Many of us are looking for ways to be active while also staying a safe distance away from others. That's why Sarah Phinney started a ‘Walking Club’ to highlight some hidden, and some not so hidden, trails and parks across the Tampa Bay.
Outdoor enthusiasts in Manatee County may be familiar with popular spots like Robinson Preserve and Emerson Point Preserve, but lesser-known Perico Preserve and Neal Preserve offer similar experiences, with a lot less foot traffic!
Where are Perico Preserve and Neal Preserve?
You’ve probably passed by both preserves on the way to Anna Maria Island without even realizing it!
Perico Preserve is located on the north side of Manatee Avenue. The address is:
Neal Preserve is a half-mile west of Perico Preserve, on the south side of Manatee Avenue. Put this address in your phone:
It takes less than five minutes to drive between the two places.
Pets (aside from service animals) are not allowed at either preserve. Bikes are not allowed on the trails at Neal Preserve.
There is limited access for bikes at Perico Preserve.
What can I find at Perico Preserve?
Visitors will find 1.2 miles of walking trails at Perico Preserve, as well as boardwalks, including one that take walkers out to Perico Bayou. From there, you see Robinson Preserve across the way!
Manatee County purchased the property in the early 2000s when it was farmland. Charlie Hunsicker, Director of Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources, says the county began restoring the property in earnest between 2012 and 2017.
Now, people will see a wide variety of native plants and animals to southwest coastal Florida all in one location.
“It was destined to be a development,” said Hunsicker. “Now it destined to forever be a beautiful and natural place.”
Birding is also popular, as Perico Preserve was also designed to be a bird sanctuary.
What can I find at Neal Preserve?
It only takes about 35 minutes to fully explore 120 acre Neal Preserve. Visitors will find boardwalks, shell trails and a 20-foot observation tower with views of Anna Maria Island and Sarasota Bay.
Neal Preserve has rich Native American history. You’ll see information boards throughout the park that explain the significance of the area in detail.
“Our parking lots are small, our visitation is light, it’s never really that crowded, however, it is a very rich experience for education and history,” said Hunsicker.
Hunsicker says plans call for a connecting trail directly linking Perico Preserve and Robinson Preserve. He expects it to be complete by May 2021.
When should I visit?
Perico Preserve and Neal Preserve are open daily from sunrise to sunset. You may want to take advantage of Perico Preserve while the weather is cool because much of the trail is not shaded.
Get involved in Walking Club!
Post photos of your adventures, ask questions and learn about upcoming #WalkingClub stories in Sarah’s Walking Club group on Facebook!