The diversity of parks makes vacation to Lido Key complete
I do a lot of walking on Lido Key and really enjoy the diversity of the parks on the island. Many people do not realize that Lido Key is 3.3 miles from end to end. We are fortunate to have a number of great parks on the south, middle and north end of the island each with its own character and things to do depending on what you are looking for. This three part blog is an attempt to summarize them through the eyes of a local resident. I'll start at the south end and work north covering the three main parks.
Ted Sperling Park is a contiguous 100-acre property at the south end of Lido Key that interacts with four bodies of water; the Gulf of Mexico, Big Pass, Sarasota Bay and Brushy Bayou. The park consists of two distinct areas, the South Lido Beach and the Kayak Park on the north end of the park. Both areas have restroom facilities and offer very different experiences. It should be noted that Lido Key does not connect to Siesta Key (thankfully). I've intercepted more than one lost driver looking for the bridge to Siesta Key on Lido and fortunately it does not exist and Ted Sperling Park does.
The main park entrance, and South Lido Beach, is located at the southern tip of Lido Key at the south end of Ben Franklin Drive. It offers a great beach experience on the gulf side, picturesque views of the bay, shaded picnic tables with grills and a large playground for the kids. No lifeguards are on duty and swimming is not allowed due to the strong currents through Big Pass. On the gulf side there's a large sandbar that at low tide you might be able to find a few sand dollars. The gulf side beach is just a relaxing area to sit and watch the boats pass through Big Pass during the day.
The south park area also has 1.2 miles of trails that follow the bay side shoreline north from the restrooms. Along the way you'll cross over elevated walkways through mangrove hammocks and stands of local hardwood trees. The trails ends at a small beach that overlooks Bird Key to the east. It's a fun trial to take the kids and it's about a 30 minute round trip walk.
The north entrance of Ted Sperling is at the South end of Boulevard of the Presidents. Here’s where over 20K+ kayaks and paddle boards launch every year. The key feature is the mangrove tunnels which are cuts through the mangroves that are perfect for kayaking through with lots of fish and wildlife along the way. Urban lore has it that the Army Corps of Engineers cut through the mangroves to drain them. More then likely it occurred when John Ringling dredged and created Lido Key in the 1920's. While kayaking watch for schools of mullets, some jumping out of the water, and for the small crabs in the mangroves – they can end up in your kayak! If manatees are your thing they often hang out around Otter Key to the north. There's also a short trail that runs from the kayak launch to the bayou.
There are always companies inside the gate that you can walk up to rent kayaks. To get this most out of limited time I’d recommend the half-day tour with a guide. You can sign up in advance on company websites and sometimes get a discount. The guides are very knowledgeable and know the area very well. Be sure to tip them!
Kayaking SRQ has a great video of what to expect. If you really like kayaking Sarasota County has put together the Blueways Paddling Guide which is very good document on the local kayak and canoe trails.
Enjoy the park and your adventures!
In Part 2 I'll cover North Lido Beach my favorite
Ted Sperling was a former Sarasota City Commissioner and the man most credited with the public’s purchase of South Lido Park in 1977. Sperling, who died in 1996, belonged to a generation of local leaders, who pushed for the public’s purchase of land “when it wasn’t a mainstream idea. (Herald-Tribune , Doug Sword,Posted Oct 10, 2009)