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10 Florida State Parks Near Sarasota

Did you know there are 175 Florida State Parks in Florida? A variety of outdoor activities including paddling, bicycling, camping, hiking, swimming, and horseback riding can be found at these parks. If you live near Sarasota, Florida I’ve rounded up 10 Florida State Parks within a 1-hour drive. 

Trail and small bridge at Alafia River State Park.

10 Florida State Parks near Sarasota  

Below are 10 Florida State Parks within 1 hour of Sarasota, Florida 

  1. Oscar Scherer State Park
  2. Myakka River State Park
  3. Terra Ceia Preserve State Park 
  4. Lake Manatee State Park
  5. Wingate Creek State Park
  6. Little Manatee River State Park 
  7. Stump Pass Beach State Park  
  8. Don Pedro Island State Park 
  9. Alafia River State Park 
  10. South Fork State Park
Welcome to the real Florida entrance sign.

Florida State Parks near Sarasota if you love a variety of activities

These parks truly have a little bit of everything. You can pick from multiple activities including bicycling, camping, paddling, hiking, and more! Below are 3 state parks to choose from.

1. Lake Manatee State Park

Lake Manatee was created when a dam was built across the Manatee River in the mid-1960’s. Manatee are not found in the lake despite the parks name due to the dam blocking access to the lake. Many activities can be enjoyed at this park including bicycling, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, paddling, and swimming, 

  • Bicycling: approximately 5 miles of bike paths partially paved and partially off-road  
  • Camping: 60-site camping area  
  • Hiking: enjoy 4.5 miles of hiking trails 
  • Paddling: enjoy Lake Manatee from the water (no rentals are available) 
  • Swimming: cool off in the water in designated swimming areas only, it is recommended to check current swimming conditions before visiting  

Other amenities in the park include a playground, picnic pavilion, and restrooms.   

Lake Manatee State Park entrance sign.

Essential Information: Lake Manatee State Park 

  • Address: 20007 State Road 64 East Bradenton, FL 34212  
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $5 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 40 minutes 
Trees surrounding the lake and the sun shining in the distance.

2. Oscar Scherer State Park

This park protects Florida scrub-jay habitat. Popular activities include hiking, bicycling, paddling, and camping. Other activities that can be enjoyed include swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing on the beach! 

  • Bicycling: 10 miles of trails which intersect with the 12-mile Legacy Trail 
  • Hiking: Over 15-miles of hiking trails to explore 
  • Paddling: Two canoe and kayak launches are available in the park to paddle South Creek (no rentals are available) 
  • Camping: Choose from camping, glamping, or a primitive group camping site 
  • Nature Center: Check the park website for open dates 
  • Swimming/snorkeling: Available at Lake Osprey in designated area  
  • Beach: Surrounding one-third of Lake Osprey is a sandy beach  

Other amenities include a fishing dock, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and restrooms. 

Essential Information: Oscar Scherer State Park 

  • Address: 1843 S. Tamiami Trail Osprey, FL 34229 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $5 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 30 minutes 

3. Little Manatee River State Park

The Little Manatee River has been designated as Outstanding Florida Water. Little Manatee River State Park has a little bit of something for everyone and popular activities include camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and paddling. 

  • Camping: choose from traditional camp sites, equestrian camping, or primitive camping  
  • Hiking: enjoy the 6.5-mile stacked loop hiking trail, the 0.8-mile Oxbow Nature Trail or over 15 miles of multi-use trails  
  • Horseback Riding: there are approximately 15 miles of equestrian trails within the park 
  • Paddling: enjoy a 6-mile designated paddling trail (no rentals are available) 

Other amenities include picnic pavilions, a playground, and restrooms.

Boardwalk with railing at Little Mantee River State park

Essential Information: Little Manatee River State Park 

  • Address: 215 Lightfoot Road Wimauma, FL 33598 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $5 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 50 minutes 
Little Manatee River State Park entrance sign.

Florida State Parks near Sarasota to see alligators

There is one park that quickly comes to mind in Sarasota for the chance to see alligators and other wildlife.

1. Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s largest state parks and absolutely worth a visit! One of the most popular activities is the Canopy Walkway and Tower! Climb the 74-feet observation tower and walk across the suspension bridge to a 360 view of the park. It can be accessed via the William S. Boylston nature Trail. The canopy walkway has been reopened after damage from Hurricane Ian in 2022.

This park is also extremely popular for wildlife viewing, especially alligators! One of the most unique hikes is to Deep Hole. This is a 131-feet deep sinkhole located at Lower Myakka Lake. A permit is required and only 30 permits are available per day at the ranger’s station. The hike is 4.4-miles out and back. 

Other popular activities include bicycling, camping, hiking, fishing, paddling, and horseback riding. Picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and restrooms are also available.  

Alligator in lake.

Essential Information: Myakka River State Park 

  • Address: 13208 State Road 72 Sarasota, FL 34241
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 35 minutes 
Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park.

Florida State Parks near Sarasota if you enjoy remote adventure and hiking

There are 3 state parks on this list that are more rural and provide the opportunity for hiking in remote areas of Florida for those that are more adventurous.

