Empty beach looking at the water

6 Secret Sarasota Parks (and Beaches)

When you need to be alone in Sarasota nature, here are parks and beaches where you are least likely to run into strangers and most likely to have some breathing room.

A walk in the park can clear your head, get your heart pumping, and help connect you to your natural surroundings. It’s a peaceful and picturesque way to temporarily escape the real world, and there are lots of parks and preserves in Sarasota County where you can get away from it all (at least for a while).

If you’re looking for some space where you can be alone with your thoughts, here are six Sarasota County parks where you won’t run into a lot of other people. We can’t guarantee total solitude, but you should find plenty of breathing room at these spots.

South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve

Despite being situated in a suburban setting, South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve isn’t overrun by human visitors. You might spot lots of wildlife here though, from bald eagles swooping overhead to gopher tortoises slowly ambling about.

Eight miles of primitive trails wind throughout the preserve’s 222 acres, traveling through a range of habitats including a coastal hammock and scrubby flatwoods. Those scrubs mean you might get lucky and spy a Florida scrub-jay during your stroll, the only bird endemic to Florida.

Parking is only available at the smaller, southern portion of the preserve. So if you hoof it over to the northern side, you might find even more seclusion.

Manasota Scrub Preserve

Many people likely drive right by Manasota Scrub Preserve on their way to the beach. But this pretty Englewood park is definitely worth a visit for some peace and quiet. Well-marked unpaved trails travel through the main portion of the preserve’s 179 acres, meandering through scrub habitat, pine flatwoods, and seasonal wetlands.

As you walk among the towering pine, oak, and palm trees, you might encounter gopher tortoises, butterflies, and all kinds of birds during your visit. During the spring and fall, wildflowers adorn portions of the site; look for colorful blooms like tarflower, morning glories, and wild pennyroyal.

There’s just a small parking lot at the preserve, but there’s also a bike rack if you’re close enough to pedal over. Bring a lunch to enjoy at the cluster of picnic tables just past the small boardwalk near the entrance.

T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve

The “BoldlyGo” mountain biking trail at Carlton Reserve in Venice gets a lot of use. But head out on the hiking trails and you’ll often feel like you’re the only person in the park, especially if you venture way out on the multiuse backcountry trails. There are miles and miles that can be explored on foot (or on horseback if you’re so inclined). The entire reserve is a whopping 24,565 acres containing pine flatwoods, dry prairies, oak hammocks, and freshwater wetlands.

Near the main parking area, there’s a less-than-a-mile loop that’s great for families and still provides that middle-of-nowhere feeling, where all you can hear are birds chirping, lizards skittering through the brush, and the wind rustling through the trees. Informative signage along the way offers insight on things like controlled burns, a forest-management method to prevent overgrowth and leaf litter from making naturally occurring fires worse. (Charred tree trunks might show evidence of recent burns.) Other trails that intersect with this loop offer options for longer hikes.


Scherer Thaxton Preserve

This newer park in Osprey might be missed by folks whizzing by on Honore Avenue. But those who make a pit stop here find a surprising respite spot. There’s a shorter trail that travels around the park’s lake, with several benches along the way for stopping to admire the view. (You do have to walk on the sidewalk on Honore Avenue in a few spots, especially if you want to do a complete loop around the lake, so expect a little roadside time during your nature escape.)

You can also launch canoes and kayaks and fish in the lake. A series of dirt trails take more adventurous visitors deeper into the park. And one trail acts as a connector to the Legacy Trail, a paved pathway built on a former rail corridor that’s an uber-popular spot for biking, walking, and running in these parts.

Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park

Get a taste of Old Florida at 168-acre Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port. Four miles of trails are lined with lush palms and decades-old, moss-draped oak trees whose branches sometimes stretch across the path overhead.

The less-than-two-mile Yellow Trail takes hikers alongside and sometimes over Myakkahatchee Creek, a tributary of the Myakka River that gently flows through the park. Additional trails allow visitors to extend their walk and spend more time amid nature.

The park is also popular with horseback riders. Look down and you may see horseshoe imprints in the dirt, or you might even spot a horse and rider moseying by in the distance.

Venice Urban Forest

Visitors can now stroll through the first phase of this project to create a greenbelt corridor between the Venetian Waterway Trail and Venice’s Seaboard industrial area. Along with existing trees and other vegetation, you’ll spy newly planted oaks, strangler figs, and other trees as part of the effort to create an environmental buffer and wildlife habitat between the business zone and Intracoastal Waterway.

Already butterflies are flitting about near the entrance, flying between “poor man’s pepper,” beautyberry shrubs, and other plantings. Look for birds perched on leafy branches or the forest’s snags (or dead trees) that sometimes attract raptors. And while you’ll glimpse lots of bikers pedaling the Waterway Trail, you probably won’t encounter a lot of other visitors walking the unpaved trail at this still under-the-radar spot.

Are There Secret Beaches?

If you’d rather stroll a sandy shoreline than a woodsy trail, there are a few semi-secret beaches where you can escape the crowd. You won’t get that totally secluded-island feel, but you won’t have to dodge a lot of beach chairs or sandcastle builders either.

On Sarasota’s Siesta Key, park at Turtle Beach and then walk south along the shoreline to Palmer Point Beach. Because this stretch of sand doesn’t have any parking or facilities, you might not encounter many other people willing to make the effort to get down to this beach at the southern tip of the barrier island.

You also have to put in a little effort to get to prime snorkeling spot Point of Rocks, located south of Crescent Beach on Siesta Key. If you’re driving, try for one of the parking spots at Beach Access 12 and then walk from there. If you’re staying somewhere nearby and can travel by foot, you can also get to Point of Rocks from Beach Access 13.

On Venice Island, skip the busy parking lot at Venice Beach and get onto the sand at Chauncy Howard Park. You can bike here or walk from your rental or the parking lot at nearby Graser Park. There are lots of condo buildings lining the beachfront, but you won’t encounter as many beachgoers here as you would just south down the shoreline at Venice Beach.