Myakka River State Park: A window into the way Florida used to be

The loudspeaker comes on and the friendly voice of the airboat pilot can be heard.

"On behalf of Myakka Wildlife Tours, I'd like to welcome you to the Gator Gal!"

And with that, it's time to see the serene and majestic Myakka River -- a window into the way Florida used to be.

At the Myakka River State Park you get an up close look at the wildlife along the shores, but there’s one reptile people come to see most.

"People love seeing the alligators," said Teresa Good, Park Service Specialist, "The number one reason people come here is to see the alligators."


The best way to see them is aboard one of the largest airboats in the world. It may be powered by a 1975 El Dorado engine, but it's not built for speed; it’s built for more of a quiet ride – just the way they like it.


But that’s not all visitors are in for in the park that’s off the beaten path.

“My favorite is the hiking trail," Teresa said with a grin. "That's why I started working here."     

Not only does she run the park, but she says it always has been, and still is her life.

"My dad and I started backpacking here years and years ago," she recalled.

You can camp, ride horseback, rent canoes.  Just about any way to explore, they have it -- including a canopy walkway high above the trees.

For a little adventure, you walk across a rickety bridge. It's wobbly and adrenaline-pumping, but just be sure to remember to watch your head.

And after about a 75-foot climb, you’re at the top, where a cool breeze and a view of yellow wildflowers is refreshing on a hot summer day.

Another thing Myakka Park visitors should keep in mind: the gator stew at the nearby Pink Gator Cafe is a must.

In all, the spot is a neat little place tucked away just east of Sarasota where you can get away -- really away.

"Don't rely on GPS. Siri won't help you," Teresa said, laughing, "You may not get a signal on your phone, but you will get to see the real Florida -- how it was a couple hundred years ago."

And for a refreshing moment, you might actually get a chance to look up and see the world around you.