Editor's Note: Please check each individual website for information regarding temporary closures due to COVID-19.
If an active lifestyle is your passion, there’s plenty to do for all ages in Palmer Ranch.
More than 200,000 bicyclists, walkers and joggers use the popular, public Legacy Trail each year. A pillar of the national Rails-to-Trails project, the Legacy Trail occupies a former railway—once used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—stretching nearly 11 tree-lined miles from Palmer Ranch to the Venice Train Depot. With seven trailheads and 15 rest areas in between, it invites leisurely excursions of any length, and the 12-foot-wide paved path accommodates riders of all levels. Kids will love the wildlife: Keep your eyes peeled for tortoises, hawks, armadillos and plenty more.
Two of those Legacy Trail trailheads are in Palmer Ranch and both provide vehicle parking. The current starting point is the Culverhouse Nature Park at 7301 MacIntosh Road. At 82 acres, it also is home to a community garden, unpaved trails and a picnic area. The other is the Legacy Trail Access at 7905 MacIntosh Road. (We say current starting point because, in late 2018, Sarasota County voters approved a plan to spend $65 million to extend the existing Legacy Trail by six additional miles to downtown Sarasota. Construction is beginning in mid-July 2020.)
Selby Aquatic Center
The Selby Aquatic Center at 8501 Potter Park Drive is great way to cool off. Now operated by the nonprofit Sarasota Sharks swim team organization, the aquatic center features a large, shallow water park with slides and fountains that youngsters love to play in. The Sharks also offer open swim sessions, swim classes and a Sarasota Sharks Masters adult aquatic fitness program in its 50-meter Olympic-size pool.
Right next door is the Evalyn Sadlier Jones branch of the nonprofit Our Y, with a plethora of training equipment and fitness classes, a water exercise pool and pickleball courts. There are even fun fitness classes especially designed for the whole family, like Zumba, Pilates and yoga.
Nearby Potter Park is a 37-acre county-owned park with playgrounds, picnic shelter, basketball and tennis courts and a multipurpose field. It's dog-friendly, too, for pets on leashes.
Golfers are not forgotten in Palmer Ranch. The private TPC Prestancia golf club has two 18-hole championship courses for its members. Developed in the 1980s by the PGA Tour, it’s hosted eight Chrysler Cup Tournaments and five American Express Invitational Champions Tour events. And Stoneybrook Golf & Country Club boasts an Arthur Hills designed 18-hole golf course for its members and the public.
Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park is close by the southernmost part of Palmer Ranch. It offers 15 miles of walking trails, a canoe and kayak launch on South Creek and plenty of ranger-led activities. The park is especially notable as a habitat for the rare, endangered Florida scrub jay.
Historic Spanish Point
And Historic Spanish Point, a mile south of the southernmost part of Palmer Ranch but too important to omit because of its connection to Bertha Palmer, is a 30-acre living museum on Little Sarasota Bay that celebrates the history of our region. It’s where Mrs. Palmer built her 350-acre winter estate, Osprey Point. Visitors can still walk through the gardens that Mrs. Palmer originally planned and cared for. Historic Spanish Point recently merged with the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota and is considered Selby Gardens’ companion campus.