Vacation Extras: Eco Trips

By Su Byron December 1, 2012

Nature rules on these expeditions.

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Explore the region’s waters on a number of special tours

Explore a portion of Myakka River State Park's 53 miles of wetlands, prairies and woodlands aboard the Myakka Maiden or the Gator Gal, air-powered boats that venture into shallow areas to reveal the natural wonders of Upper Myakka Lake. This one-hour guided tour affords ample time to photograph alligators on the lake and wildlife peeking from the shady hammocks, pine flat woods and marshes. (941) 365-0100.

Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey offers 15 miles of hiking and nature trails to explore at a leisurely pace. Experience close-up encounters with some of the park's residents, including gopher tortoises, the Eastern Indigo snake, the rare Florida scrub jay and other indigenous creatures. When you're done for the day, cool off with a swim in Lake Osprey. (941) 483-5956.

Sarasota Bay Explorers boasts a bounty of nature adventures, including the "Nature Safari," a family-friendly, guided tour of Lido Key. Adventurers explore a variety of ecosystems by boat and on foot and wade through grass flats to find live shells, crabs, fish, sand dollars and even sea horses. (941) 388-4200.

Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures provides a wide range of guided kayak eco-tours. The Siesta Key tour travels through the shallow bay into numerous tidal flats where, if you're lucky, you'll spot dolphins and manatees hanging out near the mangrove islands. (941) 504-6296.

Join a marine biologist on a two-hour cruise on Le Barge and learn about the lifestyles and behaviors of our local population of bottlenose dolphins. (941) 366-6116.

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Rollerblading down the Legacy Trail

Bike, rollerblade or walk the 20-mile Legacy Trail, which stretches from south Sarasota to Venice alongside a former railroad corridor. The trail passes by waterways, woods and, in some spots, major roads, but there's still plenty of natural Florida to experience. Trailblazers have spotted eagles, otters, turtles, snakes, alligators—and even a Florida panther. There are a few covered rest stops with benches—but bring your own water.

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