With sandy shores around every bend and a canopy of trees overhead, Little Manatee River State Park provides a place for a pretty paddling trip, with an outfitter located near the US 301 bridge. A spacious campground and meandering nature trails offer gentle destinations for family fun.
Fees: $4-5 per vehicle
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome
From Interstate 75 south of Tampa, take exit 240A, Sun City Center/Ruskin. Drive east on SR 674 through Sun City Center 3 miles to US 301. Head south on US 301, passing the Little Manatee River Trail trailhead after 2.7 miles and crossing the Little Manatee River after 3 miles. You’ll see the Canoe Outpost entrance on the right after you cross the bridge. Continue another couple of miles to the park entrance on the right. It’s a long drive back along the park road to the canoe launch / picnic area and campground.
My introduction to the park came as I searched for the park’s notable backpacking loop, which is located north of the river, apart from the main entrance. The hustle and bustle of horse trailers and folks in search of a put-in for kayaking was pretty busy on a weekend, not surprising given this park’s proximity to downtown Tampa and Brandon. What’s particularly nice are the picnic pavilions within view of the river, and a couple miles of nature trails on the south shore not far from the playground.
On the north shore, the Little Manatee River Trail has two loops – 3 miles and 6 miles – that introduce you to at least seven distinct Florida habitats along the way, including a couple miles tracing the river’s passage. The primitive campsite is an easy walk for families trying out backpacking with youngsters.
Equestrians win, too, with over 12 miles of riding trails on the south side of the park, with four equestrian campsites along the way. Canoe Outpost has its own separate entrance along US 301 right by the bridge over the Little Manatee River. Stop in for canoe and kayak rentals and shuttles or to check into the funky selection of accommodations they have on site.
Explore the park
- Little Manatee River Trail - Scenery, rugged landscape, and botanical diversity are all important factors for a great Florida hike. You'll find that on the 6.5-mile Little Manatee River Hiking Trail, one of our long-time favorites.