If you ever wondered what Florida looked like before the famous mouse moved here, a visit to Myakka River State Park in Sarasota will take you back in time. The park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, at a whopping 58 square miles. Kidding Around’s Melanie takes readers on a tour of the place she enjoyed on school field trips as a kid!
To see more from our trip, check out our Sarasota, FL story highlight on Instagram
If you are looking for a more controlled (and air-conditioned) wildlife experience during a trip to the Sarasota area of Florida, check out our review of the Mote Marine Aquarium.
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About Myakka River State Park
Spending most of my youth in the soul-crushing heat of Florida made me not want to spend a ton of time outdoors as a kid. Those that know me now will probably find that surprising because I love the outdoors as an adult! I was excited to rediscover the State Parks of my former home state, and Myakka River State Park in Sarasota was the first stop on my list. Despite having gone several times in my youth, this trip felt like a first-time visit. I didn’t remember how large the park was or how many alligators call the waters here home. (Spoiler: it’s a lot of alligators)
Things to Do at Myakka River State Park
You could easily spend the entire day exploring Myakka River State Park. That’s a massive bargain at just a $6 entry fee per carload! If you are looking to stay the night in the park, there are several accommodation options.
Considering the low entry fee, visiting the park would even be worth it to go if you never intended to leave your car and just drive around the vast park looking at the wildlife. However, there is so much to see and do; it would be a shame to come all that way and not venture out. Weather and cranky children being what they will be, it’s an option if the universe isn’t cooperating.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are super ambitious and want to immerse yourself in what the park has to offer, you’ll need to arrive early. A portion of the park is accessible by permit only, and there are only 30 permits issued per day on a first-come, first-serve basis. The hike to the mysterious “Deep Hole” is a two-mile hike down a dirt path that leads to a nearly 300-foot wide sinkhole where alligators congregate by the dozens. You can also paddle the waters of the Myakka River to explore this environmentally diverse wonderland.
Exploring the permitted part of the park is not something I suggest with small children. It’s best left to enjoy with older children, in my opinion. Despite my children being seasoned paddlers, I have huge reservations about getting in a canoe or hiking around that many alligators with them in tow. Best to do it sans-children at least once to know if it would be appropriate for your kids.
Family-Friendly Hikes at Myakka River State Park
There are still plenty of other things to enjoy while at the park that are family-friendly. One of the newer features and more popular ones is the Canopy Hiking Trail Walkway.
The William Boylston Nature Trail is a self-guided interpretive walk that is kid-friendly and under a mile and a half round trip. The hike is made more educational with the Hammock Hunt provided by the park. The canopy walk offers visitors a unique view of the park, and the tower gives you a birds-eye view at seven stories up.
Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72, Sarasota FL
Hours: 8 am to Sunset, 365 days a year
Entry fee: $6 per car
Traveling to Sarasota, Florida? Don’t miss our extensive guide to the area, full of things to do, places to stay and where to dine.