If you part the fragrant, fruit-heavy branches of Mixon Fruit Farms’ citrus trees, you might spy an unusual sight: Burmese pythons and African land tortoises basking in the sunlight, surrounded by cages of roosting falcons.
The farm that began in 1939 as a 20-acre roadside fruit stand has stayed true to citrus farmer Willy Mixon’s vision of showcasing the region’s natural splendor. But in addition to an extra 250 acres of fruit trees, the farm has expanded its focus to include a wildlife refuge, where rescue volunteers nurse injured animals back to health and educate visitors on native and exotic species. The farm also hosts an on-site tropical garden along with dazzling koi ponds, and has a magical maze open to kids of all ages.
Along with daily tours of the grove and sanctuary, Mixon Fruit Farms also spotlights Florida’s bounty with citrus-infused ice cream, salads, and festive hats made of fruit at Groveside Café. Homemade fudge and orange juice also populate the 14,000-square-foot gift shop
Owner and operator Shawn can trace his family's roots in the local waterways back seven generations. His deep love of the water led him to launch Native Rentals, which conducts eco-friendly paddle tours, and create the Surfer Bus, a renovated school bus that brims with kayaks, surfboards, and any equipment needed for tours on the go. His eco-tours explore the Robinson Preserve, Neal Preserve, and the Anna Maria Sound aboard single or tandem kayaks, standup paddleboards, and bikes, all of which let guests test their muscles without the exorbitant fees of going through Poseidon's booking agent.
The sun-soaked hidden corners and historic shops of Anna Maria Island reveal themselves to riders during autonomous spins or guided tours from Segs by the Sea. During their two-wheeled adventures, riders may choose to glide along the misty beachfronts, shady inland paths, or the quiet streets of town. They are equipped with helmets and water bottles for each tour, allowing them to safely cruise off the beaten path to sites including Coquina Beach and Bridge Street. During the tours, they can also peer at the beauty of the Gulf waters and the architectural grandeur of the island's vacation homes without having to step on hot sand or commandeer teenagers' roller skates.
Captain Kim was destined to spend her life near the ocean. Born and raised on Anna Maria Island, the third-generation commercial fisherwoman with 15 years of captaining experience provides tours of the waters that she grew up exploring. Her 30-foot pontoon vessel can hold up to six passengers or one curious orca whale, taking groups on informative sightseeing tours around Anna Maria Island and Cortez, Florida. In addition to pointing out cresting dolphins and noteworthy historical sites, Captain Kim gives visitors a hands-on experience with the area's fish, crustaceans, and other sea life while explaining the local ecology.
Former member of the Soviet National Rowing Team, Boris Tsatskin charms passengers with crooned Italian classics and enthusiastic gondoliering. Boris, bedecked in the traditional striped shirt and red kerchief, explores the bridges, verdant yards, and unsellable Atlantean real estate that compose Phillippi Creek. Plush red seats cradle guests as the sleek black craft glides through the peaceful waters, propelled by the whispering motion of Boris’s oar. A larger vessel accommodates parties of up to eight and provides ample room for friends in need of serenading or mannequins in need of fresh air.
Myakka Wildlife Tours offers relaxing, approximately one-hour rides on a smoothly gliding air-powered boat throughout Myakka River State Park’s 58 square miles. The boat’s flat bottom allows it to approach grassy, shallow areas inaccessible to traditional vessels, giving passengers close-up photo ops of saw-toothed alligators, lanky sandhill cranes, and other native critters inhabiting Upper Myakka Lake’s shores. After disembarking, intrepid adventurers can continue their explorations on foot through the park's 39 miles of hiking trails or take to its elevated canopy walkway for a Tikbalang’s-eye view of prairies, wetlands, and pinelands.