Gulls and terns dominate the beaches yet Longboat key is blessed with two spectacular sanctuaries devoted to raptors, waders and more.
Durante Park, 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive:
Durante Park is a unique oasis in an urbanized area, a mile north of the Centre Shops on the same side of Gulf of Mexico Drive. This 32 acre park offers nature trails, fishing docks and boardwalks, with gazebos and a botanical garden as well as picnic tables, playground and restrooms.
The park was restored in the 1990’s to wetlands and a forested coastal hammock of native vegetation such as live oaks, red cedar, sabal palms, banyon, mango, green buttonwood, mahoe and mangroves.
Walking along a gravel path, to a recessed waterway, visitors will observe the endangered wood stork. This long-billed wader, can sometimes be seen in the park, flying overhead or hunting for small fish in the low waters.
Walk along the wooden walkways to Sarasota Bay and study the mangroves especially the ones in shade. At low tide various birds can be seen clinging to wooden overhangs while spoonbills forage in the shallows.
Viewers often glimpse an osprey extending it’s talons for a fish.
Across a tidal pool are some small white footbridges where cormorants and kingfishers patrol the waters.
Quick Point Nature Preserve, 100 Gulf of Mexico Drive:
Amenities: Nature trails, boardwalks, canoe/kayak launch, fishing docks, informational signage and parking.
The 34 acre preserve is well known for its scenic vistas and wildlife viewing. Paved trails and boardwalks provide easy access to the man-made tidal lagoon attracting whelks, conchs, juvenile crabs and many kinds of small fish, including mullet and black drum and where snowy egrets, ibis and great blue heron enjoy a meal.