Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Checking out Robinson Preserve

January 15-16
Cortez, Florida
Buttonwood Inlet RV Resort

We met a couple in the park who bike nearly everyday to Robinson Preserve, a coastal park that just opened to the public in 2008. This 487 acre preserve is just a few miles west of downtown Bradenton or eight miles north of us in Cortez. The preserve has a kayak and canoe launch, a 50’ observation tower, 2.5 miles of paved trails for biking, and more than 5 miles of shell and coastal trails for hiking.  Surprisingly, to us, dogs are allowed on leashes on all the trails.

The afternoon we visited the preserve we didn't have a lot of time to hike the trails; we were just scouting the place out for future adventure possibilities. The park is free and seems to be especially popular for jogging and biking. The main visitor’s center was closed but sure is a welcoming structure. This building was originally the Valentine homestead built in the late 1800s in nearby Palmetto. The home was in danger of being demolished in its original location, so the owners, in an effort to preserve the history of the place, donated it to Manatee County and the house was transported on a barge down the Manatee River to its current location at Robinson. It then took two years of painstaking restoration to bring the home back to recreate the historical features of the home. Inside the center, visitors can learn more about pioneering life in the Palma Sola area, watch a live view from the observation tower’s camera, and see a 300 gallon mangrove habitat with live creatures. The hours of operation for the visitor’s center are 9-4 on Saturday and Sunday and it looks like it is open from 8:30-12:30 Wed-Fri, but better to check first.

The kayak/canoe launch is right near the entrance to the preserve. It winds through a mangrove inlet to the Manatee County Blueways Trail which connects to the Manatee River, Perico Bayou, and Palma Sola Bay. According to their trail guide, “a 5-mile roundtrip adventure would start at the launch and meander through the preserve to Palma Sola Bay and back.”

Just a short distance away from the launch site is the biking trail which leads to the observation tower.  There are a few places along the way that even allow fishing (which surprised me considering that it is a preserve, but it is all catch and release) or you might just want to take a rest on a bench and enjoy the peaceful setting. 

A short distance down the trail you can see the observation tower.  We didn't get that far on our exploration of the park, but I think it would provide a good view of the various ecosystems-- waterways, marshlands and uplands--and wildlife in the area.  Rumor has it that there are small beach areas along the trails with benches and picnic tables with a great view of the Skyway Bridge and St. Petersburg.

We were able to see the osprey nest that is well known in the park. It looks like there is a baby there, but I am not sure if it is a young osprey or the female.

We both agreed this place is a real gem and one we would like to explore by foot, bike, and kayak.  Another great bonus is that on your way out of the preserve, there is a great little farm selling amazing fresh produce that is mostly grown on the grounds (and the prices sure beat the local markets.)  There is also another attraction to visit nearby: the Palma Sola Botanical Park. We didn't know about the botanical gardens, but there you can visit ten acres of tranquil gardens with three lakes for free—and dogs on leash are welcome! 

I am closing with a photo I took earlier in the day at the beach (the same goes for the opening photo).  I just love the shorebirds on the Gulf. For some weird reason, this Tern reminds me our our dog Rico.


  1. That preserve sounds like a gem ... plenty to do and the variety of activities will make it fun to return to try them all out. This one goes on the Pinterest list.

    P.S. I agree about the shorebirds of the Gulf ... they just stand there patiently waiting to be photographed.

  2. Really great post on this park I've never heard of. Wish I'd seen the house coming down the river by barge. Bet that was great. It's a beauty now. So glad they were able to save it. I'm in awe of the park couple. A 16 mile bike trip to and from every day. They must be in great shape.


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