History of Sarasota County

Some say Florida has no history. Humbug! (Or, maybe the word should be “palmetto!”) Thousands of years ago, mammoths roamed the Florida peninsula. The first inhabitants were natives, with tribes in our area dating back 10,000 to 12,000 years. More recent tribes left evidence of their presence that we still find today — stone tools and weapons, piles of discarded shells called middens, and burial mounds, which today show up as grassy mounds found along the shoreline and inland.

Starting about 1500, Florida began a fascinating history of intrepid pioneers who braved a hostile environment to settle in what has become an internationally famous resort. (Our first ecotourists).Florida was named after Pascua Florida, the traditional Spanish feast of flowers held during Easter by Juan Ponce de Leon, who landed near Saint Augustine in 1513.

The Spanish and other Europeans came to our gulf coast shores, but never established permanent settlements here. The diseases they brought with them decimated the native population.

Spain sold the territory to the United States in 1821 and Florida became a state in 1845. Through about 1850, the state was in reality a wild frontier with coastal areas populated seasonally. Fishing was the primary occupation. The 19th century was marked by three major turf wars between the native Seminoles and white settlers from Georgia and north Florida. Invasions these days are limited to a seasonal encroachment by “snowbirds” and occasional "gusts" (read: hurricanes).
As early as the 1860’s, wealthy tourists headed from New York City to Jacksonville by steamboat and then up the St. Johns River to the Ocklawaha to see semi-tropical birds with glorious plumage, turtles and giant alligators. About twenty years later white settlers called Sarasota home. Since that time, writers, painters, inventors and US Presidents have been drawn to our Gulf Coast for inspiration. In fact, we don’t know anyone at all who planned a vacation or moved to Florida for our incredible roads. The beaches, unspoiled swamps, forests, rivers, and of course, the wildlife attract spring breakers, ecotourists and adventure travelers.

Ecotourism is a renewable resource

When people experience the natural environment, they appreciate what is at stake and the value of protection. Educating and involving tourists in the roles that ecosystems play in the functioning of our slice of paradise will help The Gulf Coast to remain healthy and attractive to tourists forever.
Did you know that more people travel to Florida to see wildlife than any other state? It’s true! Observing, feeding, photographing and painting our wildlife and nature scenes generates about $5 billion in state revenue every year. The good news is Sarasota County has been on the ball for quite some time when it comes to identifying and conserving natural lands. The taxpayers overwhelmingly voted in favor of acquiring land for preservation and the county now boasts more than 100,000 acres of public land. People respect open space and understand that a healthy environment is essential for a healthy economy…and awesome recreational opportunities and wildlife viewing.

Authentic Outdoor Experiences

The appeal of ecotourism is an authentic outdoor experience. Adventure tourism, nature tourism and ecological tourism are variations on the theme. Local adventure tourists can be found racing overnight through Oscar Scherer Park or camping on horseback at Windy Sawgrass Cowboy Camp in Carlton Reserve. Nature tourists tend to be botanical garden visitors, wildlife photographers and birders. Sarasota County is a haven for birdwatchers who come from all over the world to see any of the 179 species that breed in Florida or the 300 species that migrate here in the winter. Ecological tourists practice culturally responsible, low-impact travel to pristine and fragile areas. Whatever you call it, the ecology-minded tourist represents the fastest growing segment of the worldwide travel industry.

Get out in Sarasota County

Whether you are a visitor, snowbird or native, become an ecotourist and surf through the rest of to discover natural Venice, Osprey, North Port, Englewood and Sarasota. Enter the ECOseeker contest and describe the best 48 hours in Sarasota County to win prizes. Get out and kayak, bike, hike, swim, ride horseback, canoe, geo-cache, adventure race, sail, fish, scuba dive, run on the beach, see birds, dolphins, manatees and much more. There is something for every age, interest and ability. Well, what are you waiting for? Go discover natural Sarasota County.


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