Parks to Play In

Walk Into the Past at Historic Spanish Point

This 30-acre bayfront sanctuary is authentic Old Florida at its finest.

By John McCarthy November 21, 2020 Published in the November-December 2020 issue of Sarasota Magazine

The "white cottage," built by Jack Webb in 1884.

The "white cottage," built by Jack Webb in 1884.

A fascinating place to explore is Historic Spanish Point, on Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey. This 30-acre bayfront sanctuary is authentic Old Florida at its finest. Tropical plants thrive on ancient shell mounds, and Bertha Palmer’s gardens complement the collection of restored pioneer buildings. Well-marked walking trails meander through massive oak trees laden with Spanish moss and butterfly orchids. The Native American shell mound architecture raised the elevation of the land above the highest tides and created the unique peninsula that inspired the site’s name.

Skilled volunteers build traditional wooden boats along the working waterfront on the site of Frank Guptill’s 1875 boatshed. The tour boat Magic was built here in 1907 and was recreated in 2006. Other highlights include the Webb Packing House, where locally grown produce was shipped by sail to Key West and Cedar Key, and Mary’s Chapel, one of the first in the region and now a popular wedding venue.  
Visitors can tour the carefully restored gardens of Bertha Honore Palmer, who chose this site for her home in 1910. Two of the most popular are the Jungle Walk with its aqueduct and the Sunken Garden & Pergola with expansive views of Little Sarasota Bay. Another attraction: the colorful butterfly garden, one of the largest in the region. 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey

Bertha Palmer’s Sunken Garden and Pergola.

Bertha Palmer’s Sunken Garden and Pergola.

Fast Facts

  • Owned and operated by Marie Selby Botanical Gardens 
  • 5,000 years of history
  • Pioneer John Webb named the post office after the local fish-hawk, and the community of Osprey was born. He developed cane syrup and orange marmalade and was growing bananas nine years before they were introduced to the general public at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia (the same place where the Bell telephone was introduced and the first world’s fair in the U.S.).
  • Includes six gardens of Bertha Honore Palmer

Trip Tips

  • Good for all ages
  • Restrooms conveniently located
  • No pets, no fishing
  • Open daily
  • 10 a.m. -5 p.m.
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