Living in a beach community we are surrounded by water. Although many locals and tourists enjoy the beaches, there are a lot of other water activities to take advantage of. Boating, fishing, scuba diving and kayaking are some popular ways to get out on the water.
When we moved to Englewood we started looking around for places to launch our kayaks and canoe. Here are some of the best spots that we've found. Each area offers a different experience but all are worth checking out.
Separating Englewood from Manasota Key is Lemon Bay and this is a good place for kayaking. We usually stay along the coastline looking for birds in the trees and fish in the shallow water. Be aware that boaters will be driving at higher speeds within the channel markers so be careful if crossing from one side to another.
There are several launch areas along the mainland and Manasota Key. One of our favorite places to put in is the Lemon Bay Park and Environmental Center. From this parking lot it's a short walk to the kayak launch. In addition to kayaking from here, there are two miles of easy walking trails and a few different boardwalks that line the Bay. The Environmental Center has clean bathrooms and offers educational tours throughout the year.
Other free and easy places to launch a kayak, canoe or boat into Lemon Bay are Indian Mound Park and the Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Park. Both parks are small but have bathrooms and easy parking.
From Manasota Key, three places to launch your kayak into the Bay are the boat ramp at Manasota Beach, the very back of the parking area at Blind Pass Beach, or from Stump Pass Beach State Park.
If you don't have your own kayaks, canoes or paddleboards, there are two companies that offer rentals. Beach Road Watersports has boats, jet skis, kayaks and paddleboards for rent. They like to guide people towards Gottfried Creek as well as Lemon Bay. Allure Boat Rentals on Manasota Key rents paddleboards and Jet Skis and will even deliver if you're staying on the island.
Oyster Creek Environmental Park
Discovering this park felt like a hidden gem in plain site. There's a sign and pull off by Lemon Bay High School that takes you into a small parking lot. This is also a trailhead for a nice two mile loop over Oyster Creek and around a neighborhood. The small launch area is easily accessible and once you're in the creek you can decide if you want to paddle into the area with houses or out towards the bay. Keep your eyes open for snook, mullet and manatees in these shallow waters. If you paddle towards the housing communities, the creek does get down to a trickle and you'll have to turn back but this is still a great option for an easy 90 minute paddle.
This portion of Myakka River is my favorite area to kayak. This Sarasota County Park is open from 6 a.m. to sunset and there's plenty of parking spaces. It's a short walk to the kayak launch area but the dock is specifically adapted to get into your kayak and then push off. Once you're in the main part of the river you can paddle in either direction but we usually start against the current.
With old Oak trees and Spanish moss, this portion of the river feels like Old Florida at its best. This part of the river is far enough away from any roads that the only sound that breaks the silence is other people talking.
Snook Haven Park and Restaurant
The first time you turn onto the dirt road leading to Snook Haven, you wonder if you're in the right place. This section of the river has an interesting past including being used during Prohibition for smuggling and later used as a Hollywood set stage as an exotic jungle location. Now it's home to Snook Haven Restaurant which is managed by the same team that operates Sharky's on The Pier and Fins.
A concession at the restaurant rents kayaks and canoes which makes it the perfect spot if you don't own your own or have guests visiting and you need to rent. After a couple of hours paddling the river the restaurant is a great place for a cold drink, great food and live music.
Just before the restaurant entrance is a turn off on the left that takes you to Snook Haven Park run by Sarasota County Parks. This area has a boat ramp, plenty of parking, picnic tables and shade trees. It is a popular spot for boats and kayaks to put into the river. Because of the current we usually head upriver and you'll eventually paddle under the I-75 bridge.
While I'm sure there are more spots for us to discover, these will get you started. It's a big world out there and I'm always trying to see more of it. Maybe I'll see you on the river.