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.


Sunrise to sunset, unless otherwise posted or allowed by special permits.


  • Benches

  • Bike Rack

  • Canoe/Kayak Launch

  • Fishing Pier

  • Nature Trail

  • Open Play Field

  • Pavilion Rental

  • Picnic Tables

  • Playground with Rope Challenge Course

  • Recycle Containers

  • Restrooms

  • Sand Volleyball Courts

  • Soccer Field

  • Trails - 1.2 Miles

  • Trash Receptacles

Duette Preserve

At over 21,000 acres, the Duette Preserve is the largest Preserve in Manatee County. It is located in the northeastern part of the County and contains the headwaters of Manatee River.

A wide variety of game and non-game animals can be found out at Duette Preserve, including species of special concern such as the burrowing owl, snowy egret, white ibis, gopher tortoise, and at least three endangered/threatened species, the Florida scrub jay, the Florida panther, and the Eastern indigo snake.

Duette Preserve is host to many of the native plant communities throughout Manatee County, providing protection and preservation of pine flatwoods, hardwood swamps, xeric oak scrub, depression marsh, and vast dry prairie.


Duette Preserve is closed during certain weekends for the Hunt Program.

Outside of hunt weekends, Duette Preserve's walk-through gates are open daily from sunrise to sunset to pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian traffic.

To enter Duette Preserve by vehicle, you must visit during office hours.

  • Hours: Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

  • Fee: $2.80 per vehicle, plus tax

Annual passes to Duette Preserve are available by filling out and returning the Annual Activities Pass.


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.


Emerson Point Preserve is open daily 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Trespassing after hours outside of programs and special events is prohibited and vehicles left unattended will be towed at owner's expense.


Moody Branch WEA

Moody Branch, a 960 acre site, was purchased by Manatee County in 2004 in a cooperative effort with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) thru a grant under the Florida Forever Program of the Florida Communities Trust.

FWC manages the site to integrate the needs for a regional approach to natural resource protection and local, passive public recreation. Towards this end, FWC has undertaken an aggressive restoration plan to improve the habitat for gopher tortoises and the Florida scrub jay.


Moody Branch Preserve is open daily, sunrise to sunset.


Moody Branch is actively undergoing restoration. Future recreational amenities will include: walking nature trail, nature based playground, extensive horseback trails, picnic pavilion and Scrub Jay observation areas. Current access is limited to pedestrian and horseback only.

  • Hiking and nature trails

  • Wildlife viewing

  • Horseback riding

  • Hiking: Available on all trails

  • There are no facilities or restrooms on site.

Horseback Riding: Allowed on designated riding trails. Horses are not provided. Proof of a negative Coggins Test must be available upon request for each horse. Equestrian users should apply for a Special Use-Other Permit (SUP) through the FWC website.


FWC rules state:

  • Possession of any animal is prohibited (except horses allowed by permit).

  • All persons shall enter and exit the area only at designated entrances.

  • Public access other than by foot (pedestrian) or horseback (equestrian) is prohibited.

  • Public access is prohibited from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.

General questions regarding Moody Branch can be directed to the FWC Regional Office at (863) 648-3200.

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.


Leffis Key Preserve is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset.


HIKING: Available on all trails.

ACCESSIBILITY: The trails are a combination of packed shell and boardwalks. BE AWARE: Any area not on a designated trail may have a very soft surface.

FISHING: Available from the boardwalks along the Intracoastal Waterway. NOTE: Fishing is subject to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations.

WILDLIFE VIEWING: A variety of birds and wildlife can be seen throughout the preserve in the restored native ecosystems.

Please Note: Dogs are not permitted at Leffis Key as this preserve is located within Coquina Beach Baywalk. In order to comply with the management plan of the Coquina Beach area, which prohibits dogs, dogs will not be allowed within this conservation property.

