Manasota Key has been designated a wildlife sanctuary where beaches are maintained to support and protect the natural inhabitants.  Manasota inns, resorts, condominiums and rental properties as well as Englewood and South Sarasota hotels and motels are within walking distance or a short drive to most beaches.
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Manasota Key Vacations
...off the coast of Englewood in SW Florida
The Visitor Information & Travel Guide to Manasota Key and Englewood Beach
in Sarasota and Charlotte counties Florida


  Visit Old Florida .....The way things used to be on Florida's Sun Coast
with its Beautiful Beaches, Warm Breezes and Magnificent Sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico!


This is “a place unspoiled by high rises... high prices"... and "where the livin is easy". Separated by Lemon Bay, Manasota belongs to the community of Englewood that is shared by Sarasota and Charlotte Counties.

Englewood has transformed from farming, lumber, lemons and turpentine to a community that thrives on its beaches, nature parks, fishing, boating, and so much more. Englewood is located just 85 miles south of Tampa Bay, 90 miles north of Naples, 50 miles north of Fort Myers, and only 35 miles south of Sarasota. Englewood is easily accessible from U.S. Route 41 or I-75.

Manasota Key is accessed by two bridges. The Manasota Bridge to the north leads directly from South Venice to Manasota Beach with the most northern end reserved for an exclusive gated community. This is where Martina Navratilova and country singer Tim McGraw have beachfront homes. Manasota Beach extends beyond these homes and eventually connects with the city of Venice’s Caspersen Beach.



Just south of the drawbridge is a community boat ramp where boaters have quick, easy access to Lemon Bay and the Gulf. It’s also a place to see manatees, often a mother with her calf. A friendly dolphin has been known to hang out there as well.

South of Manasota Beach, travel the canopied single lane road where extraordinary residences and beach homes are nestled in dunes or tucked neatly behind groves of trees. A bend in the road reveals breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico at Blind Pass Beach.

Peaceful seclusion bordered by lush tropical foliage and homes on one-acre lots are at its northern end. This is where The Hermitage, a 4-acre beachfront retreat is availed to writers, composers and artists to hone their crafts while basking in natural beauty and solitude.

Continuing south to the south bridge and directly across from Englewood is popular Englewood Beach. Featuring a boardwalk, picnic tables, rest rooms, changing facilities, playground, volleyball and plenty of Parking... it’s in close proximity to restaurants, real estate, accommodations and novelty shops.

Finally, at the southern tip is one of Florida’s very secluded state parks, Stump Pass Beach. Home to manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, least terns, and magnificent frigate birds, Stump Pass claims the entire southern tip where visitors can explore the mile-long beach and hike the trails and boardwalks. Ranger-led turtle walks and beach nature walks are available throughout the summer.


   Manasota Key’s expansive beaches are ideal for shelling, strolling and fishing.  Although some motels, retreats, condos and rental properties are along the Gulf of Mexico, many are on Lemon Bay and the mainland where Englewood and Sarasota County provide additional accommodation offerings.
Manasota’s History

A bit of rich history was unearthed when the Smithsonian discovered nearly 100 members of a 17th century Calusa Tribe. Extremely resourceful and technologically advanced, this tribe constructed artificial islands and canals. Their population dwindled after succumbing to European diseases and disbanded in the early 18th century. Some survivors joined the Seminole Tribe while others went to Cuba.


Manasota Key is the TURTLE NESTING CAPITAL of Southwest Florida.  Many visitors make reservations during the months of June through November when Loggerhead hatchlings and other baby sea turtles emerge from nests and make their way to the sea.
  

Exhibits at the CHARLOTTE COUNTY HISTORICAL CENTER display artifacts and provide a historical time-line dating back thousands of years ago. Charlotte County’s first pioneer settlement is on display at Bayshore Live Oak Park. Web site

Other points of interest are:
Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum,
A.C. Freeman House,
Punta Gorda History Park,
The Railroad Depot (in Punta Gorda),
Blanchard House,
Ponce de Leon Historical Park
Peace River Wildlife Center

All have low or no admission prices while some request a donation.

Today, the Key has been designated a wildlife sanctuary where beaches are maintained to support and protect their natural inhabitants. Only Englewood Beach fosters a traditional setting where young adults and families enjoy a game of volley ball, basketball, and a barbeque picnic.


