One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the states most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The parks river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the worlds two largest airboats. Safari tram tours of the parks backcountry are offered from mid-December through May. Full-facility campgrounds and primitive campsites are available. Five palm log cabins, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, have been modernized for comfortable lodging. Located nine miles east of Sarasota on State Road 72.
I spent two days, one night at Myakka River State Park, and hiked the entire outer loop. There is a fee per person per night, no parking fee, and you must reserve a site via phone ahead of time. If you think that hiking all day to one of the remote sites will buy you some solitude, you would be wrong. Each camp area has a cluster of sites right next to one another. Suitable tent (or hammock sites) are few and far between in the park, but they can be found. I chose to camp outside of an established site and LNT. Check with the rangers about water availability. They leave bottles of water at each pump, those are used to prime the pumps, not for drinking. There are some streams that you can filter water from, but they are not regularly spaced. I found delicious orange and grapefruit growing off trail in the north end of park. I saw a wide variety of birds, herds of deer, pigs, racoon, and turkeys on my trip.
Myakka River State Park is all the best parts of Florida. Definitely make this trip in the winter, and bring sun protection. The winding trails snake you across open, exposed prairie for miles at a time. It's really something to see where you were a whole day ago. The stands of trees are wet and muddy, so you'll appreciate finding our way out onto the prairie again to dry out your shoes. The pigs graze along trails and leave them rutted for a mile at a time in many places. Even when it's dry out, there will be standing water, and if it has been raining, most of the park will be very wet.
I heard from another hiker that the spot on the map marked as "Old Railroad Grade" is a green tunnel covered with trees and is quite a nice walk. On the map I had at the time, it just looked like a road, so I naturally avoided it. It might be worth a look!