Discover 5,000 years of Sarasota History at Historic Spanish Point

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Historic Spanish Point Campus is an outstanding open-air museum capturing over 5,000 years of local history. Located on North Tamiami Trail in Osprey, the attraction welcomes visitors of all ages from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Homeschoolers are particularly welcome to this educational site.

The Development of Historic Spanish Point

Situated on Little Sarasota Bay in South Sarasota, the museum cover 30 acres, packing in environmental, archaeological and historical sites and exhibits on land generously deeded by Mrs. Potter Palmer in 1980. This early Sarasota County settler arrived in the area in 1910. | Sarasota attraction, Historic Spanish Point boat tours Osprey, Florida

Photo courtesy Historic Spanish Point

A huge program of restoration was needed to start the museum, involving 135 volunteers and raising $4 million to restore the buildings and gardens. The Master Plan involved archaeologists, historians, architects, and many other professionals to preserve and create the outstanding historical attraction that attracts over 30,000 visitors every year. | Sarasota Must Do Visitor Guide Historic Spanish Point in Osprey, Florida

Photo courtesy Historic Spanish Point

What you’ll find at Historic Spanish Point

The extensive history of the area is demonstrated inside the historic shell mound, the only archaeological exhibition in the USA to be so originally sited. This “Window in the Past” shows how our predecessors lived in the area with clues uncovered by archaeologists picking through what was the refuse dump of those early American Indians!

The Spanish Point project also undertook the renovation of the 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival-style building known as Osprey School which is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now used as the Visitor Center with an orientation theater for visitors, a lecture hall, meeting rooms, offices and the Museum Store.

More exhibit galleries and a research center can be found in the renovated White Cottage which dates back to 1885. Visitors can learn about Florida’s early pioneer settlers at the old packing house and visit the simple chapel and pioneer cemetery.

Sarasota historical attraction, Mary's Chapel at Historic Spanish Point, Osprey, Florida, USA. Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey.

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

The lovely Guptill House was built in 1901 and is fascinating to tour, along with Guptill Boat Yard right on the bay where entertaining maritime tales are shared. Garden lovers can enjoy walking through Mrs. Potter Palmer’s Jungle Walk, the Sunken Garden, and the Butterfly Garden – one of the largest on the Gulf Coast.

The site has many more historic displays best discovered by joining a walking tour, so check the times and make a reservation by phoning ahead on (941) 966-5214. There is also a docent-led Tram Tour around the historic site which is good in the heat of summer or for those who find walking difficult. | Gardens at Historic Spanish Point, Osprey, Florida. Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey.

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

Special Events at Historic Spanish Point

Selby Botanical Historic Spanish Point campus maintains a busy calendar of special events throughout the year so it’s always worth checking what’s happening when planning your visit.

The Fairy House Festival takes place in late March and includes a display of tiny Fairy Houses made from natural materials such as twigs, pebbles, dry grass and shells. The grounds are filled with fashion-challenged individuals during the Scarecrow Festival in October, which also includes a Barbecue and Pig Roast during the Sunset Scarecrow Stroll.

Other fundraising fun events include musical concerts, art displays, historical lectures and fall gala events such as the Cuban-themed Havana Nights Party.

Finally, dogs on leashes are welcome to Selby Botanical’s Historic Spanish Point campus so every member of the family can enjoy visiting this educational and entertaining museum all year long.

Written by:

Nita Ettinger is Co-publisher for Siesta Publications Inc. and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed magazines and the website Must Do magazines are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County Chamber of Commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications can be found.