Animal lovers from all over the world are fond of Siesta Key wildlife viewing. Siesta Key community leaders also adore wildlife, as it is an essential and vital aspect of the community’s DNA. This is proven by the number of widely-supported and accessible wildlife preserves, protection programs and things to do involving animals.
What can you see after booking a stay on Siesta Key? There are at least five major wildlife attractions near the island, and each one has something unique to offer guests.
Jim Neville Marine Preserve
Location: Little Sarasota Bay, Sarasota, FL 34242
Jim Neville Marine Preserve is a treasure of the area. Located in what is locally referred to as “Little Sarasota Bay,” this off-the-radar preserve is the perfect location for kayaking.
It’s one of the main grounds for migratory birds and settled birds alike, including egrets, pelicans, sandpipers, and osprey. A soaring bald eagle is not uncommon, and some lucky few may even see one near the ground and along the shore right in front of Peppertree Bay.
Manatees can be seen here throughout the year and are common during winter and spring months, when colder weather draws them to Florida’s warmer waters. Overall, the preserve features an impressive range of wildlife that is rarely found other places with as much ease.
South Lido County Park
Location: 2201 Benjamin Franklin Dr, Sarasota, FL 34236
South Lido County Park is all about the thick mangrove tunnels and incredible kayaking adventures that can be enjoyed. Kayaking gives visitors a chance to see some smaller channels and the lake that makes up the interior of the park. During your trip you’re likely to see many Anhingas – incredible water birds that dive to feed. You will also see plenty of other shorebird species, for a lucky few, manatees.
Kayaking allows you an opportunity to get into the most scenic areas of park to see the wildlife, but you can also hike along dedicated trails and the beaches to view the local species if you prefer. There are also full facilities for families including bathrooms, grills and picnic areas.
Myakka River State Park
Location: 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL 34241
Alligators, raccoons, deer, turtles, wild boars, wild turkeys, rare birds, and many other species call Myakka River State Park their home. As one of the largest parks in the area, it’s a major tourist destination. Trails weave in and out through this vast 37,000-acre park that is full of breathtaking scenery. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Florida, with pinelands, wetlands, prairies, and hammocks to explore.
Guided kayak or boat tours can take you to some of the top wildlife hotspots where you can spot the species mentioned above. Campsites are available for individuals who want to stick around for the night. The grounds are big enough to accommodate many people, so guests will often run into kayakers, paddle boarders, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts across its nearly 58 square miles of wetlands.
Oscar Scherer State Park
Location: 1843 S Tamiami Trail, Osprey, FL 34229
The park has many recreational activities across its nearly 1,400 acres, with wildlife viewing being one of the top. The park is famous for a presence of Florida scrub-jays, a once abundant and now highly-endangered bird. Trails circle the acreage and campsites can be booked for extended visits.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Location: 3701 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34234
Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a bit different from the other items on this list. While the others are preserves and public parks, Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a tropical zoo. Many of the animals here won’t be found in high numbers in the nearby wild.
The “Birds of Prey” exhibit consists solely of found injured animals in the Sarasota area. Guests can find lemurs, all sorts of reptiles, porcupine, skunks, tortoises, and flamingos in the zoo’s most popular exhibits.
Siesta Key is a top destination for beach and wildlife enthusiasts, from rare migratory birds to manatees, reptiles and more. You’ll likely spend a lot of time on Siesta Beach and at the many enticing restaurants and shopping destinations during your vacation here, but don’t forget that just around the corner is a rich expanse of fascinating wildlife to experience at these top wildlife attractions and many others in the region.