1. Terra Ceia Preserve State Park

This remote park is located just off of interstate 275 in Manatee County. The most popular activities at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park include kayaking, fishing, and hiking.  

  • Hiking: enjoy 9 miles of hiking trails accessible at the end of Hightower Road 
  • Kayaking: Canoe or kayak launches are available on Bishop Harbor Road and Stotz Road  

This is a rural preserve. There are no restrooms, pavilions, or playgrounds available. Please ensure to bring plenty of water as well as any snacks you may need.  

Grassy open trail at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park a Florida State Park.

Essential Information: Terra Ceia Preserve State Park 

  • Address: 130 Terra Ceia Road Terra Ceia, Florida 34250 
    • Hiking trails are located at the end of Hightower Road (search for Terra Ceia Preserve Trail Head in Google maps) 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: Free 
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 35 minutes 
A lake at the entrance at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park.

2. Wingate Creek State Park  

I have not had the opportunity to visit Wingate Creek State Park yet. The park is managed by Lake Manatee State Park and a gate code is required for entry. The ranger station at Lake Manatee State Park can be contacted for the gate code and any questions at 941-741-3028. The parks are approximately 15 minutes away from each other.  

Hiking is the primary activity at this park and there are 4-miles of soft sand trails. The park is maintained by prescribed fires and if you visit in the fall wildflowers are typically present. Please note, there are no restroom facilities available.  

Essential Information: Wingate Creek State Park  

  • Address: 38620 East State Road 64 Myakka City, FL 34251 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: Free 
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 50 minutes 

3. South Fork State Park  

The most remote Florida State Park on this list is South Fork State Park. This park is not easily accessible as extensive walking is required to reach the park grounds. According to the Florida State Park website there are plans to increase accessibility in the future. The park protects some rare plants and flowers. The park website states hiking is the most popular activity, but from reviewing the website it does not appear there are any well-maintained trails.  

Essential Information: South Fork State Park 

  • Address: Duette, Florida 34219 
    • If you would like to visit, contact Lake Manatee State Park ranger station at 941-741-3028 
  • Hours: None posted  
  • Fee: Free 
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 1 hour 

I wanted to include South Fork State Park on my list, for the most adventurous readers. However, I would consider this being one of the last state parks you want to check off your list or wait until further accessibility and development has been completed.  

Florida State Parks near Sarasota if you enjoy the beach

If relaxing on the beach is more your speed, I have 2 Florida State Parks for you to visit!

1. Stump Pass Beach State Park

Enjoy this mile long beach year-round. Swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and shelling are all popular activities. There is also a short 1.3-mile nature trail at the southern end of the park. A canoe and kayak launch also provides access to the Gulf of Mexico. No rentals are available in the park.  

Restrooms and picnic pavilions are available for use.   

Essential Information: Stump Pass Beach State Park 

  • Address: 900 Gulf Blvd. South end of Manasota Key Englewood, FL 34233 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $3 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 1 hour 

2. Don Pedro Island State Park 

Due to damage from Hurricane Ian, Don Pedro Island State Park is currently closed. However, the land base on Cape Haze Peninsula is open. Check back on the Florida State Park website for any updates. This island is only accessibly via private boat or ferry. Ferry services are currently suspended.  

When open, on the island a 1-mile sandy beach awaits visitors to enjoy swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and shelling. Currently, you can enjoy hiking on the land base. There is a north and south trail that start on opposite ends of the parking lot. Restroom facilities are available at the Don Pedro Land Base. 

Essential Information: Don Pedro Island State Park 

  • Address: 8450 Placida Road Cape Haze, FL 33946 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $3 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 1 hour  
    • Don Pedro Island only accessible by boat or ferry

Florida State Parks near Sarasota for mountain biking

There is one park that quickly comes to mind when you mention mountain biking.

1. Alafia River State Park

The most popular activity at Alafia River State Park is mountain biking! Even if you don’t enjoy mountain biking this park is worth a visit to experience the unique landscape that was created by a phosphate mine. Other popular activities include camping, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. 

  • Mountain biking: explore over 20-miles of trails  
  • Camping: choose from traditional camp sites, glamping, equestrian camping, and primitive group camp sites  
  • Hiking: there are over 20 miles of multi-use trails, I highly recommend checking out the Old Agrico Trail while you are there 
  • Horseback riding: explore the 20 miles of multi-use trails on horseback (utilize the north equestrian entrance) 

Additional amenities include picnic pavilions, a playground, restrooms, and a full-service bike shop.

Mountain biking ramp at Alafia River State Park.

Essential Information: Alafia River State Park 

  • Address: 14326 S County Road 39 Lithia, FL 33547 
  • Hours: 8 AM to sundown 
  • Fee: $5 per vehicle  
  • Driving distance from Sarasota: 1 hour 
Alafia River State Park sign.

Summary of Florida State Parks near Sarasota  

There is something for everyone at Florida State Parks regardless of if you enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, bicycling, or just relaxing on the beach! I have visited 5 of these 10 Florida State Parks so far. Have you visited any? Comment below and tell me which one you plan to visit first!   

My dog and I at the top of a hill.

Ready to venture a little further from Sarasota? 

Check out these posts for more Florida State Park adventures 

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