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