Myakka State Park: One of Florida’s Largest, Oldest & Most Scenic Parks
Myakka State Park, one of the largest and most gorgeous parks in Florida, is one of the best I have visited thus far in the state. Here you will find an expansive 29,000 acre nature oasis with endless opportunities for fun and recreation.
Within the park, you will find numerous activities, including: hiking trails, biking paths, scenic drives, alligator boat tours, safari tram rides, a canopy walkway, campgrounds, and a scenic observation tower.
Morning is a beautiful time to plan a visit. Not only will the temperatures will be more comfortable, but you can also take advantage of fewer crowds and increased opportunities for wildlife sightings. I recommend a fall or winter visit as the summers can be pretty hot and humid with the chance of daily thunderstorms.
On our first visit, we actually ran into a thunderstorm, luckily not until the very end of our visit. It was fun to see the dark storm clouds suddenly appear, and actually helped to cool us down a bit! If you do decide on a summer visit, be sure to prepare for the heat and arrive as early as possible!
“The Real Florida”
There are so many things to do at this enormous Florida park that it would be impossible to explore them all in a single visit. The highlight within the park is the extensive variety of gorgeous biking and nature trails. 39+ miles of hiking trails within the forest enable you to explore nature and wildlife in a serene, uninterrupted setting.
Fittingly, Myakka State Park’s motto is “…the Real Florida.” Spending the day at Myakka is like taking a walk back in time, observing what Florida looked like before all the congestion and businesses that exist today took over.
Attractions at Myakka
Scenic drive/bike loop
The 7 miles of paved road around the park is great for scenic drives, walks, or bicycling. A beautiful combination of oak and palm trees line the path and provide plenty of shade coverage. Views of the gorgeous Myakka Lake can be enjoyed for most of the ride.
Serene, leafy live oak and cabbage palm hammocks line the entire path
Biking is a great way to get in an awesome workout while also taking photography and enjoying the quiet views. Don’t worry if you do not have a bike with you – rentals are available at the Myakka Outpost. Mountain biking trails are also available for those who desire a more rugged setting.
Great views of the Upper Myakka Lake along the scenic trail
The serene views are so relaxing
The hiking trails allow you to lose yourself more in nature while exploring local plants and wildlife. The 39 miles of trails are part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, a 1300 mile long continuous path. At this point, the trail is not yet complete and at times hikers will have to pass busy roads. View the Florida National Scenic Trail website to stay up to date on the progress.
Observation tower/canopy walkway
As for hiking at Myakka, the paths are beautiful with plenty of gorgeous oak trees, pine trees, palm trees, and views of dry Florida prairie. A canopy walkway gives you the opportunity to walk amongst the tree tops. From here, you can climb to the top of the 74 foot observation tower and enjoy the panoramic views of the area.
Great views from the tower! Trees at far as the eye can see!
14 miles of equestrian trails are also available. You must bring your own horse and proof of negative Coggins test.
Canoeing and kayaking along the lake is another great way to explore the surroundings. Whether you choose to take a ride along the Myakka River (aka “Wild and Scenic River,”) or the Upper or Lower Myakka Lake, you are bound to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Kayaking enables you to experience nature and wildlife up close like no other activity in the park. Rentals are available at the Myakka Outpost.
Bird watching is another popular activity due to the diversity of wetlands found within the park. Birdwalk, located on Upper Myakka Lake, consists of a beautiful boardwalk where you have the opportunity to take a stroll while viewing many different species of bird. Osprey, eagles, and shorebirds commonly make appearances.
Myakka is a great place to catch a glimpse of an alligator. They are spotted all over the park year-round, although the spring or winter months are your best bet. The beloved “Gator Gal” (once the world’s largest airboat) has been replaced by pontoon rides.
A picturesque cruise along the Upper Myakka lake is a perfect addition to your day at the park. Be sure to bring a camera just in case you spot a gator! Along the way you will learn many interesting facts about gators. Online reservations not available. Note that boat tours are first come, first served.
The cruise offers an excellent opportunity to photograph beautiful Upper Myakka Lake
Check out this alligator we saw at the observation deck near the outpost
During the winter and spring months, the park offers wildlife “tram safari” rides. On this hour long ride, you will learn about the park’s history while taking in beautiful views of the forests, marshes, and prairies. A great option for anyone who doesn’t feel like or isn’t up for a long bike ride or walk. The tour allows you to sit comfortably while a tour guide points out different unique aspects of the wildlife and ecosystems found within Myakka.
Other park amenities
Scenic areas to have a picnic lunch are available to those planning a whole day at the park. As an alternative, you can head over for a snack at The Pink Gator Cafe. Here you will plenty of odd menu items such as an alligator stew and fried alligator bites!
For those of you (myself included) whom would rather leave the gators in the water, there are several vegetarian options such as a veggie burger and edamame salad. Check out the crazy Pink Gator Cafe menu.
Three campgrounds consisting of 90 campsites are available for the more adventurous. 6 primitive campsites are also available. If you prefer to sleep indoors, you can rent out one of the park’s historic log cabins. They accommodate up to 6 people and include a bathroom, full kitchen, and living room. Linens, utensils, and a microwave are also provided.
The Myakka Outposts offers camping supplies, a cafe, bike and kayak rentals, and a gift shop. Visit the Florida State Parks website to book your cabin.
Location and Pricing Information
Myakka River State Park is located at 13208 State Road 72 in Sarasota, Florida. Admission is $6 per vehicle (you can leave the park and return the same day as long as you keep your receipt).
Pontoon tickets are $22 per adult and $12 for kids 3-12. Tours run from 9am-4pm. The boat tour operates year round, however, tram rides only run during the winter and spring months. Tram tours are offered at 10:30, 12:30, 2:30, and 4:30. More info on tram and pontoon tours.
Have you ever visited Myakka River State Park? Did you encounter any wildlife? What were some of your favorite activities?