Slip away into nature without having to travel far at this nature preserve off Honore Avenue near Palmer Ranch. Against a backdrop of pine flatwoods, a large manmade lake offers a sandy launch area for kayaks, and rumor has it that the fishing is good. Hiking around the lake takes about an hour; the loop includes both grass trails and portions of sidewalk.
Maps and markers provide a guide for other trails that lead deep into the native pine flatwoods. Some connect this preserve to Oscar Scherer State Park, and one route connects all the way to the Legacy Trail. These backwoods sugar-sand trails can make for tough walking and may go underwater in the wet season. The reward for hiking them: the chance to see white-tailed deer, bobcats and other wildlife.
For those who appreciate a peaceful spot to relax and gaze out over the calm lake or watch the sunset, picnic tables and seating benches are a few steps from the parking lot. The adjacent Palmer Ranch community is home to many wetlands, and it’s common to see families of sandhill cranes and brilliant pink roseate spoonbills along Honore Avenue. 13125 Honore Ave., Sarasota
- Named for conservation champion Jon Thaxton and his mother, Mary Thaxton
- 287 acres on both sides of Honore Avenue
- Owned by Sarasota County Government
- The land for adjacent Oscar Scherer State Park was donated by Elsa Scherer Burrows in memory of her father Oscar, who had developed a unique shoe leather dying process.
- Park hours: 6 a.m. to sunset
- Dog friendly (on leash in designated areas)
- Water access