In Part 1 I covered Ted Sperling Park on the south end of Lido Key and in Part 2 I covered North Lido Beach. In this blog I'll cover Ken Thompson Park which I love for the great views of downtown Sarasota, especially at night. Check out the map on Blog 1 if you're unsure of the location.
Ken Thompson Park is a 92 acre tract located on the northeast end of Lido Key. It has some large grassy open areas, frontage on New Pass Inlet, walkways through the mangroves and some of the best views of downtown. It's accessed by heading north out of St. Armand's Circle for about a mile and then turning right on Ken Thompson Parkway towards Mote Marine aquarium just before the New Pass bridge to Longboat Key. Follow the road till it ends just past the Mote Marine facility on the left (this is also known as City Island for some strange reason). Ken Thompson has three distinct areas. 1) The boat launch and mangrove trail 2) New Pass Inlet waterfront, and 3) the playground and city view area.
The boat launch and mangrove trail are just past Mote Marine on the right. To the left of the boat launch there are restrooms and an elevated nature trail through the mangroves with several spots to view the bay along the route. The exit of the walkway comes out at the end of the island where the playground and restrooms are.
Across the street is the new pass inlet waterfront. It's on the left just before the end of the island and has a big open field where people come to walk their dogs and often play sports. There's parking close to the water and several covered pavilions for a shady lunch. Along the seawall there are benches to watch the boats go by and several small piers for fishing in New Pass. If you need bait or tackle you can buy it at the New Pass Grill (you passed it when you turned onto Ken Thompson)
Finally at the end of the island there's the playground and city view area with a circular drive with parking along with benches, restrooms, covered pavilions and a couple of playground structures. The Sarasota Sailing Squadron is also located here and you'll see a mooring field for sailboats associated with the squadron. This spot provides some of the best views of the Ringling Bridge and downtown with sailboats moored in the foreground. At night the bridge and high rise building colorfully lit up make for some really nice pictures.
This park is a nice spot for lunch because once you make the turn onto Ken Thompson Parkway you'll pass by several restaurants. New Pass Grill is first on the left which is a good spot for fishing bait and burgers while watching the boats in New Pass. They also make a monster breakfast croissant sandwich! Old Salty Dog is next and I believe they have the best warm boiled shrimp in town that's seasoned with Old Bay seasoning that makes you want to lick your fingers. Finally the Sailing Squadron at the end of the road also has a grille that's open to the public and serves up some pretty good food at great prices.
Hope you enjoy the park!
"Ken Thompson was handpicked to be Sarasota's second City Manager in 1950. He served as City Manager of Sarasota for 38 years, longer than any other city manager in the United States. He was instrumental in developing the Sarasota bayfront including Island Park, the Marina Jack development and boat marina". http://allaboutsarasota.com/biographies.htm