You know you’re in a special place when a state park takes up the southern end of a barrier island. It’s ready for your Florida Gulf Coast vacation, on tiny Manasota Key near Englewood, Florida.
Stump Pass State Park is one of the most beautiful state parks in Florida I have seen so far, and is on par with St Andrews State Park in the panhandle region where I was greeted with similar wow views of dolphins playing close to shore.
Stump Pass Beach State Park is one of the four barrier islands that comprise the Barrier Islands Geopark in this area. The other three are Cayo Costa, Don Pedro, Gasparilla.
It consists of 245 acres of the Southern tip of Manasota Key and has access to pristine beaches on Lemon Bay and the Gulf Coast.
We visited on a South Florida road trip during the winter months and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Find a private area of your own along the Lemon Bay side or a slice of sand on the ocean side.
Many come here to enjoy the serenity, fishing, wildlife viewing, shell foraging and shark tooth hunting.
A 1.3-mile sandy nature trail takes you through the low-lying forest with pockets in the trees giving you glimpses of the wild Gulf Coast on one side and the calmer luminescent aqua waters on the other.
It’s flat and gentle with only a handful of people passing you by.
The trail ends at Stump Pass, the end of the island where the Gulf meets the bay. You will be wowed by the view and thrilled you have your own secluded beach to enjoy.
As soon as we got to where the white sand met that beautiful water, two dolphins rose out of the water, right near the edge of the shore.
They swam and chased fish the whole time we stayed there watching or chasing seagulls.
Two lucky ladies were paddle boarding and were able to get close watching them play.
This is also a good spot to spy a West Indian Manatees, gopher tortoises, snow egrets or a Loggerhead Sea Turtle (one of the most concentrated spots for these sightings in the world). More sea turtles nest in Manasota Key than anywhere else on the Gulf Coast, particularly the threatened Loggerhead sea turtle.
You can hire paddle boards and kayaks from the park’s entrance. The most popular route is to kayak along the mangrove habitat of Lemon Bay towards Stump Pass and out into the Gulf of Mexico.
There are also two uninhabited islands just east of Stump Pass you can paddle around.
It was way too windy when we visited to do that. I hope it’s calm for you as it would be a Florida adventure to remember.
The paddle back to the launch site is meant to be easier than the beginning of the trip with the water currents and wind working in your favor.
Visitors can launch a kayak and paddle around the two islands just east of the park’s land base.
Hooked on SUP Paddle Sports provides kayak and paddleboard rental opportunities. You can find them in the middle of the Stump Pass Beach State Park parking lot, on the Lemon Bay side of the park. Don’t forget to purchase your state park pass while there!
Rentals are available in two-hour blocks, four-hour blocks and from one day to multiple day options available as well.
Where is Manasota Key?
Manasota Key is an 11-mile barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast located south of its busier neighbors, Sarasota, and Venice. It’s about halfway between Tampa and Fort Myers.
Only a short bridge separates it from the mainland, giving even more water experiences for you to enjoy with the calmer Lemon Bay.
Manasota Key is slow-paced, pristine, and unknown – the kind of Florida island vacation of your dreams, especially traveling in COVID times. There is no shortage of personal space and fresh salty air.
We visited Manasota Key for three nights as part of a South Florida road trip from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast.
Discover new ideas and inspirations in the following posts:
- The perfect winter family vacation in Martin County, Florida
- Best things to do in Sebring, FL in 2 days
- A Uniquely AWESOME Houseboat Rental on the Treasure Coast, FL
- Manasota Key: A family vacation on a little known tropical island
- Your Guide to Wow Experiences on a South Florida Road Trip
- 18 Best Places for Families to Visit in Florida
- Stump Pass Beach Reels
- Sunset Views at Englewood Beach, Manasota Key (reel)
Comment: What other incredible Florida State Parks do you know of?