This island park is part love story and part public/private partnership success story.
In 1994, James Durante offered the Town of Longboat Key $750,000 to take the 32-acre site, once developed with cabins now demolished, and develop a park plus restore native vegetation in honor of his late wife Joan M. Durante.
A buffet of trees restored upland areas, including live oak, red cedar, wax myrtle, green buttonwood, cabbage palms, sea grape, and gumbo limbo. Coastal dunes were created using the fill from the wetlands.
The main entrance is anchored by a pavilion. A playground for ages 2 through 12 and a botanical garden are both nearby.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Longboat Key
Length: 1.2 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.41444, -82.65782
Address: 5550 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key
Restroom: Next to the playground
Phone: 941-316-1999 or 941-316-1988
Open dawn to dusk. Gates are locked at dusk. Leashed dogs welcome.
The wide shell paths are wheelchair accessible. Boardwalks slippery when wet.
From Interstate 75 take the Fruitville Road exit (Exit 210) heading west. Drive 5.8 miles to US 41, Tamiami Trail. Turn left, go to second stoplight, turn right onto John Ringling Causeway. Continue 2.2. miles to the St Armands Circle roundabout. Take the first right onto Gulf of Mexico Drive and cross bridge to Longboat Key. Travel 8.6 miles going north on Gulf of Mexico Drive. The park is on your right, two miles before the north end of Longboat Key.
Begin by visiting the information kiosk to the left of the pavilion with free large color brochures containing a park map on one side and bountiful botanical information on the other side.
At the foot of the stairs on the right side of the pavilion is a brass dedication sign.
“May all who enter these hallowed grounds be embraced by love, tranquility, beauty, contentment and good will. Those were the qualities that brightly marked the life of Joan M .Durante.”
Walk through the pavilion, turn left, walk a short distance across the grassy area then turn right onto the large shell path running alongside a lagoon.
At 0.1 mile, a lagoon overlook is framed by trees and has a bench facing the water.
Boardwalks follow red mangroves near the water then traverse black and white mangroves landward and continue through a mangrove forest and salt marsh.
A half mile into your hike cross a bridge over a lagoon and note arrow sign back to the pavilion.
Turn right onto the shell path. Follow signs back to the main entrance.
At 0.9 mile you have the option to turn right, cross a small bridge and visit both the sustainable, recycled playground and the restrooms.
Crossing back over the bridge, turn right and continue to the botanical garden.
The map is a handy identification guide with 10 color illustrations of what may be blooming depending on the season, like dune sunflower and hibiscus.
After circling the botanical garden return along the same path back to the pavilion. The pond with a large fountain will be on your right.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Explore Leffis Key on a series of trails and boardwalks through mangrove tunnels on the Coquina Baywalk.
Farmland turned back to mangrove marshes: that’s Robinson Preserve, with more than 4 miles of hiking on shell and wild pathways along Tampa Bay at Bradenton.
Commemorating the landing of Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, De Soto National Memorial is a significant archaeological site where the Manatee River flows into Tampa Bay.