Check out the Jim Neville Marine Preserve at the southern tip of Siesta Key for a day of weaving in and out of inlets on a kayak, fishing, exploring 35 acres of preserved land, and beaching on remote stretches of water-access-only sand.
This island gem is a quick kayak paddle away from many Siesta Key vacation rentals, wedged between the key and mainland Sarasota County.
The marine preserve is named after renowned Sarasota environmentalist Jim Neville and is one of the county’s must-see attractions for those who love the outdoors and marine wildlife.
Things to Do
The Jim Neville Marine Preserve is the perfect place for a kid-friendly day of outdoor exploration. With plenty of things to do and wildlife to see, the preserve’s attractions will keep the whole family entertained for hours.
Turtle Beach provides one of the best kayak launch points to reach the preserve quickly, and a number of local tour providers offer guided kayak tours of the area such as Siesta Sports Rentals at (941)-346-1797 and Bay Gulf Adventures at (941)-893-7221.
The birding and wildlife viewing is incredible here. Your chances of seeing wildlife are much better by boat, a popular way to tour the preserve.
Rent a kayak or canoe or book a tour and spend a couple of hours paddling around the island – about a mile-long loop.
Paddlers have reported seeing bald eagles, great blue herons, pelicans, egret, osprey, sandpiper, and plenty of jumping fish. Dolphins and manatees can be seen occasionally, as well. The areas in and around the preserve can be quite shallow, so check the tides before heading out.
You can also paddle gulf side of Siesta Key and bayside in front of the mainland for different habitats and attractions. Check out the soft, shallow sandbars and tunnel-like mangrove forests that surround the island.
While motorboats are permitted, due to the rocks, oyster beds, and other shallows, motor boats can only land in certain spots. Paddlecraft, on the other hand, have limitless access to the intricate maze of waterways, inlets, bays, and points around the preserve.
For swimming, head to the north end of the preserve to find a secluded water-access beach. This is a great beach to go for a swim in the shallows, catch a few rays, or collect a few of the many shells scattered along the shore. Be sure to bring what you need, as there are no facilities this remote area of the park.
Fishing is another great kid-friendly activity that can be enjoyed at many spots on the preserve including a dedicated fishing pier. The shallow waters make it a perfect spot for younger and less experienced fishers.
Hikers can enjoy the preserves’ unpaved trails during low tide. Because of the island’s low elevation, the trails can be quite wet when the tide is high.
What to Bring
To ensure a fun, family day at Jim Neville Marine Preserve, be sure to bring the following with you:
- Lots of water
- Safety equipment including floatation devices
The preserve has a “leave no trace” policy, so be sure to pack your trash and take it with you when you leave the island. Or dine at one of the many eating establishments on the island.
Location & Hours
The Jim Neville Marine Preserve is located on Little Sarasota Bay in Sarasota, between Siesta Key and the mainland. It has no designated hours of operation. For more information, contact the county at (941) 861-5000.
If you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State’s sandy beaches, let our staff help you find the perfect Siesta Key vacation rentals for your family by calling us at (941)-349-7777. Get ready to sink your toes into white-sand beaches, savor the fresh seafood, and explore the incredible natural beauty of Siesta Key.