Everything You Need to Know About Leffis Key Preserve

While staying in your Anna Maria Island rental, you will want to get out and do some sightseeing. No place around AMI is more worth the trek than Leffis Key. As the county’s island preserve, Leffis Key Preserve offers a stunning panoramic view of Sarasota Bay – the perfect opportunity for some memorable vacation photos. Plan on spending most of the day exploring Leffis Key Preserve, as it is quite expansive and offers a lot of things to do.

Whether you want to go hiking on any of the trails, spend some time fishing along the Intracoastal Waterway boardwalks, or practice your ornithology skills, Leffis Key Preserve has something for everyone to enjoy.

People Hiking at Leffis Key
Photo from Shutterstock

About Leffis Key Preserve

A long time ago, Anna Maria Island was an island riddled with overgrown, non-native plant life. This negatively impacted the ecosystem and its habitats, but with some collaborative efforts made by private interests and the government, Leffis Key Preserve is now being restored and seeing a lot of improvement to its essential saltwater wetlands. This estuary has become much healthier and is now attracting a lot of attention from nature lovers visiting the island.

One feature that everyone seems to love is the 26-foot-high hill plopped smack-dab in the center of the restored area of Leffis Key. Trekking up this hill will give you a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. This hill wasn’t naturally formed but was instead shaped with native dune and coastal ridge plants, including beach elder, sea oats, southern red cedar, dune sunflower, sea grape, gumbo-limbo, and Jamaica dogwood. Also, there are over 20,000 marsh grass plants, like saltwater cordgrass, salt joint grass, and smooth cordgrass. They were planted along the tidal ponds’ banks by volunteers including local environmental clubs, citizens, and school children.

Some of the amenities here include benches for sitting, footpaths that encircle and go up the hill, and 1,500 feet of boardwalks that will take you through the mangrove forest. You will find a lot of platforms along the boardwalks that let you get a good look at the water and wildlife.

You can find Leffis Key Preserve at 2351 Gulf Drive South on Anna Maria Island. Leffis Key Preserve is open every day from 8 am through sunset.

Things To Do

There are plenty of outdoor activities on Anna Maria Island, and you can take your pick of things to do around Leffis Key Preserve. Hike or take some photos around the nature trails, partake in environmental education, enjoy some managed fishing, and take in the preserve’s unique ecosystems from the wildlife viewing areas.

Just keep in mind that dogs are not allowed at Leffis Key Preserve since it is located within the Coquina Beach Boardwalk. Coquina Beach prohibits dogs, so Leffis Key Preserve has to remain in compliance with the management plan set forth by Coquina Beach. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other places to walk your pup on Anna Maria Island!

Hiking / Nature Trails

Hiking or walking along the nature trails provides a peaceful yet invigorating experience for visitors. The packed shell and boardwalks span for 0.65 miles, and the footpaths circle around and scale the hill. Meander through the mangrove forest by following the 1,500 linear feet of boardwalk and be sure to stop and snap some pictures at the strategically placed viewing platforms overlooking the wide watery expanse.

Plan Your Trip

There are some great Anna Maria Island vacation rentals near Leffis Key Preserve. When you stay here, you can choose to rent bicycles or golf carts in order to get around Anna Maria Island. You can also opt to take the free trolley, which runs from 6 am until 10:30 p.m., making stops every 20 minutes until 9 p.m., then every 30 minutes until 10:30 rolls around. No matter where you are, you will never be too far from a trolley stop, as they can be found every two to four blocks around AMI.


On your list of Anna Maria Island things to do should be an educational event. Manatee County is proud to put on public events that promote outdoor education. These events are open to individuals and families. Families are asked to register individually, and there are opportunities for volunteers to join in. Whether you are doing some coastal cleanup along Coquina Beach or going on a birding tour, there are educational events that are fun for people of all ages and abilities.

Managed Fishing

Pick a spot on the Intracoastal Waterway boardwalks and engage in some managed fishing at Leffis Key Preserve. This is a good spot for snagging Redfish when they are at their peak. You will also find some smaller fish and crabs lingering in the shallower waters surrounding the preserve. Be sure to keep an eye out for a passing school of dolphins or the occasional whale surfacing in the distance.

Remember, fishing at Leffis Key Preserve is subject to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife abounds at Leffis Key Preserve, and you can see a diverse array of wildlife any time of the year. This spot is ideal for card-carrying Audubon Society members and amateur ornithologists alike. Take one of the packed shell trails or boardwalks to see what kinds of wildlife you can spot in the mudflats, mangroves, tidal ponds, and along the coastal ridge.

Once you get over the bridge, there will be a mound on the left where Common Ground-Doves like to live. In the spring and fall, you will likely catch some migrating songbirds passing through, such as the Gray-cheeked Thrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Orchard Oriole.

Other birds you might spot around Leffis Key include Reddish Egrets (who like to hang out in the flats) and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (who prefer shaded areas). From April to the first week or two of October, the Magnificent Frigatebirds will make a pitstop.

If you are lucky, you will get a rare glimpse of the Bell’s Vireo, Bridled Tern, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Connecticut Warbler, Nashville Warbler, or Western Tanager if you are lucky.

Also, while you are walking along the trails, you will see an abundance of flora and fauna. There are beautiful beach sunflowers, sea daisies, and saw grass. Many salt-tolerant plants grow here since the environment is ideal for them to flourish.

Sea oats growing on the beach
Photo from Unsplash

Where to Stay?

Staying in a rental on Anna Maria Island means having a home away from home. Comfort and luxury intermingle, and you do not have to walk far to get to the beach. There are endless Anna Maria Island activities going on, and no day is going to be boring. Your rental is close to many shops, restaurants, and natural areas. Leffis Key Preserve is one of the “must-see” spots on Anna Maria Island and is bound to leave you with some lovely vacation pictures to show your family and friends back home. When you’re ready to book your trip to AMI, contact Anna Maria Beach Resort to get started!