Located on the central portion of Florida’s west coast along the Gulf of Mexico, North Port had a population of slightly less than 60,000 residents at the time of the last census.
North Port is in Sarasota County and lies along the Tamiami Trail, which is comprised of US Routes that run from Tampa to Miami.
The city is near enough to many of the state’s most popular natural and cultural areas to make day-trips a convenient option, and there isn’t any shortage of breathtaking beaches in the area for those who prefer to relax and by the ocean and soak up that famous Florida sun.
Below are 15 things to do in and around North Port, Florida.
1. Myakka River State Park
Located just east of Interstate 75 in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, Myakka River State Park is one of the largest parks in the region, and one of the state’s oldest as well.
The park is home to a variety of natural environments, like wetlands, marshes, and cypress swamps, and is also well-known for its 100-plus-foot deep sinkhole aptly named, ‘Deep Hole.”
Featuring primitive campgrounds and a variety of trails that are open to walkers, bikers and horseback riders, the park is a particularly popular hotspot for amateur bird enthusiasts, who come to catch a glimpse or two of some of the rare and reclusive birds that call the area home.
2. Atwater Community Park
Especially during the summer months, the combination of heat and humidity in much of the Sunshine State can be downright oppressive. For those traveling with children, splash parks are perfect cool-off destinations.
North Port’s Atwater Community Park is just such a place and features all the water-related activities you’d expect; it has been known to keep kids engaged for hours.
For parents who’d rather watch from a safe distance without getting wet, there are seating areas nearby, though some guests have claimed there wasn’t enough shade, so consider taking a pair of sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and some sunblock.
3. North Port Performing Arts Center
Community performing arts centers are great places to get out of the harsh elements, support the local economy, and expose yourself to performing arts you might not have access to otherwise.
Featuring a wide variety of concerts – from band and symphony to choral – the North Port Performing Arts Association offers nearly 20 annual events; it’s possible to buy tickets individually or for the entire season.
Featuring a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system, the auditorium has nearly 1,000 seats, is fully handicap accessible, and has been open for almost two decades.
Check out their website for ticket prices and their calendar of events.
4. West Coast Auction Company
For adventurous travelers interested in exploring new horizons and experiencing something different, checking out an estate auction at West Coast Auction Company would be a great way to do both.
As one of the largest and most successful auction houses in the area, West Coast specializes in business and estate liquidations and holds regularly scheduled auctions that are open to dealers, collectors, and the public.
Estate auction items may include art, jewelry, housewares, electronics, and sports equipment. Like shopping at antique stores and flea markets, there may just be a rare treasure or two – that’s half the fun.
5. Warm Mineral Springs
Located on San Servando Avenue in North Port, Warm Mineral Springs may not be the Fountain of Youth sought by Spanish explorers in centuries past, but according to many who’ve submerged themselves in its therapeutic waters, it’s darn close.
In addition to its relaxing atmosphere and stress-relieving waters, the springs have an interesting geological history that many guests find fascinating.
A few previous guests have claimed that’s it’s all hype, and that you’re better off taking a dunk in a hotel hot tub, but they’re in the minority.
Though not the cheapest attraction in town, it’s a local icon that’s worth a look, and admission tickets are good for the entire day.
6. The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Just one attraction on the sprawling Ringling Museum Campus, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a popular local attraction that consists of thousands of objects of art from the medieval, Renaissance and classical Greek and Roman eras.
If you recognized the name, you won’t be surprised to learn that the facility is named after one of the founders of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In addition to the original and reproduction art, there are a variety of architecturally unique buildings, beautiful grounds, and gardens as well.
Amenities include gift shops and a café, and guided tours are available.
7. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Once the private gardens of an amateur gardener, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens have been open to the public for nearly a half-century, and feature thousands of varieties of plants, trees, and flowers spread throughout many distinct gardens and greenhouses.
The gardens are known for their serene atmosphere and stunning views of nearby Sarasota Bay. For those traveling with little ones, the rainforest and butterfly gardens are particular favorites, and many come just to see the fantastic collection of exotics, like orchids and banyan trees.
The gardens are open daily and include a café and tea room. Children’s tickets are significantly less expensive than those for adults.
8. Sarasota National Cemetery
Open daily from sunrise to sunset, Sarasota National Cemetery is comprised of nearly 300 acres that’s the final resting place for many of the state’s veterans.
One of the most poignant destinations in the area, it has been open to the public for more than 15 years.
The cemetery is free to visit and often holds military funeral services which are quite dramatic spectacles to behold, especially for those who’ve never seen one.
The cemetery features an amphitheater displaying a variety of veteran-created and military-themed works, and free guided tours are available at 10:00 AM most Tuesdays.
9. Wicked Dolphin Distillery
Though it’s only been open for a few years, Wicked Dolphin Distillery in Cape Coral hasn’t wasted any time creating a name for itself by producing some of the most drinkable and sought after small-batch rums anywhere in the gulf area.
Their products are made with Florida-grown sugarcane and have garnered quite a following – and won some notable awards as well.
For those interested in learning about the distilling process, guided tours are available, but you’ll need to call or book your reservation online in advance.
Distillery tours and tastings are perfect adult-only activities for those who left the kids with a babysitter or locked them in the hotel closet.
10. Cape Coral Cardboard Boat Regatta
By their very nature, boats must repel water in order to float. On the contrary, cardboard absorbs water like a sponge and rapidly deteriorates when waterlogged. That mind-bending conundrum is what makes the Cape Coral Cardboard Boat Regatta such a rip-roaringly hilarious and family-friendly event.
Held in April when the Florida weather is about as perfect as it can get, the regatta is open to family, school, church, and business teams who want to try their hand at amateur nautical engineering.
The Regatta includes a variety of other activities and events and is known for its tasty food and all-around festive atmosphere.
11. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Located an easy drive from North Port just outside Sarasota, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is chock-full of amazing exhibits and live animals that make it a favorite of those traveling with children.
That doesn’t mean it’s only home to cuddly penguins and clapping seals; on the contrary, some of its most popular residents are the American crocodiles and alligators and the variety of toothy sharks that reside in a massive tank that holds more than 100,000 gallons of salt water.
The cost of admission is on the high side, and it can get busy during peak times, so plan accordingly.
12. Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly Garden
With its warm and humid climate, Florida is perfect for a variety of butterfly species, and for those visiting the North Port area, there’s no better place to see them in all their magnificence than the Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly Garden.
Most of the garden’s occupants grow and develop through their many different life-cycle stages before being released into the wild, and many guests find that learning about their lives was just as appealing as experiencing their beauty.
Tours are included in the cost of admission and are offered three days a week, so check out their website for schedules, pricing, and directions to the facility.
13. The Cape Coral Historical Museum
Consisting of three different buildings containing a variety of historical exhibits, displays, and memorabilia, The Cape Coral Historical Museum is the area’s most complete repository of items related to the city’s founding and development, and it’s very inexpensive to visit.
It also features a popular rose garden and an array of Native American artifacts discovered in the area’s many archaeological sites, many of which date back thousands of years – before those of European descent settled the area.
It’s possible to show yourself around or take advantage of a cheap guided tour, which includes the Florida Friendly Garden and the museum buildings.
14. Cultural Park Theater
Cape Coral’s Cultural Park Theater is a popular local attraction and has the longest history of any theater of its kind in southwest Florida.
The venue includes nearly 200 seats and has been producing shows featuring local talent for more than 50 years.
Many of their yearly presentations are classics like South Pacific, and in addition to live performances, there’s also an art gallery that features works in a variety of mediums by local and regional artists.
The majority of the performances are on weekends, so check out the calendar of events on their website to see what’s on the schedule for when you’ll be visiting.
15. Big Cypress National Preserve
Comprised of more than 700,000 acres of preserved natural environment, Big Cypress National Preserve was established in the mid-’70s and is located a few hours south of North Port.
Though it’s a bit of a drive, its vastness, beauty, and host of recreational and cultural attractions make it a worthwhile destination.
Camping, hiking, and wildlife photography are popular activities, and the preserve’s staff offer a variety of ranger-led instructional tours that are great ways to get the insider’s view of the park and many of its animals.
Check the park’s website for important travel alerts and restrictions, directions, and available tours and activities.