10 things to do on Florida's Gulf Coast
#1 South County Shark Tooth
As the morning sun bathes Venice Beach in a warm, golden glow, it sets the stage for a captivating treasure hunt along the Gulf of Mexico’s pristine shoreline. Venice, Florida, renowned as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World,” beckons nature enthusiasts and fossil aficionados to its sandy expanses. Against a backdrop of azure skies and emerald waters, beachcombers of all ages embark on a quest to uncover the fossilized remnants of the ocean’s ancient predators. With a plethora of shark teeth waiting to be discovered, the hunt is both thrilling and educational, appealing to marine biology enthusiasts and families alike. The Venice Jetty, including Caspersen Beach, Casey Key, and Manasota Key, is where collectors congregate, while the Venice Fishing Pier at Brohard Park stands at the heart of this shark tooth paradise. Here, visitors can rent or purchase the indispensable “Venice Snow Shovel,” a screened basket fitted onto a handle designed to assist in the excavation of these elusive fossils. After a day of scouring the sands, there’s no better way to cap off the adventure than savoring a fish sandwich and toasting the sunset at Fins at Sharky’s restaurant, offering not only a delicious meal but also a front-row seat to the breathtaking Gulf view. Venice Beach invites you to immerse yourself in its natural wonders and embark on a journey that blends the thrill of discovery with the serenity of coastal beauty. Hunting – Venice Beach, Florida.
#2 Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels, Sarasota, FL
Embarking on a memorable adventure through the enchanting Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels in Sarasota, Florida, begins with a rendezvous at the renowned Ted Sperling Park Launch site, conveniently located at 190 Taft Drive. Here, the stage is set for your exploration, with all the necessary equipment standing at the ready, awaiting your arrival. As you prepare for your journey, you’ll receive detailed maps, a concise overview of the area’s natural wonders, and essential safety equipment, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your solo exploration. With two and a half hours at your disposal, you’ll have ample time to savor the tranquility of the mangroves, taking a leisurely paddle through this captivating ecosystem and forging unforgettable connections with the beauty of Sarasota’s coastal landscape. The Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels promise not just an adventure but an immersive journey into the heart of nature’s wonders, all beginning at this picturesque launch site.
Sarasota, Florida, isn’t just a haven for sunset enthusiasts; it’s also a paradise for anglers looking to reel in their next big catch. Sarasota Bay, in particular, stands out as a premier destination for fishing enthusiasts. This picturesque body of water boasts a diverse range of fish species, making it a must-visit spot for anglers of all skill levels. Whether you’re chasing after the elusive snook, the hard-fighting redfish, the tasty trout, or the thrilling tarpon, Sarasota Bay has it all. The options for fishing locations are abundant, with the iconic Ringling Causeway Bridge and the scenic Bayfront Park fishing pier beckoning to both locals and visitors alike. So, if you’re seeking a tranquil yet exciting fishing experience with the potential for trophy-worthy catches, Sarasota Bay is your ideal destination. Cast your line and let the waters of Sarasota Bay reward you with unforgettable angling adventures.
#4 Bird Watching at Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park, located in the heart of Florida’s natural beauty, is a haven for birdwatchers seeking an immersive experience in the avian wonders of the region. With over 12 miles of hiking and biking trails, this park offers a unique opportunity to explore the diverse ecosystems that call it home. One of the park’s standout features is its scrubby flatwoods, which host one of the densest populations of Florida Scrub-Jays in southwest Florida. These charismatic birds are closely managed and protected here, providing birdwatchers with a remarkable chance to observe them in their natural habitat. As you traverse the trails, you’ll find moments of tranquility beside South Creek, amidst the campground, and around Lake Osprey – all perfect spots during migration season when warblers and vireos flock to the canopy, creating a symphony of colors and sounds. But that’s not all; Oscar Scherer is also a sanctuary for nesting Bald Eagles, and in the northernmost reaches of the park, you’ll encounter the majestic sight of Sandhill Cranes tending to their young. For those eager to enhance their birdwatching experience, consider scheduling guided walks or organizing group trips, ensuring that your visit to Oscar Scherer State Park becomes an unforgettable journey into the world of avian wonders.
#5 Paddle the North Port Blueways
Nestled in the heart of Southwest Florida, the City of North Port, a hidden gem between Tampa and Fort Myers, offers a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who are passionate about paddling. Easily reachable via Interstate 75, this city is a picturesque haven, cloaked beneath a dense oak and pine canopy that bears witness to both archaeological history and the beauty of natural springs.
For canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts, North Port is a dream come true. With an extensive network of nearly 80 miles of freshwater canals, nine miles of the winding Myakkahatchee Creek, and even a section of the majestic lower Myakka River, this city provides an ideal playground for those eager to explore its waterways.
While motorized boats find their launch point at Marina Park, offering access to the lower Myakkahatchee Creek and its gentle flow into the Myakka River, North Port isn’t just for paddlers. It’s a haven for anglers as well, with a bounty of freshwater and saltwater fish species awaiting those who cast their lines. Whether you’re gliding along the serene canals or casting your bait into the brackish waters, North Port beckons with its natural beauty and aquatic adventures.
