The parks and preserves located in the central gulf coast area of Florida are bursting with nature, wildlife, and adventure. Enjoying outdoor nature areas can be exciting and it offers an opportunity to find a few calming moments and breathe the fresh air.
Whether you are looking for more primitive trails or nicely groomed maintained facilities, there is something for everyone to enjoy in our beautiful Florida sunshine state parks!
Known as the number one place for family activity in Manatee County, Robinson Preserve offers a vast array of exploration and nature walks! Located in Northwest Bradenton, you can enjoy all the beautiful smooth trails perfect for hiking and biking. In fact, some of the trails are comprised of rubberized material for a very comfortable walking or running experience.
If you thrive on the thrill of exploring to unfamiliar areas and tree tunnels with hanging moss, you will love kayaking through mangroves and nature waterways here. Bring the kayak and enjoy a scenic nature tour around the preserve. There are eco kayak tours available as well. Newly added to the restoration project are storage containers for your kayaks and paddle boards; however, there might be a waiting list to reserve one.
Insider Tip: Along the trails there are covered benches as well as signage with information for more exercise options.
In addition to these exciting activities, there are several protective and conservation efforts happening throughout the park. Restoration areas are reserved to help maintain natural habitats for protected bird species. More work continues to strive towards creating native habitats for tidal estuarine fish, coastal upland forests, and a unique coastal wetland system.
The wildlife living in this extraordinary park is amazing. The plentiful species include spoonbill roseates, pelicans, osprey, egrets, and even the incredible gopher tortoise. Indulge yourself in the tranquil sounds and observe the tidal waters while the birds nestle into the largely undisturbed wild spaces. The preserve provides incredible opportunity for nature photography. As a result of the 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.
Now go beyond the trails and trees and step into the place known as The Nest. This beautifully designed structure is the mosaic center for nature, exploration, science and technology. Located at the newly renovated Robinson Preserve expansion area, this hands on interpretive learning program center is something for anyone to enjoy! Several events are also scheduled throughout the year at Robinson Preserve including the following: Paddleboard camps, nature classes, star gazing and 5K running events just to name a few.
Insider Tip: One part of the trail just a short distance from the boardwalk, is a peek a boo view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
No trip to Robinson Preserve is complete without a stop by the Visitor Center. Now this visitor center is not just your typical place for gathering trail information and maps, it’s much more than that. 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 Victorian home was relocated to the preserve due to possible development near its former location.
To finish your day here be sure to walk up to the 40 foot look out tower top and get your sunset shot! The golden hour will be brilliant for photos with these wide open nature landscapes!
Amid the massive old Florida oak trees and Spanish moss dangling in trail pathways, Rye Preserve will have you curious to see more. Enjoy this mystical place that is home to an interesting pioneer history. You can hike to enjoy the nature as well as take a visit to the Rye Family cemetery. The cemetery is the only thing that remains to tell the story about this historic Rye river community. I continue to search online to learn more about the Rye family and this small thriving settlement during the 1800s, and found some interesting information.
The Rye community was named after an early settler from Virginia, Erasmus Rye. According to Wikipedia, the community was made up of militia and their families. They played a role in the Third Seminole War and helped capture Native Americans. Some of the families remained here and became farmers. The land passed through various families, of which Erasmus Rye would become the largest landowner in this area during this time.
The fascinating history of the Rye area adds even more thrill to the experience of exploring here. More special features about Florida parks are the ecosystems. Rye Preserve contains another incredible ecosystem and wildlife sanctuary. There have been some sightings of 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 available here and known to be quite easy to reserve a spot and has a fee of $20 per night. But do not expect the fancy frills and amenities of the larger camp grounds, they are very simple. The typical restroom, picnic tables, and a small ranger station are available here. Rye Preserve is a great way to spend time with family and enjoy the outdoors!
To accompany a camping experience, you can enjoy the horseback riding trails, canoeing and kayaking, and bird watching. Rye Preserve is the perfect place to escape the noise and busy lifestyle to relax and decompress through exploration of this hidden tucked away nature retreat.
Lake Manatee State Park
Don’t be fooled by its small size and small 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, make for the perfect setting to enjoy a picnic lunch. If you want to take your adventure a step further, you can rent a canoe and glide down the lake and take in this incredible nature setting.
Lake Manatee was created as a result of the dam being built over the Manatee River during the mid 1960s. Visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming, boating, and kayaking in this fresh water lake. The list of experiences goes on and on here. Although 0nly 15 miles east of Bradenton, Lake Manatee State Park will make you feel as though you are several miles away from the hectic craziness of everyday life.
You will certainly enjoy the full facility camping here just walking distance to the lake! There are 60 camping sites available. The park’s natural habitat is another reminder of the real old Florida feel. 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!
The list of experiences to be had at the parks and preserves in Florida is endless! As our world continues to be full of uncertainty and stress, visiting these beautiful parks will allow you to relax, disconnect, and reconnect with nature! Find the adventure in you, go outdoors and see what you will discover!
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