Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Sarasota / Venice
Begin: Lido Beach
Resort near Stump Pass Beach State Park
Distance: 36 miles
Duration: 2-3 days
Special Considerations: As with most South Florida
segments, boat traffic can be heavy, especially on weekends.
Advance reservations are recommended for motels and campgrounds,
especially during holidays and the spring season.
The situation regarding motels may change as motels are rapidly being
converted to condominiums and resorts that require multi-day rentals.
Also, the existing motels have a preference for multi-day rentals,
especially during the busy spring tourist season.
Whether paddling on the Gulf or bay side, this segment provides
paddlers with a variety of bird life and scenic beaches and parks.
Sarasota Bay and numerous other small bays are highlights of this
segment, with their rich marine life. On your journey, look for
bottlenose dolphins that reside year-round in Sarasota Bay and other
waters. In spring and summer, mothers and calves can be seen in shallow
waters as newborns are more protected from deep-water predators such as
bull sharks. Manatees can also be seen, especially during warmer months.
This segment includes Oscar Scherer State Park along scenic South
Creek, where a large tract of scrubby flatwoods is home to the
threatened Florida scrub jay, a species found only in Florida. For more
information, log onto
www.floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer . For camping reservations,
call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 or log onto
The Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve is in the southern end of the segment.
Two Gulf passes and seven tributaries have helped to create a diverse
network of mangroves, marsh grass, and vast expanses of seagrass
meadows. The diversity includes more than 150 species of birds, 100
species of invertebrates, and 200 species of fish. For more information,
1: Lido Beach to Oscar Scherer State Park, 13
You can begin this segment either at a canoe/kayak launch on the bay
side in South Lido Beach Park (see map), or by launching at Lido Beach
on the Gulf side. If you are a long distance paddler, simply continue
from one of several motels just south of Lido Beach on the Gulf side.
For more information, log onto
http://sarasota.lodgingguide.com and other websites.
You can paddle along the Gulf side or the bay side, depending on
winds, weather and preference, although there are more parks on the Gulf
side that are ideal for rest breaks. There is also the Turtle Beach
Campground, about 8 miles from Lido Beach. Once a private RV park, it is
now operated by Sarasota County. Tent sites are available. The
campground is accessible from the Gulf or from a lagoon about a half
mile in from the bay side (see map). Advance reservations are highly
recommended: 941-349-3839. Restaurants are within walking distance.
Since the state park is on South Creek along the mainland, you’ll
either need to paddle to the bay side just after Lido Beach through Big
Sarasota Pass or portage to the bay across a 100-foot stretch of sand in
between Siesta and Casey keys at a spot known as Midnight Pass (see map
for GPS point). The pass filled with sand in the early 1980s.
If you want to stay on the Gulf side past Midnight Pass, you can stay
at the Gulf Surf Motel, about 11 miles from Lido Beach (call
941-966-2669 for reservations).
Along the bay side, you’ll pass several bird rookeries and birding
hot spots such as Skiers Island in Roberts Bay and the Neville Preserve
in Little Sarasota Bay. To stay at the state park, paddle up South Creek
a short distance and stop at the small beach landing near the entrance
station to register for a site at the campground (see map for GPS
point). Then, paddle to the park canoe launch site (a total of about a
mile from the bay). You’ll have to leave your boat here and walk a
nature trail along the creek less than a half mile to the campground,
which is accessible by bridge on the south side of the creek.
For an overnight alternative, you can paddle another 4 miles from
South Creek to the Venice Inlet where you can primitive camp on Snake
Island, a popular spot for boaters. Parks are on either side of the
inlet and a marina and restaurant are along the south bank. This will
shave off 4 miles from your paddle the next day.
2: Oscar Scherer State Park to Weston's, 23 miles
Paddle down South Creek to Blackburn Bay and continue south along the
mainland. At Venice, you’ll have a choice of paddling out the Venice
Inlet and into the Gulf or paddling the Intracoastal Waterway, which
snakes its way inland for more than five miles. Along the Gulf, you can
either stay at the small Beach Croft Motel at Englewood Beach after 20
miles (941-474-6509 for reservations) or circle through Stump Pass to
the larger Weston’s on the bay side, 24 miles total from Oscar Scherer
State Park. Be wary of strong currents in Stump Pass. An outgoing tide
will make paddling through the pass to the bay side difficult.
If paddling the Intracoastal route, it is about 23 miles from Oscar
Scherer to Weston’s Resort. Weston’s is conveniently located on the bay
and Gulf adjacent to Stump Pass Beach State Park. Paddlers can use the
ramp right at the motel, check in, and secure kayaks on shore. Like most
motels in the area, however, they do not take reservations for one-night
stays. These are on a first-come, first serve basis, so don’t arrive
late. If you want to reserve for more than one night, or check on
potential availability, call 941-474-3431. Spring is considered the busy
If staying at Weston’s, you can walk to Stump Pass Beach State Park
and hike a mile or so to Stump Pass, either along the undeveloped beach
or down the park’s nature trail through the interior. Look for shells
and shark teeth along the beach, especially after a storm.