Loggerhead Turtles

Florida accounts for more than 90 percent of loggerhead nests in the U.S. and the turtle nesting capital of Southwest Florida happens to be Manasota Key. Sea turtles begin their trek to shore around March with peak activity from May through August. Females are known to nest from one to seven times within a season with clutches of 100-126 eggs. Nesting occurs mainly at night where the eggs are left to incubate for approximately 45 to 60 days. Hatchlings emerge generally at night and head to the ocean for 20 to 30 years before reaching full size and sexual maturity. While males never return to land, females actually come back to the same beach and generally nest within feet of their own place of birth. About 80 percent of the world’s population is believed to nest in Florida or Oman on the Arabian Peninsula.

Fishing Tournaments

Charlotte County, which includes Manasota Key, is the "Tarpon Capital of the World" and features several annual tournaments.

With season starting in April, Punta Gorda, a town that shares the same waters, hosts two fishing tournaments. The first is a Kid's Cup Redfish Tournament at Fishermen's Village . This catch and release event is part of a Redfish Tracking Project affiliated with Mote Marine Lab.

The Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup at Gilchrist Park is a three-day national competition sponsored by ESPN2; offering a grand prize of $40,000 for the largest catch.

In MAY, Boca Grande hosts a Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament (tel. 941-964-0568) with several more tarpon tournaments continuing through mid-June.

At Port Charlotte Beach, the Charlotte Harbor Kayak & Wildlife Festival, takes place for two days, with kayak tours, demonstrations, wildlife seminars, and a kayak fishing tournament.

Meanwhile, if you’re just looking to drop a line, the waters are filled with Cobia, mackerel, redfish, whiting and blues. Charter and rentals at Englewood Beach and Port Charlotte are recommended as they’re less expensive than neighboring Boca Grande.

Shelling

Shell collectors will enjoy combing the beaches for Left Handed Whelks, Auger shells, Coquina shells and, at low tide, the Rough Scallop and Fighting Conch... these last two are great for chowders. Another common find are fossilized Shark Teeth including the Megalodon. Megalodon means "big tooth" for an extinct species of shark that lived roughly from 28 to 1.5 million years ago, during the Cenozoic Era; black and brown in color, some range from a tiny 1/8th to three inches long.

Snorkeling and Diving

Local waters, though sometimes low in visibility hold a number of wrecks and reefs worth exploring at depths of 45-60 feet. A beach dive from the south end of Manasota Beach takes you to an area known as "The Rocks" where snorkelers often find for sharks’ teeth.

Nearby parks and points of interest

   Ainger Creek Park
Ainger Creek is a popular place for recreation near Manasota Key due to its variety of activities. You can kayak or canoe and launch your boat from a public boat ramp into the south Florida waters. If you bring your own boat, you will need to have your boating license displayed on it. Remember to bring sunscreen and bug spray, especially if you travel with children.

   Cedar Point Environmental Park
on route 775 Cedar Point Environmental Park has five nature trails, picnic tables, a small playground and a visitor center with kids’ touch table. Bald eagles and gopher tortoises live among the 88 acre park’s pine flatwoods, oak scrub, salt flats and mangroves fringing Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve. The park offers guided tours every Saturday and Sunday (in season) at 10:00am.

    Port Boca Grande Lighthouse (Gasparilla Island)
At the extreme southern end of Gasparilla Island, 21 miles from Manasota Key, you can visit the harbor and the restored Port Boca Grande lighthouse. The structure was erected after the discovery of phosphate in the early 1880s. It consists of a one-story dwelling with a square tower. On top there is a circular lantern room designed to protect the lens, which produces a white light interrupted by red flashes. As the phosphate trade was growing, the railroad line extended to Port Boca Grande, north of the lighthouse. In 1969, Port Boca Grande was Florida's fourth busiest port, and a bridge for vehicles connected the island with the mainland. The lighthouse, the dwelling and the surrounding area became the Gasparilla Island State Park, with a museum that covers the history of the area from Native Americans to the present time.

   Cayo Costa State Park
Cayo Costa State Park is a small barrier island that can be seen from Boca Grande Pass. This recreational, natural and scenic resource is accessible only by boat and contains 9 miles of pristine beaches and 5.5 miles of trails meandering through a variety of natural communities suitable for hiking and biking. Bike rentals, primitive cabins and tent camping are available on the island. The two-year waiting list for cabins attests to the popularity of this park. An amphitheater provides educational programs about the island's ecology and history. Visitors can use the boat dock, or anchor off the beach to enjoy the swimming, shelling or viewing the native wildlife, including manatees, dolphins and various species of birds.

   Don Pedro Island State Park
Don Pedro Island was purchased by the state in 1984 under the “Save Our Coast Program.” This barrier island, accessible only by boat, covers approximately 225 acres with approximately 1 mile of white sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. At this Blueway Trail, there are 12 dock slips for public use, picnic tables, grills, and a large picnic shelter with beach boardwalks and restroom facilities. In 2005, the state expanded the park facilities to include a 90-acre addition from the mainland of Englewood with the main entrance on Placida Road. With more than 32,000 people visiting by boat every year, the state gave permission in January 2006 to Grande Tours to provide ferry service to and from the state park for landlubbers. Water taxis are also available.

   Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Corkscrew Sanctuary is located northeast of Naples and operated by the National Audubon Society. The Sanctuary’s 11,000 acres are within the Big Cypress Swamp. They contain the country’s largest remaining stand of 400 to 700 year-old virgin bald cypresses. The Sanctuary is the largest remaining breeding ground for the endangered wood stork.

Sports

Charlotte Sports Park, a $27 million sports complex in Port Charlotte, is the spring-training headquarters for the Tampa Bay Rays and also the home for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, a Rays' minor-league affiliate.
Golfers will revel in the area's more than 20 courses, including the Riverwood Golf Club, which was rated 4-1/2 stars by Golf Digest.

Oyster Creek is situated within a gated community in nearby Englewood. This is a challenging 18 Hole Par 60 Executive Course designed by Ted McAnlis. If you like a short three-hour romp of enjoyable golf, this is the place to be! The course is well kept with large sloping greens that play like those on bigger courses.

A rails-to-trails bike path known as the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail parallels Route 771 for 5.5 miles. There are four trailheads that will eventually connect to the Boca Grande bike path. Bikes & Boards at 966 S. McCall Road rents car racks and bikes on a daily or weekly basis.
  

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Places to Stay

Manasota’s Weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual rentals are fully furnished and equipped for that unforgettable vacation experience. Seasonal rates run from December thru April with most available at discounted rates though the summer.

Fun Things to do

Charlotte Harbor rivals the Everglades for undeveloped, waterfront scenery. The ride to Boca Grande and Englewood Beach and along Burnt Store Marina Road south of Punta Gorda and Route 31 provide especially pastoral settings.

Round up the kids for a Swamp Buggy Tour and see wild turkey, alligators and sand hill cranes.

Food, entertainment, kayak and canoe rentals can be found at Snook Haven or cruise the Peace River on the Nav-a-gator’s pontoon boat, check out the fossil museum and grab a great grouper sandwich. or ocean excursions try Grande Tours, then shop in Boca Grande or rent a bike and explore the quaint neighborhoods of the island.

If looking for a day trip, check out the vacation planner for ideas.

Culture

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has been a fixture for 30 years.The ensemble presents a series of pops concerts annually and recently accompanied singer Barry Manilow on a Florida tour.

The Lemon Bay Playhouse and Venice Theatre offer year-round community performances.

For more entertaining diversity, Sarasota's not far away.

Calendar of Events

   January
More than 800 boats come for the Charlotte County Boat Show, tel. 941-629-4252, at Charlotte County Fairgrounds, 2333 El Jobean Rd. in Port Charlotte.

   March
The Conquistador Cup Regatta, tel. 941-456-5059, in Charlotte Harbor from Fishermen's Village or Gilchrist Park.

   April
One of the biggest and best in the state, the Florida International Air Show, tel. 941-639-1101, features the Thunderbirds and Golden Knights.

   May
Boca Grande hosts Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament, tel. 941-964-0568, early in the month. Other tarpon tournaments continue through mid-June. Two redfish tournaments take place in Punta Gorda during the month: Kid's Cup Redfish Tournament at Fishermen's Village, tel. 941-766-8180, and Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup at Gilchrist Park, tel. 941-743-1900.

At Port Charlotte Beach, the Charlotte Harbor Kayak & Wildlife Festival, tel. 941-743-1900, takes place for two days, with kayak tours, demonstrations, wildlife seminars, and a kayak fishing tournament.

   July
Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda (1200 W. Retta Esplanade) is the site of several water-oriented festivals throughout the year. Fourth of July Freedom Swim, tel. 941-637-1177, is a big event with hundreds of participants and boats crossing the wide mouth of the Peace River between Seahorse Marina in Charlotte Harbor and Fishermen's Village.

   December
Lighted boat parades are the quintessential mode for holiday celebrating in Southwest Florida. In Charlotte County, watch early in the month for the Englewood Lighted Boat Parade, tel. 941-475-6882 and the Peace River Lighted Boat Parade, tel. 941-639-3720.

This is one of the most peaceful, secluded unspoiled islands around. (Just don’t tell anyone!)


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* Neighboring Communities *

 Sarasota 
 Bradenton 
 Anna Maria Island 
 Longboat Key 
 St Armands Key 
 Lido Key 
 Siesta Key 
 Casey Key 
 Venice Island 
 Northport 
 Port Charlotte 
 Punta Gorda 


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