If you’re staying in a vacation rental in the Bradenton Beach, Sarasota, or Siesta Key area, don’t forget to add Myakka River State Park to your vacation to-do list.
This massive park is home to literally thousands of alligators, all waiting for their close up—from a safe distance, of course.
Myakka River State Park is 58 square miles large and combines prairies with wetlands and pinelands. Running through the park is the Myakka River, perfect for boating, kayaking and fishing.
Myakka River State Park was developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was one of eight state parks in Florida developed by the CCC. Previously, the land for the park was owned by Bertha Palmer, a businesswoman from Chicago who pursued cattle and pig ranching on the land.
Fast forward to today, and one major draw for Myakka River State Park is the many, many alligators that call it home. When the weather is warm, you can see alligators swimming along in the river or sometimes sunning themselves not far from shore. Keep your distance, of course, and use the closeup function on your camera phone or a telephoto lens on a nice camera to snap some nice shots. During Sarasota’s busiest season, it’s not uncommon to find tourists speaking several different languages stopped in clumps to gaze at gators and snap pics to share with others.
Another great way to learn about the park is with its boat and tram rides. The boats will take you out on Upper Myakka Lake, where a knowledgeable guide will share the history of the park and details about the wildlife. If you’d rather stick to land, there’s the tram ride that goes further back into the park’s vast acreage. There’s an extra fee for both yhe tram and boat rides.
Myakka River State Park also has a concession stand and larger gift shop where you can load up on Florida souvenirs and grab a bite to eat. Sometimes, gator bites are on the menu.
Another cool attraction at Myakka River State Park is its canopy walkway, located 25 feet above the ground and crossing 100 feet over in an oak/palm hammock. The walkway has an adjacent 74-foot tower where you can observe many types of birds and trees.
Myakka River State Park takes on a different hue depending on the time of year when you visit. In the spring, cheerful yellow wildflowers fill the park’s prairies, perfect for photos. In the summer after a lot of rain, some parts of the park may be temporarily closed due to flooding. The winter is a particularly busy season for Myakka River State Park because of the large number of tourists and “snowbirds”—retirees living in Florida part of the year—who are in the Sarasota area.
Here are a few of the other things you can do at Myakka River State Park:
- Horseback riding