Top 10 Things To Do in Boca Grande, Englewood, Manasota Key, Placida, and Rotonda West.
I like to call our area- "what's left of Old Florida." There's only a handful of places left that haven't seen the growth and huge high-rises that now take over much of the Florida coastline. Our little piece of paradise offers a unique setting based on the natural beauty of a forgotten Florida. While on vacation (plug to our vacation rental website click here) in our area there are many things to do and see. Here's our Top 10 list.
Nothing defines Florida more than our beaches! Depicted on just about everything Florida related, we can definitely brag that nature has blessed our coastline, and it's usually the top reason why you vacation here. We have miles of pristine sandy beaches surrounded by cerulean waters stretching from Manasota Key, down to the Boca Grande Pass.
Starting from the north, Manasota key has 4 public beach accesses with parking. The two southern ones at Englewood Beach and Stumps Pass State Park do require a parking fee, while the northern two do not. Most of the activity is centered around Englewood Beach where you can find a brand new playground, public bathrooms, and sand volleyball courts. This beaches popularity is that its walkable to to the local island restaurants and shops on Manasota Key. Another feature is that Englewood Beach has a Beach Cam, so you can visit the beach anytime with just a click of a button.
Here's a link- https://www.definingfloridarealty.com/englewoodbeachcamera
#2 ECO TOURISM
The locals consider our area the number one spot for eco-tourism. What makes it great is that people don't know about it, and that helps to retain its natural beauty. There are so many great places to get out and explore both on sea and on land. We are fortunate enough to be surrounded by beautiful state parks, and protected land keeping our little area the hidden gem it is known as. There is an abundance of rental shops for paddleboards, kayaks and even power boats, so get out and explore the mangroves, the estuaries, the bay fronts, and the back country. You will not be disappointed.
Stump Pass State Park- located on Manasota Key
Don Pedro State Park- accessible by boat only
Lemon Bay- the shallow waters make it perfect to explore
Gasparilla Lighthouse State Park- Located on Gasparilla Island / Boca Grande
From the backwaters of Lemon Bay, to the tarpon running the Boca Grande Pass, or the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico; our area has some of the finest selection of on and off shore fishing. I am not the avid fisherman myself, but our waters are great for beginners and expert anglers alike. One can easily find plenty of fishing guides for an all day adventure, or fishing from the sunny seashore, or even enjoying one of the many public piers we have in the area. Any of these resources are sure to help you wrangle in that epic catch of the day.
#4 BOCA GRANDE
From its industrial beginnings as a phosphate port due to the deep natural pass, to the historic and iconic Gasparilla Inn, Boca Grande is a vacation destination for the elite. Having quite the history, this 7 mile island is definitely worth the $6 toll to explore. Two lighthouses can be found on island, with both open to the public, and the downtown offers many eclectic island restaurants and boutique shops. Explore a little slice of paradise where there are no stop lights and golf carts out number the cars. Rent a golf cart, or bicycle yourself and explore the island like a local, there are plenty of Instagram worthy photo ops to take advantage of. The island is also known as the Tarpon fishing capital of the world, and the legacy of these waters date back to the late 1890's.
#5 MANASOTA KEY
This 11 mile barrier island is located in Englewood and features 4 fantastic beaches. Manasota Beach, Blind Pass Beach, Englewood Beach (the best known of these beaches), and Stump Pass Beach. Made up mostly of beach homes, and vacation rentals this island offers visitors a relaxing old Florida atmosphere. You can still find native seashells and plenty of shark teeth along these quiet beaches. The area around Englewood Beach does offer several dining choices and a bit of shopping. For the adventurist type there's parasailing, boat and even jet ski rentals available. If you'd like something without the purr of an engine or dangling 100 feet above the water isn't your thing, kayak and paddleboard rentals can also be found on Manasota Key. Stump Pass state park on the southern tip of the island is a beach lover's paradise with over a mile of untouched coastline, there's plenty of sun, shells and shark teeth! A 1.3 mile hiking trail, kayak and paddleboard launches can also be found at Stump Pass park for the outdoorsman.
