When you thing of pure Florida, what comes to mind? For me, it’s a place just like Myakka River State Park – a place with nature, wildlife, and plenty to do that doesn’t involve a good wifi connection. If I’m being honest, Myakka River State Park has been recommended to us so many times over the years that I am embarrassed to admit how long it took us to visit. Myakka River State Park, located in Sarasota, Florida, boasts 37,000 acres of wildlife, trails, nature, and more.
Myakka River State Park’s 37,000 acres makes it one of Florida’s largest parks. It is a great park to see wildlife. While we were most excited about the alligators, you may also see many different birds, wild boar, bald eagles, deer, turtles, and more. The park cost $6 for the two of us to enter and this is such a small price to pay. It truly was well worth every penny and more.
When you pay to enter, the volunteers will provide you with a little brochure and map of the park. They were really helpful when we were there and pointed out spots we’d be most likely to see alligators! I recommend driving through the entire park and stopping when you see something interesting. Myakka River State Park is a great place to slow down and enjoy your adventure. You can easily spend the entire day here, we couldn’t believe how much there was to do and see or how big the park felt. There are also spots to camp if you want to stay longer than one day. I will break down some of the many things to do during your visit to Myakka River State Park.
Take in Nature
Our first stop was a beautiful lake; we were so excited to see alligators but did not see any here. On the left of this lake were trails that wound fairly deep back that some others were exploring so we moved on. An extremely short drive down the road led us to a bridge overlooking the river and immediately, we saw some alligators out sunbathing! We had been in the park for under 10 minutes and I was so excited!
I was so excited to see the alligators that I completely overlooked some of the other wildlife – and there is plenty of it! In fact, someone pointed out in my YouTube video that while I was so excited about seeing alligators, I completely missed overlooked a roseate spoonbill!
We saw two very large alligators within 15 minutes of entering the park. We first saw them at the bridge. Two were hanging out outside of the water, which was so fun to see. We also saw several alligator heads sticking out a little further down the river. It amazes me how still they can stay. They almost don’t seem real!
You can bring your own bike or rent one. I wish we’d done this on our visit because we would have been able to cover so much more ground. There is just so much to do and see in the park!
On the lake, you can rent kayaks. They’re actually made of aluminum because, well.. alligators. If you watched my YouTube video, then you may already know that the day we were there, there were a few alligators waiting at the canoe launch! But for the most part, alligators are not interested in humans (this is why it is SO important not to feed them!) and if they are, the aluminum will serve as a good buffer.
Take the Airboat Tour
If you’d rather someone do the work for you, you can take an airboat tour!
The canopy walk was a really cool part of the day! It is basically a suspended bridge among the treetops. You climb up and walk across! The canopy is around 100 feet across. It was completed in 2000 as North America’s first public treetop trail. The walkway is 25 feet above ground and 100 feet through the hammock canopy!
You can climb higher on the second tower to get some amazing views, but unfortunately it was closed on our visit.
Hike the Trails
There are several trails throughout the park. We did a nature trail near the canopy, which was around 1 mile. It’s really more of a walk than a hike with a well maintained path. It was a really nice, easy walk but if you visit in the hot summer months, make sure you bring plenty of water. The path gets very hot very quickly in the Florida sun!
Our last stop in the park was the bird walk – basically a boardwalk with spectacular views of the lake and other wildlife. It was here that we saw a wild boar in the distance and a couple more alligators on the move in the lake.
Fishing is permitted in the park. You might be fighting the alligators for your catch (kidding, kind of). If you want to fish, you will need a fishing license.
Camping is allowed within the park, but you do need to make reservations. As with many campgrounds in Florida, reservations can fill up quickly. At Myakka River State Park, there are 90 sites which includes tent and cabin options.
Myakka River State Park has three campgrounds to choose from. Old Prairie, which we stayed at, Big Flats and Palmetto Ridge. All campsites do have water and electric hookups. Only Palmetto Ridge has full hookups with sewer included. Lucky you if you can score a campsite there! Otherwise note that the dump station is located near Old Prairie Campground. All campgrounds do have restrooms with showers available.
Know Before You Go
Don’t bother the alligators. This means running close to them, feeding them, or anything similar. This can make the alligators less fearful of humans which is not only dangerous to humans (for obvious reasons) but also to the alligators.
There is a gift shop located near the lake where you can buy a souvenir, and they also have food if you are hungry. We also saw a lot of families pack a lunch.
If you have binoculars, I suggest bringing them. There is a VIEWFINDER at the bird walk that you can pay to use.
Remember to bring insect repellant, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
Pets are allowed but some areas have limitations. Just make sure you’re paying attention to the signs regarding where pets are and are not allowed.
I brought both flip flops and tennis shoes and I was thankful to have both. In the hot months, I don’t like my feet to be covered, so I appreciated the flip flops when I was able to wear them. But for the trails and longer walks, I was really thankful for my tennis shoes!
We expected to be at the park for around 1-2 hours, but ended up staying for closer to 4 and easily could have stayed longer!