South of Tampa on Florida’s west coast sits one of the loveliest parks in Florida. You’ll enjoy hiking the nature trails with great coastal views, kayaking the mangrove tunnels or checking out the birds and wildlife. If Florida’s early history is your thing, you’ll love this park with its indian shell middens.
Located in Bradenton, at at the south end of Tampa Bay, at the mouth of the Manatee River, Emerson Point Preserve is on 365 acres and is state owned and county managed.
My first trip to the park was with a kayak group. We launched at the furthest western tip – Emerson Point. I thoroughly enjoyed the easy access and launch – kayaking both Tampa and Terra Ceia Bays. There are also lovely mangrove tunnels in the preserve – and our kayak guide said “they are his favorite of the area” – and were very navigable.
My second trip was a few days later following the thrill of my first visit. My husband and I located a posted map (near the entrance and at the Ranger’s Station), then we explored the historic shell middens, the archeological accumulation of the earliest inhabitants – one of the highlights of the Preserve. The signage and landmarks explained the history and the easy walkways were enhanced by beautiful water views. From there, we hiked the South Restoration Trail and the Terra Ceia Trail. The Terra Ceia Trail is particularly inviting with intermittent views of the Bay while hiking through the mangroves – the same ones we kayaked through days before. We also went up the Observation Tower which had a 360 degree view of the area with a spectacular view.
Best kept secret
Emerson Point Preserve is a well-kept GEM of a park for hiking, kayaking, walking, biking, fishing, bird watching. The rich variety of ecosystems – beaches, lagoons, mangroves, salt marshes, hammocks – all keep you constantly looking for birds (saw a roseate spoonbill, wood storks, ospreys and more), plant life, butterflies, and fish which are clearly abundant.
From a kayak or boat, I thought this park coastline lent itself to some of the most beautiful flora and fauna I have ever seen in Florida. The Tampa Bay winds create a more rugged terrain and uprooted trees provide interesting coastal views. Bring your camera on this trip. If you like to shoot black and white photos, you are in for a treat.
For a wonderful introduction, go with a guide/group
I went with a kayak group and glad I did. Karen Fraley owner, Around the Bend Nature Tours at www.aroundbend.com does guided hiking tours and John Sarkozy, Quiet Water Kayak Tours at 941.966.7308 leads tours through the area.
Emerson Point Address and Contact Information:
5801 17th Street West Palmetto, FL 34221
Phone: (941) 721-6885