Go Beyond the Beach
Bradenton Area, FL
If there’s something good to come out of quarantine, it’s how much it’s made us appreciate being outdoors. My family has become so tired of being stuck inside that we’ve accidentally become nature lovers in the process. Who would have thought!
This summer, we drove to The Bradenton Area in Florida for a little escape, and were so pleased by how many nature activities it has to offer. I used to think Florida was just about sitting at the beach. But I couldn’t be more wrong.
One of the first spots we explored was the Emerson Point Preserve on Snead Island. My brother was excited to see the historic Native American mounds that have been preserved here. It’s one of about 15 mounds that are being protected in the Tampa Bay area, so it was a unique sight to see.
The preserve is a beautiful oasis filled with trails that take you through lush marsh full of plants and wildlife. You can also kayak or fish in the different bodies of water, but we chose to just explore. The highlight must have been trekking up the observation tower where you can see all of Tampa Bay, the Terra Ceia Bay, and out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Connect with nature
Our next stop was the Robinson Nature Preserve. It was similar to Emerson Point, but still so unique. It’s a beautiful marsh wonderland with hundreds of species of fish and other marine life. Not only does this preserve have an observation tower, but it’s also got an epic tree house called The Nest. The kids had a ball climbing along the ropes and slides of this amazing wooden structure, while we watched birds and made eyes with a bald eagle.
On another day, we headed to the Joan M. Durante Park, which is located on the barrier island of Longboat Key. We all loved running around the boardwalks of this native wetland, looking for creatures or anything else that caught our eyes. I enjoyed learning about the restoration of this natural habitat, as it was one of the few natural wetland areas on the island, but had been taken over by invasive exotic vegetation. The state worked with the help of a private donor, James Durante, to restore the property to its proper glory. They planted mangroves and trees like Live Oak, Red Cedar, Sabal Palmetto and many more. Now it’s a thriving hammock forest that is worth paying a visit.
The last outdoor voyage we took was less of an adventure but just as fun. The Bradenton Riverwalk goes 1.5 miles down the shore of the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton. It was such a lovely way of feeling like we were out in the city, but still safely distanced from others. The Riverwalk has shaded lounge areas, picnic spots, a playground, and a pier by the bridge where many people were fishing. We grabbed some ice cream and walked the whole strip.
It seemed like there were many more adventures waiting for us in The Bradenton Area, but they’ll have to wait until next time. We’re nature people now, so we’ll be back for more!