers such as grassleaf, goldenaster and blazing star may be visible from the trails. Enjoy a break by relaxing on benches placed along the marked trails.





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.

Old Miakka Preserve
251 Myakka Road
Sarasota FL

This 129-acre preserve, purchased in 2006 through the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program, is named after Old Miakka, the historic rural community where the preserve is located.
While exploring the preserve’s network of trails, visitors may see diverse natural communities – including scrub, pine flatwoods and seasonal wetlands. Visitors can also observe gopher tortoises, swallowtail butterflies, an assortment of song birds and wildflowers, such as, spiderwort and beautyberry.
The preserve has more than four miles of unpaved hiking trails, including the 1.5 mile long Tim Cash Loop Trail. All trail intersections are marked with numbered trail markers. Some trails may flood after heavy rainfall and several trails may be wet year-round where crossing creeks and ditches.

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.

Pocono Trail Preserve
189 Pocono Trail
Nokomis FL

This 8.2-acre preserve, shares the same name as the street where it is located. The name has historical significance as it was named by Dr. Fred Albee, an early settler of Nokomis. While exploring the preserve’s network of trails, you can see diverse natural communities, including maritime hammock, tidal swamp and scrubby flatwoods. Keep your eyes open for gopher tortoises, grey squirrels, and an assortment of wading birds such as the little blue heron, snowy egret, white ibis and wood stork.

The preserve offers approximately one mile of shady, unpaved and unmarked trails.
The preserve has very limited parking along the right-of-way so visitors are encouraged to park at the nearby Nokomis Community Center. Visitors can walk two blocks and access the preserve via a walk-thru gate.




South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve
5472 Kenisco Road
Venice FL

The South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve comprises 217 acres of protected land along scenic Lemon Bay. The preserve is nestled in the densely packed suburb of south Venice. This is a refuge for people as well as several protected animals such as gopher tortoises, Florida scrub-jays, bald eagles, river otters and an assortment of snakes, including the eastern coachwhip. A variety of plants thrive here. Look for mangroves, cord grasses, oak species, lupine, palafox, coontie and Curtis’s milkweed. There are boardwalks across the wetland slough. Great photo opportunities of coastal habitats including tidal swamp, tidal marsh, coastal hammock and upland communities such as mesic and scrubby flatwoods.

The preserve has nearly eight miles of unpaved hiking trails, including the 1.6 mile long scenic marked trail. Some trails flood after heavy rainfall. There is limited parking along road shoulders and you enter via walk-thru gates near three intersections (Ocelot and Phorus roads, Macon and Osprey roads, and Kenisco and Euclid roads).

Warm Mineral Springs Day Spa
12200 San Servando Ave
North Port FL
Phone: 941-426-1692

12 miles south of Venice on U.S. 41 (Exit 34 off of I-75)
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, weather permitting; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
General Admission $20, AAA members $18, students $14, children 12 and under $8
The famed Fountain of Youth is an historic treasure to be sure. Florida’s only warm springs is very popular with our international visitors because of its health restoring mineral water. The mineral content is actually the highest in America, many times higher than other famed international spas such as Vichy and Aix les Bains (France), Hot Springs (Arkansas) and Baden Baden (Germany). The water is consistently 87 degrees, and about nine million gallons flow from the springs each day into a 1¼ -acre lake.

Therapeutic massage, acupuncture, facials, and other spa services are available. Cafe on site. Bring your bathing suit. Very popular with European visitors (as well as Americans) and certainly well worth a visit, if for no other reason than just to listen to many different languages while enjoying this unique slice of “Old Florida.”

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