Manatee County Hotspots and Checklists
Manatee County has many great and exciting parks and natural areas to explore and bird! Some of the best birding hotspots in this area are listed below. Click on the drop down button for each park to learn more before you go and explore!
Tom Bennet Park
Bennett Park, located near I-75, combines classic park recreational opportunities with conservation areas perfect for nature walks and wildlife viewing. Manatee County purchased the majority of the 200 acre park in April 2003 with assistance from the Florida Communities Trust under the Florida Forever Program.
Emerson Point Preserve
Emerson Point Preserve is situated on the West end of Snead island on the North shore of the Manatee river with Terra Ceia Bay to the north. It offers a network of hiking and kayak trails to experience a wide variety of coastal Florida wildlife and habitats. Ancient and historic remains of its inhabitants are accessible and well interpreted to give a sense of what life in Manatee County was like prior to and during its settlement.
THINGS TO DO
Leffis Key Preserve
Leffis Key, the County's island preserve, has a prominent hill where one can get a panoramic view of beautiful Sarasota Bay.
Once a spoil island overgrown with non-native plants that greatly reduced its habitat value, Leffis Key is now a shining example of how government and private interests can collaborate to restore and enhance vital saltwater wetlands, essential to the health of a nationally significant estuary.
One of the unique features of the design is a 26-foot high hill in the center of the restored area. This upland feature offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The hill was planted with native dune and coastal ridge plants such as sea oats, beach elder, dune sunflower, southern red cedar, green buttonwood, sea grape, gumbo-limbo, Hercules' club, Jamaica dogwood and strangler fig. In addition, over 20,000 marsh grass plants, such as smooth cordgrass, saltwater cordgrass and salt jointgrass, were installed along the banks of the tidal ponds. The plant installation was accomplished with volunteer labor that included hundreds of school children, local environmental clubs and citizens.
Site amenities include footpaths that circle and scale the hill, benches, and 1,500 lineal feet of boardwalks that meander through the mangrove forest, with strategically placed viewing platforms penetrating the open water. Interpretive signs describing the various habitats and the respective plant and animal life are located along the paths.
THINGS TO DO
The restoration of Perico Preserve is a story of transformation. The land has undergone significant changes from its original acquired state of farmland to the beautiful mix of habitats we see today. Featured at this site are the coastal wetlands expected in this area as well as carefully planned scrub hills and upland areas that hearken back to historical coastal Manatee County.
As the first preserve of its kind to be fully conceptualized as a bird sanctuary, this unique designation requires a slight adjustment for visitors. While dogs are welcome at many of our other sites, we ask that visitors leave their furry friends, with the exception of service dogs, at home when visiting Perico in order to provide the birds and wildlife with the greatest chance of success in breeding and rearing their young. Similarly, bikes will only be allowed on designated trails within the preserve. At key points, we ask that visitors leave their bikes behind to travel forth on foot, allowing the resident wildlife to maintain their natural behavior.
THINGS TO DO
Experience a slice of old Florida at the Rye Preserve. You don't have to travel far, Rye Preserve is closer than you think. This 145 acre property located just northwest of the Lake Manatee Dam.
The preserve's trail system leads visitors through four distinctive ecosystems, including sand pine scrub, xeric oak scrub, oak hammocks and the river community. A variety of interesting creatures can be seen in these areas including the rare gopher tortoise and Florida scrub-jay.
Rye Preserve is home to a piece of Manatee County's early pioneer history. Within the preserve visitors can view the Rye Family Cemetery, the last remaining reminder of the old Rye river community.