Suncoast Beaches, FL - Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Longboat Key, Sarasota, Lido Key, Siesta Key & Venice - Vacation Travel Guide

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Suncoast Beaches Area Features

Eco-tourism - Into the Great Outdoors

Recently, vacations involving eco-tourism have become desired by travelers around the world. And southwestern Florida is home to stunningly gorgeous natural settings. If you like being outdoors and exploring Mother Nature’s masterpiece, then the Gulf Coast is for you. Take some time to visit all of it—from the beachside splendor of the outer keys to the lush and wild interior of the mainland. There are several opportunities to learn about the things that make Florida’s natural side so unique and interesting.  For those who wish to connect with nature while also enjoying the luxuries of modern living, this is the place to be. Let Sunny Day Guide introduce you to some of the best places in the area and get you in touch with nature!

Follow Your Own Path

There are many natural areas that are definitely worth exploring in this region with reasonably safe paths to follow. Just a few miles east of Sarasota is one of the state’s oldest parks: Myakka River State Park. Here, nearly 40 miles of paths await the avid hiker along the river where you’ll see (but please don’t disturb) interesting wildlife including unique birds like the roseate spoonbill or blue heron, alligators, raccoons, and countless other species. If you would rather see the park from another viewpoint, the canopy tour is a fantastic experience. From the tree line, view eagle nests and vultures or peer down on the gorgeous scenery below.

Play on the Water

While you’re in the great outdoors and under the Florida sun, you may feel the urge to get out on the water. Book a seat with Myakka Wildlife Tours to go on the “world’s largest” airboat to see the park from the water. They’ll take you through the waters surrounding Sarasota on an exhilarating airboat ride. You can see alligators safely from your seat on the Gator Gal or the Myakka Maiden—large covered airboats that take you along the Upper Myakka Lake. While aboard the boat, the tour operator will discuss the plant and animal life that exists along local waterways and shores. You’ll venture into areas that are hard to access and get to see Florida at its most natural.

Those who prefer to get wet and take a more hands-on approach to discovering sea life can sign up for a nature cruise with one of a few area boat tours. Participants may get the chance to see dolphins and manatees, and they can also use a net to skim the water for puffer fish, stone crabs, and seahorses. After gently handling these sea creatures and learning about them, participants return them safely to their watery home.

Wildlife boat tours are not only educational, but everyone who goes on these excursions usually has a great time! Dolphins’ intelligence, communication styles and playful antics have endeared them to many, and the love for these mammals continues to grow. Meanwhile, manatees are graceful, gentle animals that are hard not to adore. And like dolphins, they are fun to see in the wild. That’s why tours to see both of these creatures have become so popular on Florida’s gulf coast. Charter an excursion for a fun and interesting wildlife experience in comfort.

Slow Down and Enjoy Your Surroundings

The beauty contained in the expansive and tranquil Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a sight to behold. Enter the conservatory where, inside the greenhouse, a tropical rainforest environment exists with exotic orchids and other tropical plants. Kids will have a great time in the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden. While they play on swinging bridges, in caves, and at an Amazon village, kids can learn about the horticultural and conservation principles that the Selby Gardens promote. Families can take a leisurely stroll through the various manicured gardens: some attract and conserve migrating butterfly populations; others include Banyan trees or mangroves. All are lovely backdrops to a picturesque afternoon.

In Bradenton, more than 480 acres of natural coastal environment await outdoorsy families at Robinson Nature Preserve. Paddle around the saltwater marsh and through natural mangroves in a kayak or canoe. Both are available for rent through online reservations with Surferbus. Or, scale the steps of a 53-foot tower for a great view of the entire preserve. Explore the area on the preserve’s hiking or biking trails. Nearby is the Palma Sola Botanical Garden for some more time “getting in touch with nature.” And don’t forget to bring all members of the family… Leashed dogs are welcome to explore the preserve with their owners.

Florida’s Mangroves

As you paddle through the waters of the Sarasota region, you’ll come across tangled branches of mangroves. These trees that root in the water are the ultimate plant survivor. They tolerate salty waters at tide levels, extreme heat, marshy conditions and exposed roots—but yet they flourish! Not only that, but mangroves are essential to supporting life in this environment. Fish, amphibians, birds, and even some animals make their home in the trees and their roots. At many of the parks and reserves, you can see the native black, red, and white species. The red ones are usually closer to the water and are situated on “prop-roots” whereas the black and white occupy space a little higher up on the land.

Check Out Local Wildlife

You’re guaranteed to see a multitude of animals while walking around Sarasota Jungle Gardens. In addition to their famous flamingos that kids can hand-feed, there are snakes, owls, monkeys and even prairie dogs—just to name a few. Plus, the vegetation that lines the walking paths creates the feeling of being in the jungle. It’s a favorite family destination!

Bird enthusiasts will have no trouble photographing a myriad of species at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery. Great horned owls, green herons, bald eagles, belted kingfishers and so many others can be seen here. Bring binoculars, a camera and even a picnic lunch for a wonderful day among the birds. The best times to see the birds are in the morning and late afternoon. Alligators can also be spotted at the rookery in the pond. They actually serve the birds well by protecting them from mammalian predators.

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