Best Parks | Beaches to Visit on Florida’s Central Gulf Coast
You may know Florida for its thrilling theme parks, luxurious resorts, and amazing pinkish sunsets. But these are not the only things to get excited about when visiting the sunshine state. This past year has been challenging with respect to getting out as well as traveling for all of us. So we got creative and made plans to explore the best parks | beaches to visit on Florida’s Central Gulf Coast from a local perspective.
The central gulf coast of Florida is premier territory for some of the most incredible natural habitats and marshlands, rivers and lakes. I find these environments fascinating, unique, and of course, they are perfect opportunity for all types of outdoor activity.
Located in northwest Bradenton, Robinson Preserve offers a vast array of exploration and nature walks! You can enjoy all the beautiful smooth trails perfect for hiking and biking. Don’t forget to bring the kayak and enjoy a scenic nature tour around the preserve.
The preserve is home to numerous birds and wildlife, therefore providing the best opportunity for nature photography. After a recent expansion project, it is now made up of about 682 acres consisting of a mix of preserved mangrove, tidal marsh, and former agricultural lands.
Robinson Preserve History
There is an old historic property built in the 1800s known as the ‘Valentine House‘ that serves as the Visitor Center Robinson Preserve! In 2009, this beautiful home was relocated to the preserve due to possible development near its former location.
Nathan Benderson Park
Home to the Club Crew Championship competitions! Located adjacent to the new University Town Mall in Sarasota, this park is beautiful as much as convenient. You will enjoy the 600 acre park offering paved pathways for hikers and bikers as the loop takes you about 3.5 miles around the 400 acre lake. Bring your kayak and and fishing rod for incredibly peaceful moments. Rentals are available at this park facility.
Myakka River State Park
This adventurer’s playground is known as Myakka River State Park. The nature landscape here is quite extraordinary. It consists of wildflower prairies, wild wetlands, and pinelands. The park offers plenty of activity such as biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing and more! Rentals are available this park facility as well. If you love wildlife including alligators, then a hike out to Deep Hole will definitely satisfy your wild side. This trail is about a 2.2 mile hike one way to reach Deep Hole Myakka River State Park.
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Take a walk through this mystical landscape full of cypress, palmetto plants, otters, birds, turtles, and alligators living here year round. Located in the Fort Myers area, the park includes over 3,500 acres of wetland ecosystem, a beautiful boardwalk, and interpretive center. There is also a butterfly garden, but some of these areas remain closed due to Covid.
The cypress slough here acts as a filter while it catches rainwater that is making its way towards Estero Bay. As I walk through this park, I feel an eerie sensation like I’m in a scene from a Harry Potter movie. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is an overall wonderful park and I highly recommend it!
Enjoy this historical place that is home to a little pioneer history. You can visit the Rye Family cemetery which is the only thing remaining as a reminder of this historic Rye river community. Rye Preserve contains another incredible ecosystem and wildlife residents. Some sightings include the rare gopher tortoise and Florida scrub-jay.
The hiking trail system consists of short paths with the longest being .81 miles. The connecting paths are named by colors. There is Red, Blue, Orange, and Yellow Trails; as well as The Cemetery Trail and the Canoe Launch Trail.
Camping is permitted in the park and activities such as kayaking and canoeing are fantastic here!
Fish Hawk Creek Nature Preserve
Hiking the Red Trail here in this preserve is quite easy. The distance is about 2.67 miles, but parts of the trail are heavily covered in plant growth. It is recommended that you take extra caution and look out for snakes. You might consider this trail more of a local neighborhood nature path. The preserve is full of trees and nature galore. It is a very peaceful and quiet place to explore and is located near Fish Hawk region in the Lithia, Florida area.
Crystal River Preserve State Park
Home to the gentle giant, the manatee; Crystal River is loaded with outdoor fun! Another feature of this amazing preserve is Florida’s most diverse ecosystem where fresh water from the spring fed rivers merges into the saltwater leading into the Gulf of Mexico. Here you will find numerous fresh water springs that are clear as can be. You may encounter the gentle giants while visiting Crystal River!
We explored Hunter Springs Park with the kayak during a holiday weekend. It was pretty crowded in the water, but we had no problem navigating around. On this trip, we didn’t see manatees, but hoping to return and explore more of the springs! The nature coast is where awesome happens!
Lake Manatee State Park
Don’t be fooled by its small size and crowds, Lake Manatee State Park can hold its own when it comes to outdoor fun and activities! Although the name contains Manatee, you will not find Manatees here in this lake. Together with its mature canopy oak trees shading the recreation area where you can enjoy a picnic lunch. First, however, you may wish to rent a canoe and glide down the lake and take in this incredible nature setting.
You will certainly enjoy the full facility camping here just walking distance to the lake! You can rent canoes and kayaks for a day full of adventure! The park’s natural habitats will remind you of the real old Florida look. The area consists primarily of pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub with some depression marshes and hardwood forest. The hiking trails are easy and short mostly, but offer endless nature and beauty!
You can find Lake Manatee State Park here at 20007 State Road 64 East, Bradenton FL 34212. The entry fee is $5 per vehicle. Directions.
Florida is indeed known for its stunning beaches, beautiful seashells, and sparkling waters! You may want to take notes here and start planning your visit today!
Manatee Public Beach
This lovely beach consists of seven acres of sunshine and fun! You will find other amenities here including benches, café, gift shop, picnic tables, playground and more! You may be sharing the beach with tern sea birds as they use some areas as their breeding grounds.
Siesta Key Beach
Home to the purest white sand that is made up of 99% quartz and sparkling beauty! Named the number one beach in the United States numerous times, Siesta Key will dazzle you in its total luxury!
The sand is cool to the touch so you don’t need to worry about burning your feet when walking barefoot on this beach. The perfect place to enjoy the day full of sunshine and relaxation!
Fort De Soto State Park and Beach
Named the Best Beach For Families by USA Today in 2014, Fort De Soto will definitely leave you with unforgettable memories. Besides the kid’s attractions of the Pirate’s Ship playground, you can indulge yourself in history and adventure throughout the park’s 1,136 acres and five islands.
Here is your chance to browse through the historic artillery and firing galleries. Take a journey back in time and get up close with the mortar cannons as they are situated over the top of the fort and pointed towards Tampa Bay to defend against threats during those times. You will also find historical photos, military documents, and artifacts from the Spanish-American war. Now it’s time to take a dip in the clear warm waters and search for sea shells and manatees! Fort De Soto will certainly not disappoint! Keep in mind, when driving to Ft. De Soto there are a couple toll road fees you will encounter. The fee to enter to the park is $5 per vehicle.
Bean Point Beach
If you are looking for a discreet unique and pristine place that only few people know about, then this spot will have you saying Wow! Anna Maria Island is one a most luxurious charming beach destinations you can find. Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on the Coast of Manatee County with the Gulf of Mexico surrounding its borders.
This beach is considered a hidden gem and is not real obvious to find. Bean Point is an area located at the very northern tip of the island and holds as much beauty as it does history along with it. Don’t be alarmed when you see dozens of pelicans and sea birds falling from the sky diving for fish here!
Bean Point History
In 1892, George Emerson Bean founded Anna Maria Island and began the plans of development with his son. He would make his home on the most northern area tip comprised of 160 acres.
When you come to Florida searching for adventure, you do not have to look far. The quest for blissful paradise, intimate connections with nature, and pink skies blending with sparkling coastal waters is right at your fingertips. The Gulf Coast of Florida will certainly leave an impression on you. There is no better way to maintain good health both physically and mentally during Covid19. Here, you can indulge yourself safely and tap back into that zest for life that lies within you!