Sarasota by land is impressive on its own, but to truly appreciate this area’s natural beauty, you must venture by kayak into its waterways. Getting up close and personal with its mangroves and exploring its rivers and estuaries has the power to transport you back in time to the days when Sarasota’s first settlers visited this paradise. But where to start? Let’s take a look at a few of your best options to get a taste of Sarasota by kayak.
For the first-timer
There’s no better way to get a taste of what the area has to offer than paddling through the mangrove tunnels of South Lido Key. Put in at Ted Sperling Park, and from there you’ll paddle close to the shore until you reach the tunnels, which were originally dug as ditches in the 1950s to aid in mosquito control. Mangroves have grown over the ditches since, and provide a quiet, almost eerie oasis.
The water is shallow, so watch for trout, mullet and mangrove snapper. If you’re lucky, you may see dolphin or manatee, or even inspire a cormorant to follow your party and dart back and forth underneath your kayak looking for minnows. Pack a picnic and venture out of the mangroves to the beach along Big Sarasota Pass at the south end of Lido Key.
Several kayak rental outfits set up shop at Ted Sperling Park, including Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures, I Kayak Sarasota and Liquid Blue Outfitters. Arrive early, especially on weekends as the parking lot tends to fill up.
For the secluded(ish) beach lover
Midnight Pass was previously an inlet that separated the southern tip of Siesta Key from the northern tip of Casey Key. The pass was filled in 1983 to help save homes in the area from erosion, and remains a big ecological debate among locals to this day. It also happens to be a favorite destination for paddlers on the prowl for a sparsely attended beach.
Start at the Turtle Beach Park put-in, and make your way past the tiny homes and condos that line Blind Pass Lagoon. Wind your way past pristine mangroves and you’ll reach Midnight Pass beach.
For the gator lovers
If you harbor a fear of alligators, Myakka River is not for you. You’ll be lucky if you find a 100-yard stretch where you don’t see one basking in the sun along the riverbank or floating mere feet from your paddle. But as long as you have a healthy respect for the gators (no poking, no prodding, no feeding), they’ll leave you alone. Start your adventure in Myakka River State Park, and put in at Lower Myakka Lake.