Venice and the Suncoast are home to some of the most spectacular natural settings in the country. Take advantage of the summer weather by exploring some of the best local wildlife parks in the area. The Herald-Tribune recently listed the best parks in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Marvel at plants and animals that share our home in southwest florida by visiting one of these 10 parks.

 

Jelks Preserve (2300 North River Road, Venice): Open to the public daily from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm. Hike over 8 miles of trails, including the 3.3 mile outer loop, along the Myakka River. Visitors can go canoeing and kayaking on the river. You will also see amazing flora and fauna as you traverse through the preserve.


Deer Prairie Creek Preserve (10201 South Tamiami Trail, Venice): Open to the public daily from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm. This preserve is 6,349 acres large, providing ample space for exploring the natural environment. Hike the over 70 miles of trails to see alligators, wild turkeys, river otters, gopher tortoises, wading birds and many more species that call the preserve home.


Phillippi Estate Park (5500 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota): Open all year. Located south of downtown Sarasota, this 60 acre park is located along the Phillippi Creek. Along with spectacular environmental features, there are also historic sites for visitors to explore. Check out the historic Edson Keith Mansion, which is listed on the National Historic Registry. Hike through the woods along Little Sarasota Bay.


Rothenbach Park (8650 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota): Open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. This community park is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who love to walk, jog, or cycle. There are 5 miles of paved trails throughout the park. In addition, the kids will love playing on the two playgrounds. Each have a soft mulch surface so kids can play without worrying about scraping their knees.


Celery Fields (6893 Palmer Boulevard, Sarasota): Bird lovers will find paradise at Celery Fields. The park is on the Great Florida Birding Trail due to its incredibly diverse bird population. There was also a recent wetlands restoration completed at the 300 acre park. New boardwalks were installed to allow for easy viewing of the 20,000+ aquatic plants and trees.


Myakka River State Park (13208 State Road 72, Sarasota): This park is a local favorite. Paddle up to the Gator Hole to get close to these amazing creatures or take a walk through the spectacular Canopy Walk. You can camp there for the weekend while enjoying many different activities, including cycling and airboat rides.


Robinson Preserve (1704 99th Street NW, Bradenton): Robinson Preserve is an amazing spot for the entire family, including your beloved pet! This coastal preserve is 600 acres large. Witness dolphins and manatees as they play in the water by the boat launch. Enjoy time on the water before hitting the trails. Climb up the 53 foot observation tower for a spectacular view of Tampa Bay.


Bradenton Riverwalk (452 3rd Avenue W, Bradenton): In downtown Bradenton, this 1.5 mile walk overlooks the Manatee River. This beautiful walk features 19 pieces of public art and large postcards designed by local artists. Enjoy beach volleyball, the skate park, tidal discovery zone, splash pad, fishing pier, and so much more.


Oscar Scherer State Park (1843 South Tamiami Trail, Osprey): View the imperiled Scrub-jays, a bird found only in Florida, at this 1,381 acre park. Along with spectacular bird watching, visitors can enjoy hiking, bicycling, and kayaking. Go for a swim in the refreshing waters of Lake Osprey.


 

Emerson Point Preserve (5801 17th Street West, Palmetto): Located where the mouth of the Manatee River meets lower Tampa Bay, this preserve is 365 acres of beautiful natural environment. This site is also of great historic importance. On Fridays and Saturdays, check out the Portavant Temple Mound, the largest Native American Temple Mound in southwest Florida.