Terra Ceia Preserve State Park

Located right off Interstate-275, Terra Ceia Preserve State Park is the perfect place to spend some secluded time in nature. Terra Ceia Preserve State Park is a 1,932-acre preserve in Manatee County. Keep reading until the end of this post to find out why this park will always be a special place to me!  

A lake at the entrance at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park

Terra Ceia Preserve State Park – The Basics 

  • Address: 130 Terra Ceia Road Terra Ceia, Florida 34250 
    • Please see note about address for the trailheads. 
  • Driving distance from select Florida cities: 
    • St. Petersburg: 20 minutes 
    • Tampa: 45 minutes 
    • Orlando: 2 hours 15 minutes 
    • Jacksonville: 4 hours 
    • Miami: 4 hours 
  • Hours: 8 AM to 7 PM 
  • Entrance fee: Free  
  • Activities: Birding, boating, fishing, hiking, and paddling  
  • Pet friendly: Must always be kept on a 6-foot leash 

TIP: Please note this is a rural preserve, there are no restroom facilities in the park. 

Myself and my dog walking on the trail

Getting There  

Thanks to a fellow Florida blogger, Florida Lives, the trailheads are now easy to find on Google Maps. If you google Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, you will end up about 3.5 miles from the actual trailhead. Lauren at Florida Lives added the trailhead to google maps a couple years ago when she first visited the park. If you search for “Terra Ceia Preserve Trail Head” that will lead you to the hiking trails.  

The trailheads are accessible from the entrance gates at the end of Hightower Road. There is not a usual entrance sign, but there is a small brown “Real Florida” state park sign to ensure you are in the right spot. There is an area to park on either side of the road in the grass once you’ve passed the Real Florida sign, just make sure you aren’t blocking the gates.  

Welcome to the real Florida entrance sign

Hiking at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park 

There are three trailheads located at the Hightower Road entrance and are labeled by color. They all begin at the same spot, but then each branch out to make their own path. The blue trail is a loop, the white trail is an out-and-back trail, and the orange trail has two small loops. The total distance of all three trails is around 9-miles. Individual trail distances are listed below with an estimated round-trip mileage.  

  • Pine Flatwoods Loops (orange): 3.1 miles 
  • Salt Flat Spur (white): 3.2 miles 
  • Hammock Loop (blue): 2.7 miles 
Terra Ceia Preserve State Park Trail Map

We completed the Hammock Loop, and it was well marked and easy to follow. There were a few areas where the grass was a little high, and if there has been a lot of recent rain you could run into mud or standing water.  

Trail marking for orange, white, and blue trails

According to the Florida State Park website there is an additional hiking trail available, however I have not been there yet and there was limited information available. The hiking trail is off Bishop Harbor Road, and the address is 8054 Bishop Harbor Road in Palmetto. Total trail distance was not listed. I will  be sure to update this post once I have a chance to check it out. Also, if you’ve been there feel free to leave a comment on your experience!

Other activities at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park 

Located along the coast, spending time on the water is another great way to explore Terra Ceia Preserve State Park. Activities include fishing, paddling, and boating. There are currently no boat or kayak/canoe rentals within the park.  

There are several kayak or canoe launches along Bishop Harbor Road or Stotz Road. Terra Ceia Bay allows shallow draft vessels to launch from the boat ramp during mid to high tide. The bay is made up of a mix of saltwater and freshwater providing an array of fish to catch. Limited information can be found on the Florida State Parks website.  

Tall grassy area along the trail and a clear blue sky

Why is Terra Ceia Preserve State Park special to me? 

My boyfriend and I visited the park with our dog, Zelda, to check out another new Florida State Park in our area. The park was only about 45 minutes from Tampa, and we made plans earlier in the week to hike the blue trail.  

What I didn’t realize when I was picking a park to hike at that Saturday was that my boyfriend was also planning to propose! He surprised me by hiring a photographer and working out the details of which trail we would be hiking on.  

Terra Ceia Preserve State Park was a perfect spot to get engaged because the park was not busy at all when we visited. We ended up seeing 4 other people during the entire time we were there. For me, this was perfect as I wouldn’t have wanted a lot of people to be around.  

We were able to get some great pictures of the proposal and some additional pictures afterwards. It was absolutely perfect, and I could not think of anywhere I’d rather be proposed to than at a Florida State Park.  

My fiance, our dog, and I after he proposed

Final Thoughts on Terra Ceia Preserve State Park  

The park is still undergoing a lot of restoration, therefore currently water activities including boating, kayaking, or fishing are popular at the park. However, there are also some great hiking trails located off Hightower Road. The trails are usually not too crowded so this is an ideal spot to spend some time surrounded by nature.  

Grassy open trail at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park

Looking for other Florida State Parks to visit in the area?  

Check out these posts below 

The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. Information will be verified and updated periodically. If you are planning to visit Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, I recommend verifying the most current information with the Florida State Park website.  

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