Myakka River State Park
Before it gets too warm, I am on a mission to hit as many state parks that are within a day’s drive of Sarasota. I want to make sure that my kids and I have explored as much as possible before we are stuck in our swimming pool from June-September. Last weekend, we headed out to Myakka River State Park, to spend some time in the sun and away from video games, TV, and laundry piles.
Myakka River State Park is the largest state park in the state of Florida and is only about a 20 minute drive from downtown Sarasota.
Every time I go to state or national park, I have to go to the visitor’s center. These little spaces are usually pretty dated and filled with informational materials about the park. I like them because they center me….they let me know what kind of animals I may encounter, most recommended hikes in the park and whether or not there is anything I should worry about.
The Myakka River visitor’s center was pretty much as described. It was a tiny space with lots of taxidermied animals—some of which we really hoped we would have a chance to see in real life. We quickly looked at everything but didn’t stay for long– we wanted to see the park.
First on our agenda, was the canopy trail.
The canopy trail is 25 feet off the ground-so that you are walking in the canopy of the trees. The trail is very short and the actual canopy walk is only about 100 feet. It is very neat though and the bridge kind of shakes as you walk across—making it extra exciting.
This trail is perfect for adventurous kids (like mine) because it is short, well marked, and different. There are only a few of these canopy trails in the world and one just happens to be in our backyard.
At the end of the canopy bridge you can climb the tower for a view of the park from 73 feet up. While this may not seem like much of an elevation gain—it is huge for Florida and gives a great view of the park.
The views were amazing and the leg workout from climbing the stairs was good too.
Next, we decided to take an airboat ride across the lake. I thought this would bring us some relief from the hot day and allow us to get up close with some alligators.
Tickets for the airboat can be purchased near the snack shop (follow signs to vending) and they have a few scheduled boats every day.
Alligators are definitely the highlight of the boat ride. We saw at least forty —maybe more—good sized alligators. They were everywhere. The airboat is able to motor through the lilipads and other growth which is where they like to hide.
So, as the boat approached the alligators would move quickly away. The boat captain had a lot of information about alligator reproduction, nesting, protection and conservation. It was very informative and he was willing to answer everyone’s questions. Wading birds were also a key component of the airboat ride with the captain pointing out great blue herons, osprey, great egrets, eagles, and lots more.
The airboat ride disembarks next to the newly built gift shop and café. The café has everything from fresh alligator stew (made everyday) to scoops of ice cream. Of course, we had to stop for ice cream.
Myakka was great! Lots of hiking opportunities, camping, biking, boating-and when you are ready for a snack-they have lots available! It is a great way to ease your kids into a day outside.