Neal Preserve

Neal Preserve’s 120 acres include both coastal habitats, such as mangrove forests and salt terns, as well as pockets of oak hammock uplands. Acquired in 2005, the site features passive outdoor recreation opportunities including a 20 foot tall observation tower, shell trails, and boardwalks that wind through the coastal environment. Located on the south side of Manatee Avenue, overflow parking is available on the north side of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Facility Amenities:



Free admission

Perico Preserve

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.


Perico Preserve is open daily, sunrise to sunset.


Robinson Preserve

Robinson Preserve is located in northwest Bradenton, with entrances at the West end of 9th Ave NW and 17th Ave NW. Including the recently acquired "Expansion" and Winston tract properties, the preserve now consists of 682 acres that is a mix of preserved mangrove, tidal marsh, and former agricultural lands which have undergone an incredible transformation to coastal wetland habitat. This process continues with the "Expansion" which brings to you loads more coastal wetlands and other habitats, a 2.5k rubberized pedestrian-only trail, additional kayak launches and trails, restrooms, picnic areas, and the NEST and Canopy Zone, our brand-new and already iconic educational/event space.

For rules and more information please checkout the Robinson Preserve brochure and trail map.


17th Ave NW North Entrance (w/Valentine House)

1704 99th Street Northwest

Bradenton, FL 34209


9th Ave NW South Entrance ("The Expansion" w/NEST facility)

10299 9th Ave NW

Bradenton, FL 34209



Robinson Preserve is open daily 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Trespassing after hours outside of programs and special events is prohibited and vehicles left unattended will be towed at owner's expense.

NOTE: The Valentine House visitor center is only open during certain hours.
View Valentine House calendar.


Rye Preserve

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.


Rye Preserve is open daily, sunrise to sunset. The Ranger Station is open limited hours to check in campers during camping season (September through May).

Ranger Station Hours:

  • Fridays and Saturdays, 3-7 p.m. (September through May).


Accessibility: There is a trail around the picnic pavilion made of packed dirt or shell. The remaining trails are dirt and may not be accessible depending on the environmental conditions.

Camping: Available on a first-come-first-serve basis September through May.

  • Camping fee: $20 per night per site, plus tax. Check or cash only. No credit/debit card

  • Camping registration: At the Rangers Station from 3-7 p.m.

  • Checkout time: 2 p.m.

Fishing: Available from the shoreline along the Manatee River. Please be kind to the vegetation when fishing from shore within the preserve. NOTE: Fishing is subject to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations.

Kayak/Canoeing: The launch is located on the Red Trail. Start at the main parking area and follow the trail down the steps to the water's edge. The launch site provides access to the Manatee River.

Johnson Preserve

Through a creative public-private partnership, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast worked with Manatee County, Friends of Keep Woods, and numerous residents throughout the community to conserve this land, now known as the Floyd C. Johnson & Flo Singer Johnson Preserve at Braden River. This was possible because the landowners, Pat and John Neal of Neal Communities and Neal Land Ventures, were willing to give the community the opportunity to buy the 32.38 acres slated for development.

Empowered by the challenge grant of $500,000 from the Floyd C. Johnson & Flo Singer Johnson Foundation, and supported by early community gifts including that of the Manatee Fish & Game Association, Conservation Foundation raised significant funds in a matter of weeks. On March 20, the Manatee County Commission voted to accept Conservation Foundation's gift of more than $1 million from the community, and use tax dollars to fund the balance of the $3 million appraised value.

By the May 2018 closing, Conservation Foundation raised more than $1,029,645 which was given to Manatee County to contribute toward the purchase. Conservation Foundation continued to collect donations through September 30, 2018, to help defray the public cost.

Conservation Foundation donated the adjoining 11.44 acres which were bequeathed by the late Carlton Bergstresser, making the preserve a total of 43.82 acres permanently protected.

Conservation Foundation holds and will enforce a perpetual conservation easement (permanent deed restrictions) that will ensure that the property remains a low-impact preserve, open to the public to enjoy pristine nature while walking, hiking or birdwatching.

Source: Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast