Looking for an easy adventure? The Lido Key canoe/kayak trail in Sarasota County could prove to be the perfect opportunity to test your mettle. The well-marked waterway can be as short or as long as you like. Paddling through the tree-covered corridors, it is easy to imagine yourself in another time and place.
Five minutes into your trip, turn and follow the signs into what looks like an enchanted mangrove forest. The trees have grown over the water and formed a canopy, just large enough for a canoe or kayak to navigate.
Inside the darkened tunnel, you will see raccoons hunting among the "walking trees" as mangrove crabs scurry for cover. Wading birds prowl the dimly lit corridor, feeding on fingerlings illuminated by the shafts of sunlight filtering through the treetops.
The water here is exceptionally clear, so pristine, in fact, that you can see sponges in some of the deeper areas. Don't be alarmed if you surprise a silver-sided snook resting in the shallows.
Exit the mangroves and head for open water, following the shoreline around toward Big Pass and the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Once you leave the shelter of Sarasota Bay, the water can get rougher in Big Pass.
The current is usually lighter along the shoreline if you want to head to the tip of Lido Key, where kayak surfers congregate on windy days to frolic in the breaking waves.
You can also choose to stop at one of the picnic tables beneath some Australian pine trees for a picnic lunch. Wade in the cool, clear water as pods of manatees pass 100 feet offshore.