A few weekends ago, Tim and I decided to check out the hiking trails at Stump Beach State Park in Englewood, FL. It's an area of land that juts out with Lemon Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. It has a pass on the end with what we heard would be sparkling clear, shallow waters - more on that in a minute. We had heard that it's a great trail with birds to see along the way (it's a federally protected bird sanctuary) and the high possibility of spotting some manatee and dolphin in the waters.
Parking is $3 and is limited, so arrive early! There's a decent bathroom facility and foot washing station at the parking lot too - which are definitely perks for me!
Although it was about 2 miles total, it was an easy hike, especially considering all the "Mini Beaches" where you could stop off for a quick dip to cool down. The scenery was gorgeous with mangroves, palm trees, and weathered remains of dead trees jutting into the sky.
Unfortunately, once we reached the end there weren't any of the shallow clear waters we were hoping for. There's dredging currently going on in the area, so the water was murky with kicked-up sand. Much of the end was blocked off where the work was taking place too. That didn't stop the boaters and jet ski folks from having a great time though, there were plenty of boats anchored on the bay side with kids enjoying the water and parents grilling up some delicious smelling foods.
We decided to hike back to a "larger" beach area (still small) we had seen along the way on the Gulf side and there we stopped for a snack and to cool off. It was a pretty sweet area with a few short palm trees right at the water's edge. It looked like we were on our own uninhabited island! We hung out there for a while, enjoying the scenery and cooling off in the surf. I will say that if you are bringing kids along on this adventure, check the water on the Gulf side before letting them get in, because the currents were strong where we were.
All-in-all it was a fantastic day, even though the end point wasn't as beautiful as we had heard. But, that just gives us a reason to go back and explore again once the dredging is completed! It had so much natural, seemingly un-touched beauty that many times we were reminded of our time we spent on St. John, USVI.
If you're into hiking and enjoy getting away from the crowds and exploring areas that are a bit less touristy, I definitely recommend that you check out Stump Beach State Park!