- January 14, 2022
Of all the vistas and views you can find in Sarasota County, Celery Fields is something of a one-stop shop.
Need a short hike to get your blood pumping, or a stroll walk to clear your head? What about a chance to spot a rare bird, or spending a morning surrounded by rabbits and the odd alligator?
What if you want to take someone on a nature date with views they won’t forget?
Whatever you need, however you’re feeling, you can find it there.
Am I being hyperbolic? Sure, a little. But in a town full of sandy shores and beach views, Celery Fields stands out as an out-of-the ordinary space full of heights and marsh elements that can fit the need of whoever is visiting. The 400 acres are owned by Sarasota County and serves as Sarasota’s main storm water collection zone.
Much like it can be various things for the county, Celery Fields can be various things for the type of activity you want to do.
Sarasota — and Florida — is lovely, but it is as flat as can be. Celery Fields, at about seven stories, offers up a bit of altitude as well as a great vantage point to watch the sunset.
It can be a romantic spot as well, the hill is often full of partners taking time to themselves.
There are benches at the top of the hill but they’re almost always taken by teenagers on dates, so respect the young love at work and find your own spot.
The true geniuses, though, are the people who bring their own hammocks to hang between trees and sway in the breeze while watching the sun set. Maybe you’re that kind of genius, never hurts to invest in yourself and buy a hammock.
Peace, love and ambiance are great, but there are times you want to cut loose and get out some self-loathing with physical exercise. It’s a great place to run, and you have some options.
There’s running up and around the hill itself — a small track, but it more than makes up for it with the views — but interested runners can also start at the hill, run up to the other side, descend and run a track along the marsh area. It takes you along the road and back to the main entrance, all in all a sturdy two miles.
We’re kidding about the self-loathing, by the way. The hill’s incline makes it a perfect place to go for a power walk or a relaxing stroll and enjoy the scenery while still getting some exercise in.
It can be good to mix and match the routes, plus it helps to have a backup to get away from the swarms of high school cross country and track teams that condition going up and down the hill.
On top of everything else, Celery Fields boasts an astounding variety of wildlife within its acres of marsh land.
You’ll notice the bunnies first, of course. The top of Celery Fields has a truly staggering number of bunnies resting on the trail and hopping around when you get too close.
There’s also the alligators, which should be expected in Florida. A trail at the foot of the hill often has gators resting at the side, so do be careful when bringing your dog for an afternoon stroll.
The most robust element is the Sarasota Audubon Society, which makes its home right outside Celery Fields and hosts bird watching tours and excursions at the space.
Cards on the table — on one of my first walks through Celery Fields, I was almost jumped by a river otter.
I was walking on the far end of the fields when I see in the distance, but drawing closer, a small furry critter rushing at me like he’s on a mission from God.
It was at that point I wondered if I was on drugs, how often do you see an otter in the wild? Let alone an otter that’s coming at you like you owe it money.
The river otter eventually broke off and dove into the nearby water, but it got to me in a peculiar way. Did I dream it?
My thoughts often return to that otter, wondering if I’ll ever see it again. Will we meet as enemies, or as friends?
I know I’ll find the answer one day. But if you see the otter before me, let it know that I’m good for paying it back.
Celery Fields is located just east of Interstate 75 at 6799 Palmer Blvd. Call 861-5000 for information. Learn more at SarasotaAudubon.org/the-celery-fields.