O-Sea-D Aquatic Adventures guides paddlers through Gasparilla Sound, an 80,000-acre estuary teeming with more than 100 kinds of invertebrates, 200 fish species, and 150 shore and wading birds. Fifteen minutes before launch time, O-Sea-D's owner, operator, and master naturalist Vince Molnar outfits kayakers with gear, instruction, safety equipment, and swamp-thing repellent. During the 2.5- to 3-hour voyage, Vince shepherds the fleet under the canopied mangrove tunnels of the Woolverton Trail, about six miles of aquatic alleyways that slink through a tangle of exotic leaves and limbs. Vessels' hulls will brush against tendrils of turtle grass and glide past shoals of oysters and starfish, and their admirals may spy dolphins and manatees or even cradle seahorses in their palms. O-Sea-D Aquatic Adventures posts its scheduled tours on its online calendar, and Vince will also add dates to accommodate guests' schedules and desire to experience peak mud-storm hours.
Paddleboarders and kayakers flock to Hooked on SUP's cabana, lounging by the pool before they paddle out into the Gulf of Mexico's waters. The staff includes kayak and paddleboard instructors, who teach newbies the finer details of understanding a dolphin's traffic signals. Aside from rentals and lessons, Hooked on SUP occasionally leads special eco tours.
The horses at Shades of Green Riding Stables are demonstrably patient. They let youngsters apply finger paint to their coats or tape labels to their different muscle groups without so much as a whinny of annoyance. This placidity is all thanks to Shades of Green's expert stable keepers. The instructors strive to help students become independent riders, all while maintaining a fun and creative environment. The staff and instructors ensure that each animal is lovingly looked after so that the herds of student riders and day campers can properly shower them with adoration. Adults and children alike can bond with the stable's steeds, whether galloping through the woodsy areas surrounding the barn or learning tricks in the sunny riding area.
The experience at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club begins at the 21,000 square foot clubhouse. Here, an opulent lobby greets visitors as they arrive for their round of golf, tennis match, or bout with the fitness center workout machines. Golfers can make their way through the well-stocked pro shop before teeing up on the 27-hole complex designed by Arthur Hills. Mr. Hills strung the trio of nine-hole courses through the site's near-ubiquitous water, creating many opportunities for golfers to donate their golf balls and make a wish with each splash. Six practice areas and five practice greens round out the club's golf options, further cementing it as a prime location in which to improve at the game.
Designed by Charles Ankrom and built in 1970, Sabal Trace Golf and Country Club sends golfers swinging across 18 holes of undulating fairways, intersecting water hazards, and elevated greens. The course caps off the front nine with its longest hole, a 544-yard par-five with a canal that runs along the right side of the fairway and eventually jets across the fairway in front of the green. After finishing their round on the par-four 18th hole, players can recharge at the Tavern by the Green Restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch daily.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par-72 course * Total length of 6,755 yards from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole * Scorecard