Wildlife Watching

Sarasota is home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife. The local mosaic of interconnected habitats is as biologically productive as some of the world’s most celebrated rain forests. The area’s estuaries, oyster and hardbottom reefs, seagrass beds, salt marshes, wetlands, tidal creeks, and uplands support more than 1,400 different species, making it a great spot for watching wildlife above and below the water.

Sarasota County Wildlife Viewing

  • Celery Fields
  • Myakka River State Park
  • Myakka River State Forest
  • Oscar Scherer State Park
  • Legacy Trail
  • Lido Beach and South Lido Park
  • Ken Thompson Park
  • Red Bug Slough
  • Carlton Preserve
  • Curry Creek Preserve
  • Jelks Preserve
  • Deer Prairie Creek Preserve

Manatee County Wildlife Viewing

  • Robinson Preserve
  • Emerson Point Preserve
  • Terra Ceia Preserve
  • Perico Preserve
  • DeSoto National Memorial Park
  • Neal Preserve
  • Beker - South Fork State Park
  • Lake Manatee State Park
  • Duette Preserve
  • Jiggs Landing
  • Moody Branch Preserve
  • Riverview Point
  • Ungarelli Preserve

Responsible Wildlife Viewing

Sarasota Bay, the Gulf beaches, and numerous preserves and inland areas provide critical habitat for endangered wildlife year round. Being aware and respectful of these endangered species and their activities is critical for their continued existence. You can help!

Nesting Turtles and Birds

Habitat And Species Baby Sea Turtle
Skimmers And Baby on the sand

Turtle nesting season: May 1 - October 31                              Bird nesting season: February 1 - August 31

Here is what you can do to protect these creatures:

  • Pick up litter, fill in holes, and never leave furniture or debris laying on the beach
  • Keep dogs and pets off the beach
  • Respect posted nesting areas
  • Turn off lights visible on turtle nesting beaches or shield the lights from the beach
  • If you find disoriented hatchlings away from the sea or to report violations call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)

Read more about sea turtles and birds.

Dolphins and Manatees

Manatee from Mote

There are many dolphins and manatees that live in and around Sarasota Bay. Both of these animals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and/or the Endangered Species Act, which means it is illegal to harass, feed, pet or otherwise interfere with their natural behavior. Please stay at least 50 yards away from these animals at all times.

For more information about dolphins, visit the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

Birding Hot Spots

Osprey flying to its nest
Snowy Egret in the mangroves

Birding is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the United States. Sarasota County and Manatee County offer great birding locations.

Felt's Audubon Preserve

Great Florida Birding Trail

Sarasota Birding HOT SPOTS

Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte County Birding Trail pdf

Gulf Coast Heritage Trail

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program was at the forefront of recognizing the economic value of linking and promoting Sarasota Bay’s cultural, historical, and environmental heritage.

The Gulf Coast Heritage Trail was the culmination of this recognition and was the first regional eco-heritage based tourism trail program within the state of Florida.

Download Gulf Coast Heritage Trail Map PDF

Sarasota Bay Blueways Guide

This guide is designed to help you enjoy and learn about the Sarasota Bay area by locating main channels, seagrasses, artificial reefs, aquatic preserves, canoeing and wildlife viewing areas, boat ramps, marinas, restaurants, and fishing piers. Also included is information on bay habitats and wildlife, popular sport fish, boating safety, and a resource directory.

Download Sarasota Bay Blueways Guide PDF