#6 Ride the Legacy Trail
The Legacy Trail in Sarasota weaves a captivating tapestry of history and natural beauty, inviting residents and visitors alike to embark on a journey through time and lush landscapes. With a rich historical heritage, this trail was once the Seaboard Air Line Railway, dating back to the early 20th century, a lifeline during the Florida real estate bust and the Great Depression, and a conduit for the Kentucky Military Institute cadets. Today, it stands as a testament to preservation, connecting communities and offering an outdoor haven. With over 12 miles of scenic pathways, it’s a cherished resource for those seeking to explore the region’s diverse habitats, while also accommodating activities such as walking, biking, and rollerblading. Whether you’re an avid history buff or a nature enthusiast, The Legacy Trail provides a unique blend of past and present, making it a treasured gem in Sarasota’s landscape.
#7 Historic Selby Gardens, Historic Spanish Point
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a horticultural gem nestled in Sarasota, Florida, has a rich history that stems from the passion and generosity of its founder, Marie Selby. Established in 1973, the gardens occupy a 15-acre downtown Sarasota campus that was once the cherished home of Marie and her husband, William. The centerpiece of this original site is a captivating banyan grove that the Selbys planted nearly a century ago. In 2020, Selby Gardens expanded its influence by adopting Historic Spanish Point, a cultural landmark with deep roots in Florida’s history, located just a short distance away. This second campus, once the winter estate of Bertha Palmer, offers visitors a journey through 5,000 years of Florida’s prehistory, featuring an ancient shell midden and a collection of historic structures. Both campuses of Selby Gardens serve as havens for the study and display of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, ferns, and other tropical plants. With a commitment to scientific exploration and conservation, Selby Gardens is not only a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts but also a testament to the vision of forward-thinking women who have left an indelible mark on Sarasota’s botanical and cultural landscape, offering 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries for connecting with native nature and learning about both tropical plants and regional history.
#8 Parasail Siesta Key
Parasailing in Siesta Key, Florida, is an exhilarating adventure that offers breathtaking views of this coastal city’s stunning surroundings. As you soar high above the crystal-clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll be treated to a panoramic vista that stretches as far as the eye can see. The cerulean skies above complement the azure sea below, creating a mesmerizing color palette that paints the perfect backdrop for your parasailing experience. From your vantage point in the sky, you’ll have the opportunity to take in the picturesque coastline and appreciate the natural beauty of Siesta Key like never before, making it an unforgettable and visually striking adventure.
#9 Myakkahatchee Creek Trails
Nestled in the serene northern reaches of North Port, Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park is a hidden natural gem where the sunlight dances on the tannic waters of Myakkahatchee Creek. This pristine floodplain creek meanders gracefully between towering sand banks, providing a tranquil oasis for nature enthusiasts. The park’s trail system invites you to lose yourself in the enchanting beauty of oak hammocks as you wander alongside the creek, offering a peaceful escape from dawn to dusk, with leashed dogs always welcome. While the trails are open to horseback riding and biking, the primary allure lies in hiking, allowing visitors to connect with the surrounding wilderness. For those with an adventurous spirit, a canoe and kayak launch beckons, offering the chance to explore the meandering creek. As you follow the Big Slough Trail, you’ll be treated to scenic vistas from the sand bluffs that line the creek, with side loops like the East Loop and West Loop leading you through dense hammocks and restored wetlands. Be prepared to savor picturesque waterway views along Big Slough, also known as Myakkahatchee Creek, and don’t miss the observation deck and interpretive display along the East Loop Trail, providing a deeper understanding of this natural wonder. Additionally, the park serves as a gateway to the neighboring Big Slough Preserve, promising even more opportunities for outdoor exploration in this pristine corner of North Port
#10 Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park
Nestled within the sprawling Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, the Myakka Canopy Walk stands as one of Southwest Florida’s most sought-after short trails. What makes it a favorite among visitors is its accessibility, family-friendly atmosphere, and well-marked footpath, inviting adventurers of all ages to explore its wonders. Yet, what truly sets it apart is the Canopy Walk itself. Long before the canopy walk craze hit Florida, this trail was the original, inspired by the canopy walks used by scientists in the rainforests of South America. It offers a unique blend of experiences, allowing you to intimately immerse yourself in the live oak canopy while also treating you to a breathtaking panoramic view of the Myakka River basin from its towering 76-foot observation platform. As you ascend into the treetops, the Myakka Canopy Walk offers a genuine and unforgettable connection with the natural beauty of Florida’s wilderness.
Exploring the Florida Gulf Coast’s natural beauty and outdoor adventures is an experience like no other, but we know that planning the perfect trip can sometimes be a daunting task. If you have any questions, need recommendations, or would like to connect with expert tour guides who can make your adventure even more memorable, don’t hesitate to reach out (908) 347-1154 or Suzy@SouthSells.com. Our team is here to help you create the ultimate Gulf Coast getaway tailored to your interests and preferences. Let’s chat and turn your dreams of a Gulf Coast adventure into a reality – together, we’ll make it an unforgettable journey filled with sun, sea, and adventure!