Nestled at the northwest tip of Bradenton lies Gulf Coast Florida’s best-kept secret paradise: Robinson Preserve.
Robinson Preserve started as a habitat rehabilitation project that transformed approximately 500 acres of former farmland into an eco-conservation refuge for the public to enjoy. In recent years, the preserve has grown to encompass 682 acres of idyllic coastal marshland criss-crossed by mangrove-lined waterways, elevated boardwalks, walking and cycling paths, and scenic observation points that offer both up-close and birds-eye views of wild Florida.
In more ways than one, Robinson Preserve offers the “best of both worlds” for every age and type of nature lover. Whether visitors seek a tranquil waterway to paddle or a quiet path to stroll and be alone with nature – or an exciting spot where kids can socialize safely and burn off energy in an open-air treetop playground filled with zig-zagging platforms, rope tunnels, and more: there’s something wild and wonderful for everyone to discover in these enchanting wetlands.
Winding Trails, Mangrove Tunnels, and Breathtaking Birds-Eye Views
There are plenty of ways to catch a breath of fresh air at Robinson Preserve. The park is open 365 days a year from sunrise until sunset, and with a cost of parking and admission totaling $0, the sprawling preserve is appealing to explore over multiple trips, so you can experience something new each time you visit.
Robinson Preserve offers approximately 7.5 miles of hiking trails varying in skill and accessibility. These range from 2.5 miles of paved paths and wooden boardwalks for casual strolling and on-leash dog walking, road biking, and rollerblading, to slightly more challenging crushed shell pathways better suited for all-terrain hiking and cycling. The paved Spoonbill Trail, shown on the Robinson Preserve Trail Map, is an excellent starting point for first-time visitors to get the lay of the land.
The 40-foot Robinson Preserve Observation Tower provides 360-degree views of Manatee County and beyond, including Anna Maria Island and Emerson Point, and Tampa Bay vistas of the Skyway Bridge, Fort DeSoto, and Egmont Key. Folks who prefer to keep their feet planted at sea level can find covered benches and other peaceful spots to observe local wading birds and osprey, or view Florida wildflowers such as vibrant, sun-loving gaillardia and the salt-tolerant succulent, sea purslane.
Popular activities on the water include kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddle boarding on three miles of “Blueways Trails” — inland waterways throughout Robinson Preserve that open into the Manatee River, Perico Bayou, and Palma Sola Bay. Although wading and cast nets are prohibited in the preserve, anglers with a recreational fishing license can bring their rod and reel for the chance to hook snook and redfish.
Recreational Spaces for All Ages: Activities & Rentals at The NEST and Canopy Zone
Located at Robinson Preserve’s south entrance at 840 99th Street NW, The Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology (NEST) is a gorgeous, elevated “tree house” constructed from pine and cypress wood.
The 900 square-foot NEST offers indoor and outdoor observation decks on two stories and 360-degree wall-to-ceiling windows that cascade natural light into the building. The NEST serves not only as a multi-use gathering space for community activities like yoga and monthly arts & crafts nights, but also doubles as one of the most beautiful “under the radar” wedding venues southwest Florida has to offer — with space for elegant receptions both inside the air-conditioned facility, and under the stars or dappled sunlight on its banyan-shaded lawn.
Just beyond The NEST, a sprawling two-story playground set in shady treetops awaits adventurous kids. Yes, that includes “kids at heart” — because who can pass up the thrill of exploring a rope tunnel swaying in the treetops? Even on Florida’s sunniest days, the Canopy Zone’s treetop boardwalks and climbing nets receive tons of natural shade, making it one of the coolest playgrounds to hang out year-round.
The NEST building and grounds, including the Canopy Zone, are available for private rental to host weddings, kids’ birthday parties, and other celebratory occasions, meetings, and more year-round.