Biking is an important part of New College culture. Students bike to the Bayfront, to classes, to Hamilton “Ham” Center and to off-campus houses, but where do students go when they want to take longer recreational rides? Sapphire Shores Park, Indian Beach and the neighborhoods around Bay Shore Road are some of the only spots worth biking to from campus and they are all less than two miles away. For students seeking longer rides with pleasant natural scenery, the five following nearby bike trails will not disappoint.
(Closest trailhead: Culverhouse Parking Area, 7301 McIntosh Road, Sarasota, FL)
Despite being a solid 40 minute car ride from campus, Legacy Trail is one of the best places to bike in the area. The Culverhouse trailhead is the northernmost access point, as the trail extends a little over 10 miles south to the Historic Venice Train Depot. There are six other trailheads along the way, all of which provide water, restrooms and other amenities that bikers can use as they head south. There are also shaded benches with drinking fountains nearly every mile.
The trail is smooth, paved, level and straight, making it ideal for those who are looking for an easy recreational ride. Nature is close at hand along the trail, so much so that there are interpretive signs that identify the regional flora, fauna and history. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus once used the trail regularly. There are also several bridges that cross over waterways, which make the ride particularly relaxing and picturesque.
Venetian Waterway Park Trail
(Closest trailhead: Historic Venice Train Depot, 303 E Venice Avenue, Venice, FL)
Starting at the Historic Venice Train Depot, the trailhead where most student bikers on the Legacy Trail would turn around and head back to Potter Park, the Venetian Waterway Park Trail extends even farther south. For those who have the time and energy, this 8.6-mile trail can be a nice, albeit hefty, addition to their ride.
The Waterway Park Trail follows along both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway. It is flat, though often winds through a mix of urban corridor and open green space. On the way, bikers can expect to see colorful murals and peaceful waterside views. There are also various playgrounds, fitness stops, parks and access points. One of the most notable points along the trail is Caspersen Beach, known for the prehistoric shark teeth that wash up on shore.
Robinson’s Preserve Trail
(1704 99th Street NW, Bradenton, FL)
Though primarily used for hiking, walking, running and nature trips, Robinson’s Preserve Trail is praised as a great place to bike. Formerly farmland in a district of Bradenton known for its tropical plant nurseries, the area has undergone extensive restoration to become what it is today. The 7.5-mile loop features various wooden bridges, scenic views and a five-story observation tower. From the top of the observation tower, spectators can see the Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Island, Egmont Key, Fort DeSoto and the Sunshine Skyway.
Myakka River State Park
(13208 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL)
One of eight Florida state parks developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Myakka River State Park offers scenes of live oaks and arching palm trees swaying in the wind. With a 7-mile paved road through clusters of trees, grassy marshes and the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake, the park offers cyclists an opportunity to explore diverse Florida ecosystems. There are also backcountry dirt roads that bicyclists are permitted to ride on. According to the Florida State Parks website, “some roads are hard-packed and grassed-over, others may be sandy, muddy or dug up by feral pigs.” Bikers should be aware that water is not as readily available at Myakka as it is at other previously mentioned trails.
Nathan Benderson Park
(5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota, FL)
Situated right at the University Parkway exit of Interstate 75, Nathan Benderson Park has a 3.5-mile loop that encircles the picturesque 400-acre lake. The loop is often used for 5k races, but provides a nice, relatively short ride for bikers. Visitors can also canoe, rowboat, kayak or paddleboard on the lake.