CLOSED until damage from Hurricane Ian is assessed.
Protecting 115 acres along Lemon Bay, Cedar Point is Charlotte County’s flagship environmental park.
Adjoining Lemon Bay High School, the park was established in the mid-1990s for environmental education and conservation.
While foremost a preserve of coastal habitats, this is a gentle place for hikers of all ages and a great place to bring the kids.
The trails are well marked with signage at intersections and benches at strategic points. Special points of interest are called out with interpretive signs unique to the preserve.
Guided hikes and seagrass wading adventures are offered on a regular basis to help visitors better understand the complexity of coastal habitats. Call ahead to sign up for one.
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Length: 2.6 mile trail network
Trailhead: 26.9254, -82.3350
Address: 2300 Placida Road, Englewood
Restroom: adjoining the nature center
Land manager: Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center
Trails open sunrise to sunset. Visitor center open Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30. No dogs permitted.
Certain trails may be closed seasonally to protect nesting eagles from disturbance.
Founded in 1987, this nonprofit organization is always looking for members and volunteers. Learn how you can help.
From US 41 in North Port, follow River Rd south to Englewood. Take Pine St south to SR 775, and soon after crossing SR 776, watch for the park entrance on the right. There are two parking areas: one just inside the preserve entrance and another near the environmental center.
The Conservancy Trail connects the front parking area with the environmental center parking area with a quarter mile loop through pine flatwoods.
We parked closer to the environmental center and started at the main kiosk for the preserve, where you can pick up a trail map.
Follow the “To Trails” sign to walk around the environmental center and turn right at the Tortoise Trail sign. A grassy corridor leads between the saw palmetto under the pines.
Reaching the next Tortoise Trail sign, turn right to walk a comfortable pine-needle strewn path through the coastal flatwoods.
Mature slash pine forms the high canopy, while sand live oaks draped in Spanish moss knit a lower canopy providing shade.
Needlerush appears in low spots, signaling that water is near. Passing the Eagle Trail coming in from the left, you meet the loop in the Tortoise Trail after a quarter mile. Keep right.
The trail curves behind a line of black and red mangroves. The red ones sport prop roots, while the black ones are surrounded by the tiny finger-like protrusions called pnuemataphores.
Stepping through a gap in the mangroves, stand on the shores of Lemon Bay. An oyster bed is visible when the tide is out.
A bench is nearby, along with a kiosk about oyster bars and a disposal for fishing line. Anglers are welcome to walk out here to cast a line.
To go deeper into the needlerush, turn right at the Marsh Trail sign. This short loop off the Tortoise Trail walks you through the marsh behind the mangroves.
Here, the glossy forms of salt-loving plants like glasswort and saltwort stand out against the marl and sand. Fiddler crabs scurry away into their holes.
Rejoining the Tortoise Trail, follow it as it loops back around to the Eagle Trail. We weren’t surprised at all to find a gopher tortoise ambling down the trail in front of us.
Turn right on the Eagle Trail. It starts out in a dense pine flatwoods but opens up when it reaches the linear Jeep Trail. Turn right.
The Jeep Trail starts down towards Cedar Point at the end of the peninsula. A bench is strategically placed at the Bald Eagle interpretive sign.
The tree with the eagles’ nest is straight ahead from the sign. However, we found a better perspective on it on our return from the point.
Walking out to Cedar Point, you are surrounded by needlerush and mangroves for a stretch. The landscape opens up to reveal cedars dotting the grassy peninsula.
A side trail leads right through the sea grapes to another perspective on Lemon Bay from a small bluff. Osprey hover overhead, waiting for the right moment to dive.
Look carefully at the bluff as you climb up it and you’ll see it is made up of compacted shells. This is a man-made bluff, a midden created by ancient people who once fished these waters for sustenance.
The Mangrove Trail continues to the very end of the peninsula, where a short boardwalk leads to the point at 1.3 miles. Enjoy the view.
A picnic pavilion provides a place for a break, and another disposal for fishing line.
On the return, the transition from cedar flats to mangrove forest to pine flatwoods is more obvious as you walk up a gentle grade.
Stop again at the bald eagle interpretive sign. It takes a long lens or binoculars to see activity in the nest. From this perspective, however, you can tell how enormous the nest is.
It was here when the park first opened. Local naturalists date it to 1992. The eagles return every season.
After 1.6 miles, take the Big Pine Trail to make the return loop. It leads through cedar flats and saw palmetto before getting into the forest of tall slash pines.
Many of the mature pines of this region ended up in sawmills, so it’s a delight to see so many on this coastal preserve.
Follow the Big Pine Trail to get back to the environmental center. If you parked at the front gate, use the Connector Trail to the Conservancy Trail to get there, adding another 0.4 mile to this 2.1 mile hike.
Stop and take a look at the Cookie House on your way out. This historic structure was moved from Englewood to the preserve in 2006.
A 1931 log cabin made from “cookies” sliced out of lighter pine and stacked on edge, it is the only known remaining cabin of its type in Florida.
See our photos of Cedar Point Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Along the northern shore of a mangrove-lined creek, Oyster Creek Environmental Park offers gentle hiking trails with interpretive stops beneath old-growth slash pines
At the south tip of Manasota Key, Stump Pass Beach State Park sits at just the right angle to collect seashells like a scoop, so early risers have great shelling
Explore the edges of Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve in this Sarasota County Park with more than 4 miles of trails – including accessible trails – winding through coastal habitats