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A Florida safari to the jungle-like Myakka River State Park

The park's canopy walk lets you admire the unique forest from above!

  • 9
  • 01:30
  • 55 mi
  • $6
Take This Trip

Created by Visit Sarasota County - March 22nd 2018

Florida might be known for its beaches, but that's just the beginning of the natural awesomeness the state has to offer. If you head inland from the coast near Sarasota, you'll be treated to a veritable jungle of swampy wetlands, banyan and palm tree forests, and gator-filled grasslands. Meet animals of all sorts, explore botanical wonderlands, and walk among the tops of gnarled, ancient banyan trees on a distinctly Florida take on the safari. Jeep not included, but highly recommended.

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Sarasota, a beach town has way more to offer than just its sunshine and sand (but you won't find us complaining about those particular features either.) The town itself has been officially around for over a century, and with so much natural beauty, it's not hard to see why it's attracted people for so long. It even drew in John Ringling (yes, of that Ringling family fame!) To this day, the city remains a hub of art and culture that takes the diverse outdoor experiences, and blends everything together giving you so much to do you'll be wanting to stay longer.

1
Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Since 1939, Sarasota Jungle Gardens has been providing visitors of all ages with authentic, personal experiences with animals and the nature that's so unique to Florida. From parrots to primates to just about any reptile you can imagine, the gardens is home to hundreds of species, most of which are rescued. When planning your Florida trip, animal and swampland experiences seem to be around every corner you look, but Sarasota Jungle Gardens is one of the oldest and most authentic attractions with family fun that you will find. You'll see flamingos up close, pet pigs and other mammals at the petting zoo, watch a jungle bird or reptile encounter show, and leave feeling like you really obtained a great afternoon of Florida flora and fauna. Plan to be here for a handful of hours, as there are ten acres of walking trails and sights to explore!

2
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby was a pianist and outdoor enthusiast who married oil heir William Selby in 1908. When William moved their family to Sarasota in the 1920s, Selby designed and landscaped their Sarasota home herself. She had a particular passion for gardening and quickly went on to become a member of the city's first garden club. Marie left her property to the community when she died in 1971, and it was opened to the public as the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens now covers around 15 acres and offers a museum, rainforest exhibits, mangroves, a butterfly garden, and much, much more. Marie Selby's legacy is truly an experience you'll want to encounter at least once! Even enjoy a coffee while you're roaming the grounds, or sit and relax at the Selby House Cafe with some delicious local grub. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a wonderful gem of Sarasota that continues to educate and entertain plant lovers and inquisitive tourists alike!

3
Yoder's Restaurant

Okay, so safaris don't traditionally feature made-from-scratch pie, but since you're passing by Yoder's and you'll probably need sustenance to fuel your adventures, you might as well stop in for a slice. This traditionally Amish eatery serves up cozy home cookin' and other handmade goodies. They're most well-known for the pies, though. The various pies are baked fresh every morning and come in more than two dozen flavors. You can't go wrong with any of them, but since you're in Florida, the Key Lime is an excellent choice. Order it à la mode if you're feeling extra indulgent!

For decades the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota has not only been a popular and fun attraction for visitors to the area, but has continuously done great work in caring for exotic animals in need. Not only does this facility house tigers, lions, and cats of all kinds, but additionally aids bears and any other animals who need help or a loving home. Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is more than just entertainment and education for kids and adults alike.

Note: The park is open Wednesday-Sunday, so plan accordingly.

5
Treeumph! Adventure Course

Take your safari to the trees and get swept off your feet for an afternoon of ziplining and challenge at Treeumph! Adventure Course, where you can choose anything from a simple but fun tree-climbing course, or a more difficult experience full of obstacles and adventure. You can choose which challenges you take part in based on your comfort level, so those afraid of heights can rest easy and still have fun. Be sure to get there early in the day to beat the crowds and the hot sun and pack a picnic and plenty of water for the day. Get ready for a thrilling day and a great workout!

6
Dakin Dairy Farms

Cats, bears, and now cows will round off a fantastically odd safari experience outside beachy Sarasota. Dakin Dairy Farms is a 1,000-acre haven that not only teaches you about where your milk comes from, but has something just about everyone will enjoy. A hayride will show you around the barns and bottling areas, and pig races, a maze, and a chance to try the milk for yourself is included on the property. Dakin has a huge play area for children and a campfire area for hotdogs and marshmallows after your day of fun. If packing a lunch suits your fancy, there are additionally plenty of picnic areas as well! There's something about a family-run farm that feels so welcoming and comfortable, and Dakin Dairy is no exception.

7
Myakka River State Park

You've seen the attractions, met new people, and done exciting activities, but now it's time to spend some good, old-fashioned time outside, away from any hustle and bustle. Myakka River State Park is a great addition to any trip and offers some interesting features unique to Sarasota. Myakka has a river and two lakes that flow through picturesque wetlands, as well as some trails and plenty of opportunity to see some alligators in their natural habitat. Canoe or kayak in the 60+ acre river, take advantage of some relaxing fishing opportunities, or learn something new in the visitor's center. Backpackers are welcome to enjoy primitive camping in the spots made available, and easy access campsites on the grounds are available as well. Glampers should be sure to check out the log cabin, and if you've worked up an appetite, there's a restaurant on site. Myakka River State Park may be one of Florida's oldest parks, but that doesn't mean you should count it out - in fact, it has more to offer than most and should be a definite item on your list of places to see!

You won't find many canopy walkways in the world, so you'll definitely want to take advantage of this feature of Myakka River State Park while you're there. Spend some time among the treetops of the gorgeous hammock right in Myakka. It's 25 feet above the ground, with a tower that reaches 70 feet into the air, offerings sweeping views all around! The walkway is North America's first public treetop trail, so you'll discover both wildlife and curious visitors alike in this fascinating world of its own. You don't need to be a hiker or nature enthusiast to enjoy this little retreat, just grab your camera and your walking shoes and hit the walkway for some gorgeous views that will leave you feeling like you are on top of the world.

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Doing a traditional Florida beach vacation of water and sand is fun, but a safari day trip will make your visit to Sarasota memorable and set it apart from the rest. Through these wetlands and animal havens, you'll meet some friendly people who are sure to teach you a thing or two, and gain some memories, pictures, and souvenirs you won't find on the beach.

Visit Sarasota County

This Southwest Florida coastal gem is known for its top-ranked beaches boasting quartz white sand, shopping and dining, or even shark teeth to collect. After you’ve had your fill of the beach, enjoy the internationally recognized arts and culture scene or grab a paddle to explore mangrove tunnels.