South Lido County Park
One Hundred Acre Natural Wonderland On Lido Key
South Lido Park is a one hundred acre natural wonderland located at the southernmost end of Lido Key surrounded by four distinct bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico, Big Sarasota Pass, Sarasota Bay, and Brushy Bayou which create a dynamic estuary and a variety of coastal habitats. To preserve this fragile ecosystem, the County of Sarasota acquired this property in 1974 and established it as a county park. The loop trail that runs through the park is easily accessible from the parking lot at South Lido Beach and the flat terrain makes the trails good for all fitness levels. Southwest Florida has beautiful weather year round allowing walkers and hikers to enjoy the loop trail throughout the entire year.
Due to the diverse groups of birds found here, this coastal area is a bird watchers paradise. The main trail that meanders through the park leads to a secluded platform overlooking Brushy Bayou and a hidden beach affording stunning vistas of the Lido Key mangrove islands, Sarasota Bay, and Bird Key. Also you will traverse a bridge through the mangroves providing a habitat for a variety of birds. Depending on the tide, you may wish to walk along the unfrequented shoreline of South Lido.
THE WALKING LOOP PATH
The loop path is 1.25 miles in length providing lovely views of smooth as glass bayou, Sarasota Bay, mangrove islands, lots of birds, and serene, secluded havens. All the distances were measured by the GPS function of my Apple Watch S4. The trailhead can be found by taking the immediate left when arriving at South Lido Beach Park. When facing the water, Sarasota Bay, the sandy road can be found on your left. The restrooms will be on your right. There is a gate that is usually closed to prevent people from driving down the road. Start here.
Walk 0.25 miles. You will see a picnic table, charcoal grill, and a knobby tree on the right and on the left you will see 3 trash cans & 2 recycle bins, turn left here.
Stay to the left and within a short distance (0.05 miles), you will come to Observation Deck #3 which overlooks Brushy Bayou. There are two wooden benches with overhanging trees providing a shady, tranquil spot to relax, take in the view, and meditate if you wish. I use this observation deck on Brushy Bayou as a landmark while kayaking the Lido Key mangrove tunnels. When I’m paddling south in Brushy Bayou, I know to look for the Tunnel #5 when I see this platform in the distance. Click here for a detailed self-guided tour of Lido Key mangrove tunnels for an unforgettable, pure Florida experience. When leaving the observation platform, take the first left.
Next you will come to a bridge, labeled #4, allowing the hiker to traverse over shallow water and through the mangroves. As you approach the bridge, look to your right. There is an obscured lagoon filled with a variety of birds. The first time I walked this path and came upon the bridge, I heard a honking quack or more like a quacking honk. Where did this strange sound come from? I looked for the source of the noise. I found a little feathered creature oasis hidden behind a thick screen about 4 feet high. Since I’m vertically challenged (5 feet tall), I had to stand on my tippy toes to see into this secret bird sanctuary. My first glimpse was of something pink. Pink!?! Oh definitely pink...it was a roseate spoonbill…and not just one but at least four or five. I don’t think I would have found this petite lagoon if it wasn’t for that bird call. It’s easy to miss. So as you approach this bridge, actively search for it. I’ve seen wood stork, ibis, great egret, snowy egret, and the pretty and unique pink roseate spoonbill. If you are seeing mangroves for the first time, take a moment to look at the very distinctive and highly specialized root system. The trail will eventually end at the sandy road. Turn left to continue to the Hidden Beach.
HIDDEN BEACH FOUND!
After walking a total of 0.65 miles, you will arrive at the Hidden Beach, a secluded little beach at the northern end of South Lido Beach. If you wish to skip the part of the hike to the observation deck and mangroves, you can take 2 direct routes to the Hidden Beach. If it’s low tide, you can stroll along the shore from the main part of South Lido Beach or you can walk the shaded, sandy road path. It is 0.55 miles from the parking lot to the Hidden Beach on the sandy road trail.
The Hidden Beach is also accessible by water via a kayak or paddle board. It’s a short paddle from the launch site at the Ted Sperling Park.
This beach has great views of the mangrove islands, Sarasota Bay, and Bird Key. Since the water is very shallow, it’s unlikely you’ll see dolphins and manatees. You need to go deeper into the main channel for those creatures but you will see lots of birds. The Hidden Beach is a great spot to take a break from walking or kayaking. The guided kayak tours stop here for a break allowing paddlers to take a dip to cool off in the hot summer and to rest your arms and upper body. Be sure to carry water particularly during warm weather. I like to have a snack while resting on this beach.
I like to return to the parking lot by walking along the shore. However, if the tide is high, you can easily take the sandy road or retrace the path along the interior trail. The total distance of this loop trail is 1.25 miles. This relatively short hike is packed full of different scenery allowing you to experience pure Florida, have the opportunity to be in nature, and observe local birds, the bayou, Sarasota bay, mangroves, and a beautiful white sand beach.
I wanted to mention that this mini-adventure tour of the loop trail at South Lido is a lot of fun and it is a FREE activity. There is no fee to enter the park and the parking at South Lido Beach is free. For more free activities in Sarasota, click here. There are also restrooms and an outdoor shower if you wish to rinse off your feet. For more details on the amenities at South Lido Beach, click here. Spending time in nature and going for a walk has the benefits of physical fitness, a vitamin D treatment from the sunshine, and the potential to relieve stress and sooth the soul. So get out there, explore this loop trail and all that Sarasota has to offer, and Seas The Day.