#6 DEARBORN ST
Englewood's main street, located on Lemon Bay in the Olde Englewood Village is the perfect place to stroll, shop, and dine. This historic street has recently gone through a complete remodel and beautification project and the end result is amazing. Filled with quaint shops, locally-owned restaurants, the best local cup of coffee and plenty of community events, downtown Dearborn has become quite the hangout for locals and visitors. Stop by the popular Farmers Market held every Thursday and grab a bite to eat, pick up some local produce, fresh flowers, handmade jewelry or something else special! Dine at the popular Mango Bistro famous for their smoothies, juice bar, and delectable breakfast and lunch options. Watch nostalgia come to life on Dearborn Street at their monthly Cruisin car show and popular bike nights, complete with music, raffles and plenty of sights to see. Annual festivals and parades can be found here on this same stretch of road in Old Englewood Village as well as wonderful music lineups at Pioneer Plaza the new bandstand just built in 2022 and Englewoods On Dearborn Restaurant. Over the next couple of years Dearborn Street has some major projects planned to improve it's commerce, and appeal.
Just like the beaches, Florida has golf courses, and our area is no exception. The largest grouping of golf courses are located in Rotonda West, about 15 minutes from Englewood Beach. Here you will find 99 holes of golf spanning over 5 courses. All are open to the public. The Rotonda Golf and Country Club does have memberships, is kid friendly, offers dining options, and is open year round, making it a popular spot amongst visitors. Another local choice is Myakka Pines Golf Club, located just out of town on River Road. This semi- private course offers 27 holes to enjoy and claimed it's notoriety in 2020 when Goliath the resident alligator was featured on the national news circuit! Boca Royale Golf Club in Englewood is also a semi-private course offering 18 holes of golf in a residential setting, and has a wonderful clubhouse restaurant for a quick bite or full sit down meal. If you are looking for a more elite experience there are also private options including Lemon Bay Gulf Club, the Gasparilla Inn, and Coral Creek Golf Club.
Some of the finest uncrowded boating waters can be found right here in "Old Florida". This area is actually part of the Intercoastal Waterway, a 3000 mile long waterway that stretches from Boston, Massachusetts down the coast of Florida, and then across ending in Brownsville, Texas. The developers of the waterway incorporated naturally occurring rivers, inlets, sounds, and bays and connected them all with man-made channels. The Englewood and Boca Grande area offer mainly natural bays and waterways which make this is a fantastic route to follow with the most picturesque views on our clear clean waters. Aside from the ICW, we have many natural passes out to the Gulf of Mexico, and too many to count inlets, and backwater bays. Keep in mind we have "skinny waters". Meaning much of the area waterways are shallow, less than 5 feet. Charts and maps are helpful but local knowledge ultimately prevails here.
Looking for fish tacos? Perhaps a Grouper sandwich, or maybe even a Cubano? Well our local eateries have you covered with everything from family favorites like pizza to the more delectable entrees like our famous Gulf Shrimp. I'm going to mention a few of my favorites, but in the future we will write a blog specific to all of our local cuisine. For a dining experience of wonderful cuisine we highly recommend Farlows On The Water, Lock n' Key, The Sandbar, Mango Bistro, and Cafe 776 all right here in Englewood, with each one serving a multitude of breakfast, lunch and dinner options that's sure to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.
#10 CAYO COSTA STATE PARK
Can you believe that there is a place, well actually it's an island, without cars, streets, traffic, and noise? That primitive island of Cayo Costa is part of the Florida State Parks system. Located just south of Gasparilla Island, the uninhabited pristine island of Cayo Costa spans 9 miles long, 2400 acres, and is only accessible by boat or ferry. The island is the perfect destination for shelling, snorkeling, or enjoying a picnic lunch under the shade. There are plenty of hiking trails around the island, and one can even make a stop at the amphitheater and learn about the islands ecological system and history. There are ample camp sites and cabins to spend the night and enjoy the milky way above as you listen to the sounds of the Gulf of Mexico right at your feet. There are Park Rangers on island to help visitors and campers if need be.