Award winning beaches near Sarasota

Luxury waterfront paradise is relative to the Gulf of Mexico and white sand

Siesta Key beach ranks high annually
Siesta Key Pavilion - The amenities and parking were updated to continue number one beach rankings.

We love our beaches by day and our cultural events at night. Seemingly that is the lifestyle of a typical Sarasotan because the beaches are packed and the Opera House or Asolo Repertory Theatre can be sold out on any given day. From Clearwater to Siesta Key, our beaches rank high for its white quartz sand that reflects heat rather than absorb and retain the heat. The result is a comfortable walk out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Clearwater Beach was ranked this year by TripAdvisor as the number one beach in United States for the second time in three years. In between those three years Siesta Key held the top spot by TripAdvisor in 2015 and 2017. Stephen Leatherman also ranks Siesta Key as one of the best in the United States. Under the pseudonym of Dr. Beach, Leatherman usually has Siesta Key near the top since he started his rankings in 1991 and had Siesta Key in the top spot last year.

Siesta Key has made improvements in recent years to its pavilion and parking, improvements that helped regain the top spot. He also rates on the quality of sand and safety, such as lifeguard stands. Over $21 million in improvements were unveiled in 2016 that included a new playground, shelters, concession stand and safety building.

Each November Siesta Key invites some of the world’s best sand sculptors to participate in the Siesta Key Crystal Classic, four days of judged competition. Amateurs can display their abilities in a one-day festival in May, the Siesta Key Amateur Sand Sculpting Contest. Beach volleyball is big on Siesta Key as well. This year, July 19-24, over 400 United States teams in the junior division of ages 10-18 will converge on this beach to compete for the USA National Beach Tour Championships.

Although Siesta Key does receive a fair amount of publicity, there are other beaches in Sarasota County that are well worth considering. Lido Beach is one sand and Gulf destination that is high on many lists. Visitors from around the world were attracted to the Lido Beach Casino, a 1940’s WPA project that was torn down in 1969 and replaced with a new facility. There are a few beach amenities including a large swimming pool and a 400-car parking lot. The world famous St. Armands Circle with its boutique shopping and fine dining is a short walk from the beach. Lido Beach is a good wedding destination site.

Bayfront Park on the Gulf
Beach access and a handicap accessible observation deck are new to Bayfront Park on Longboat Key.

Much of the 11-mile beachfront properties on Longboat Key are private access but there a few public points that visitors can access the beach. The town of Longboat Key recently updated its Bayfront Park at 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive with an improvement project that included tennis, pickleball, dog park and nature trails. When it was completed in 2017 the town received approval from FDOT to provide beach access across the street at 4001 Gulf of Mexico Drive. The result is a vehicle ramp, access ramp and observation deck that is handicap accessible.

There are seven other public access points from Gulf of Mexico Drive addresses at 2825, 3175, 3355, 3495, 4711, 4795 and 6847. On the northern end of the island the public can access the beach at 6399 Gulfside Road, 100 Broadway Street, 7055 Seabreeze Avenue and 100 North Shore Road. Care should be taken when crossing Gulf of Mexico Drive and there are no lifeguards on duty. Service dogs only are allowed on the beach and these areas are patrolled for alcohol violations.

Hotels line the shores of Bradenton and Holmes beaches, just north of Longboat Key on Anna Maria Island. One of the largest beach areas in the area is Coquina Beach on the southern end of the island. Coquina Beach has plenty of parking and many amenities. The free beach market on Sundays has plenty of craft and farm fresh food vendors that is popular with locals. The Coquina Beach Café sells beer and wine along with short order food. Lifeguards are on duty and on market days you can stroll the sidewalk and be entertained with live music. Seasonal markets are on Wednesdays.

Marina and Moorings of the Longboat Key Club
Coquina Beach - Beach Markets on Sundays and fine facilities such as restrooms and showers attract many visitors to this Anna Maria Island beach.

Beachfront dining on Anna Maria Island is a treat and the popular spots are the Sandbar and Beach House restaurants. The Chiles Restaurant Group owns both and also operates the Mar Vista Restaurant on Longboat Key. You may even get a glimpse of a national celebrity as they have been known to sneak in to these restaurants. Public beach access is limited on Anna Maria Island but the Public Beach at the end of Manatee Avenue has lifeguards on duty, plenty of parking, an outdoor restaurant area and swim shop.

Enjoy your beach stay and be safe with some simple precautions

Nature is a large part why we call this paradise. The beautiful, crystal clear water that meets the white sand beaches provide the scenery for post cards to send up north. However, there are some precautions that should be followed as man in nature can have its consequences.

The beach is no exception. Pay strict attention to the colored flags that officials fly to warn of certain conditions. Any time a red flag is flying you can expect high hazard conditions. Two red flags mean the beach is closed for its high hazardous conditions, most notably high surf and rip currents. Medium is yellow and low hazard flags are green. Boaters use a different system with a small craft advisory flown as a single triangular red flag. Gale warnings are displayed as two red triangular flags, while two red flags with black square centers indicate a hurricane warning. I would think you would be well aware of those conditions before the double red flags appear.

Another flag that is important for beach-goers is a purple flag, which generally means there may be dangerous marine life in the waters. Your mind may automatically drift to think there are sharks in the area but the flag is usually flown when there may be a high concentration of jellyfish present. Jellyfish stings generally are not fatal but the sting may make the victim uncomfortable at best. The best advice from experts is to treat the sting with vinegar and remove any visible nematocytes with tweezers. Follow that treatment with hot, but not scalding, soaking water for 30 minutes. Victims usually do not require professional medical treatment unless there is an allergic reaction or the stings cover a large part of the body. Portuguese Man of War are the most dangerous of jellyfish. They can be spotted as they appear to be balloon-like and float near or at the surface. Their tails can be quite long, avoid them.

Back to sharks. You can think of dolphins as beautiful creatures but they also are the best deterrent for sharks. The movie Jaws created a lot of hysteria in the 1970s but these animals appear more dangerous than they are. When attacks on humans occur they are at the times around dusk and dawn because sharks believe they are attacking their prey. It is hard for them to distinguish the difference when they see a silhouette. Even still, if you see shark in the water it is best to calmly get out of the water. Any splashing by panic may alert these predatory fish of wounded game.

Rip current warning at Bayfront Park on the Gulf
Heed rip current warnings on local beaches. It is also against state law to harvest the sea oats that are common on many sand dunes in the area.

Of course animals don’t pose the only threat in the water. Last week five swimmers were injured and one person was killed in Pensacola as a rip current swept them out into the Gulf. So far this year 10 fatalities in Florida have been attributed to these dangerous currents. A rip current can appear on any beach area as the tide finds a channel that returns water rapidly seaward. The best advice if you get caught up in one of these currents is to swim parallel to the shore and out of the path of the flowing water.

Another condition near the water is the presence of lightning. One person was struck and killed this past weekend on Siesta Key. There is the best way to avoid a lightning strike, seek enclosed shelter or a car. Lightning can linger past the time the clouds appear to have vanished so give it some time, generally thought of as 30 minutes.

We also are responsible for the protection of sea turtles and are in the heart of the turtle nesting season, so particular care should be exercised at this time of year, May 1 through October 31. Longboat Key is one municipality that is stepping up its enforcement of the laws protecting turtles. Lights on the beach confuse these animals and lingering objects such as beach chairs can block their path. Click here for the Longboat Key regulations that are useful guidelines for any of our local beaches.

We have co-existed with nature in paradise for many years. A luxury waterfront property is something to relish. We have properties that fit your taste and budget. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy. And don't forget suntan lotion when on the beach, another hazard to avoid.


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