We visited so many interesting places during our Florida adventure you'd think it would be difficult to choose a favorite. It wasn't. Hands down our favorite Florida destination was Manasota Key. Located in Englewood, FL this narrow strip of land separates the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay. Manasota Key was a peninsula that was transformed into a barrier island by the Intracoastal Waterway. It's 11 miles long with a total area of 3.1 square miles, roughly 640 acres. A short walk between the bay & the ocean makes it easy to catch a sunrise or sunset.
We planned to spend one week on Manasota Key but loved it so much we stayed for two. We combed the beaches in front of our resorts daily but one particular spot on Manasota Key kept drawing us back, Stump Pass Beach State Park. If you're driving to Stump Pass parking is $3 per car for the day. (Plan to arrive early during peak season.) Stump Pass Beach State Park is open daily from 8 am until sundown. Visitors can enjoy the beach, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, kayaking or paddle boarding on the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay.
Stump Pass Beach State Park is a remarkable place, beautiful and so diverse. Five distinct natural communities can be found at Stump Pass. A mile-long nature trail leads visitors through all 5 areas. See if you can spot them in the slideshow below.
Beautiful, isn't it? Well, believe it or not, it gets better. Walking the nature trail at Stump Pass is like visiting an informal botanical garden. It's full of Florida natives, complete with plant identification markers!
A little off topic but still plant related, I didn't realize Scheffleras bloomed and produced berries. In our neck of the woods Schefflera is a house plant. The Schefflera below is part of the landscaping at the condo we rented. It's not native to this area but it sure is beautiful. I love the look of the multi-colored berries against the variegated foliage.
Interesting facts: Gopher land tortoise spend a great deal of time underground. Their dens can extend up to 50' into the ground. These burrows protect the tortoise from heat, sunstroke & bush fires. It's common for gopher tortoise to share their dens with snakes. In fact, 100 different species of animals are known to take shelter in gopher tortoise dens. During bush fire events, the gopher tortoise's burrows are essential for the survival of the ecosystem.
We hung out on the point for a long time looking for shark's teeth & pretty shells. We took a break from beach combing to watch the birds. That's when we spotted a pair of dolphin in the bay. We were so excited! It was the first time either of us had seen dolphin in the wild. It was fun to watch them pester the fisherman for handouts.
We decided to hike the beach back to our condo instead of taking the trail. Of course we did, that's a mile long opportunity to look for more shark's teeth! Along the way we happened upon saplings & sticks decorated with seashells. It made me smile. Guess we're not the only ones who think this place is special.
I snapped the photo below on our walk back to the condo. It's now a large canvas that hangs in our home like a vision board. A daily reminder to keep up the hustle so we can return to this wonderful place next winter.
Our final few posts will highlight the treasures we found while out beach combing Stump Pass Beach and Manasota Key. Marine & wildlife, fossils, seashells and one incredible night of ocean fluorescence. See you soon!