We took a few trips over to Palmetto, Florida over Labor Day Weekend this year to explore Emerson Point Preserve. The hours here vary by season – check out their website here for more information. There is no entrance fee and they do not have kayak or canoe rentals available on-site. Parking by the welcome center and restrooms can be limited. There are additional parking lots by the canoe launch in the middle of the park, and a larger parking lot at the end of the island by the boat launch. You can find a pair of porta-potties here as well. While we are talking about the parking lots, it’s worth it to mention that they’re not paved – they are made of gravel, shell, and sand – the same composition of many of the trails. There was one paved multi-use trail paralleling the road that lead to the end of the island. It was even separated from the actual street by parking curbs to help ensure the safety of the bikers.
This is a great place to take children who are good walkers. Some of the trails are stroller friendly, but not all of them are so keep that in mind if you have stroller babies! The trails are very well marked, and the signage here is extremely helpful. They are all made of sand/shell/gravel with a few wooden docks jutting out into Terra Ceia Bay. There is partial shade on most of the trails, but I would still recommend sunscreen. We did not use insect repellent on any of our trips, however I would recommend it as the children all had a few red spots pop up after we got home. Not many, although in hindsight they could have easily been avoided with a quick spritz of bug spray. The restrooms here do not have changing tables nor are they air conditioned, and during our visit the welcome center was temporarily closed, so I don’t know if it was air conditioned or not. One of the nice things about this park was the ample amount of trash receptacles along the trails. At most of the docks and all of the parking areas there were enclosed garbage cans for disposal of all of your waste. There are also pavilions, an observation tower which M pointed out is shaped exactly like a crow’s nest, and a water fountain next to the restrooms. This park also had a little free library, although there is no playground.
There is also a great historical learning opportunity here as there are native american mounds located within the preserve. There is a short hiking trail that takes you all around these mounds, with boardwalks crossing one of the high points and informative signs depicting native american life so many years ago. This trail is adjacent to the parking lot and is the most stroller-accessible portion of the trails here.
We took two trips here: One for hiking and one for kayaking through the mangrove tunnels. Hiking here was a marvelous experience! We were able to actually walk through the mangrove tunnels thanks to the raised, sandy walkways. Trees grew sideways over the path, and some roots stuck up through the soil high enough for the children to climb underneath them. This gave us a great opportunity to climb and crawl and find our way around the obstacles. We saw a plethora of fiddler crabs, a raccoon, spiders, and cacti on this walk. I was surprised to find the cacti along the trail, but they grew in clusters and seemed to be fairing rather well. There were so many amazing things to see – from the drop roots of the red mangroves to the gigantic blue crab that we spotted from one of the docks. The children all agree that this park is a winner and have been asking to go back ever since.
We have had M start practicing on the little Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak kayak in a river behind our house, and after a great first paddle on his own we decided that it would be a good time for M and K to use their own double-kayak, so we finally had a change to break out the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak that we purchased earlier this year. We still have them attached to us with a rope and pull them most of the way, but they have taken to the water so well and it never ceases to amaze me! They managed to steer themselves through the winding mangrove tunnels with minimal input from myself or D. We pulled them, but they did all of the steering of their own kayak. We were initially worried about the oysters clinging to the mangrove roots, but the inflatable kayak held up incredibly well and we did not suffer from any punctures!