Little Manatee River State Park is a Florida state park located on the Little Manatee River, between Sarasota and Venice. It also has an interpretive center with exhibits about the history of the area. There are more than 200 campsites in the park, ranging from primitive to semi-modern, which includes two yurts available for rent. Canoe rentals are available during May through October.
Interpretive Center Exhibits at the Park’s Visitor Center Nature Trail Picnic Area Swimming Beach Amenities include boat slips, bird observation stations, bicycle paths, cabins, campgrounds, canoe rental, disc golf course, fish cleaning station, picnic shelters, nature trails, playgrounds, parking lots, volleyball courts and water activities. A visitor center features displays, information, and educational programs. The park has four miles (6km) of paved multi-purpose bike routes, including one along the Little Manatee River. Bicycle traffic can be heavy, especially on weekends; motorists should be aware that cyclists have the right of way everywhere else.
The park has 12 miles (19km) of hiking trails, 6 miles (9.7km) of horseback riding trails, and 5 miles (8.0km) of mountain biking trails. Horseback riding is only allowed in certain parts of the park. All equestrian visitors must wear helmet and bring current negative Coggins papers for each horse brought into the park (per SC Code of Laws, Act 13, 1976, Sec 1, Chapter 13, Title 47). In addition, there is a 3/4 mile long trail named Equus that loops around the lake near the entrance of the park. This is not a designated equestrian route, but rather a popular spot for people to ride their horses in circles around the lake. No stables are permitted within the park. Riders are asked to take care when approaching curves, as horses may choose to stop running if they think they’re going too fast. Horses are also required to have current Negative Coggins papers before entering the park. The park has seven miles of beach, accessible via a five-mile road loop.
On Sunday, February 14, 2016, a large sinkhole opened up on SR A1A, three miles north of the park entrance, swallowing part of the roadway. According to the Bradenton Herald, it was caused by excessive amounts of saltwater tributaries flowing down the Gulf Coast watershed following Hurricane Mathew. By Monday evening, six inches of pure sand had been removed, leaving a 15-foot wide gap where the highway used to be. The Florida Department of Transportation announced that SR A1A would remain closed until further notice because the sinkhole was becoming increasingly wider and deeper. As of April 23, 2016, no work had begun on repairing the highway.
The park has eight miles of boardwalks so pedestrians can safely walk across the sinkholes. These boardwalks form part of a larger system of pedestrian bridges being constructed throughout South East Asia. The bridge will eventually cross the sinkholes diagonally, connecting Big Island to Little Island. Big Island is connected to Little Island by a 1200-foot causeway, upon which sits a small island called Middle Island. The entire complex is known as the Van Sickle Biomedical Complex, named after Mr. & Mrs. Henry Van Sickle who made significant contributions to the development of Broward County, Florida. The park has several different picnic areas, all shaded by pine trees. One picnic area has a screened-in pavilion. Another has a covered kitchen shelter and charcoal grills. Yet another has tables, a concrete pad for tents, restrooms, and a seasonal snack bar.
The park has two playgrounds, both equipped with slides, swings, and other play equipment. They are open daily from 8am until sunset beginning Memorial Day weekend and ending Labor day. The park has four miles of single file bike lanes, separated from automobile traffic by a physical barrier, namely fences and guard rails. The bike path starts just south of the entrance to the park and ends at the Pine Lake turn point, 2.5 miles away. The park has 10 miles of equestrian trails, which follow blue blazes. One trail follows the shoreline of Pleasant Hill Lake, while others pass through wooded areas, skirt wetlands, climb hills, and go through streams. The park has twelve miles of hiking trails, which vary from easy to moderate difficulty. Five miles are designated mountain biking trails, which are much harder than the others. Hikers are warned to bring shoes and gloves, as well as to expect some mud and rocks.
The park has six miles of horse back riding trails, which are moderately difficult. Horse riders are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the local horse racing industry, which varies depending on whether the rider is inside or outside of Florida. For example, horseshoes are mandatory in California, but not in Florida. Like most states, Florida allows riders to keep their horses overnight, provided they have proper permits.
The park has a disc golf course, which is 18 holes, nine of which use the proscribed alternate white tee boxes and yellow tees. The first nine holes are Par 3s, with the final eighteen being mostly downhill, Par 4s and 5s. Hole #10 is an uphill, 586 yard par 5 requiring a driver to reach the green in regulation. The park has a beach on Pleasant Hill Lake, which is partially bordered by a large swamp. Accessible by a half mile trail, the beach provides ample space for sunbathing, swimming, shelling, boating, etc. The park has a boat slip for canoes and kayaks, which can be accessed by the beach or by a short 0.3-mile trail. During May through October, the park offers a primitive group camp, which accommodates 20-40 people in rustic style. Each family tent site has its own fire ring and picnic table. Modern bathhouses and dump stations are provided nearby. Other amenities include a nature trail, playground, volleyball court, and vending machines. The park has Wi-Fi access, however, like many public places in Florida, connection can be slow. To make matters worse, sometimes the signal will drop out completely.
- bird watching
- butterfly watching
- wildlife viewing
- full facility camping