With 40 miles of beaches, Sarasota County’s coastline acts as a top destination for residents and visitors year-round. Over 6.5 million tourists flock to the county’s beaches each year. From world-famous Siesta Key Beach to secluded offerings like Caspersen, there’s a relaxing place in the sun for everyone, even your furry family members. And best of all, did you know that every one of Sarasota County’s beaches are FREE to enjoy with no parking fees?
The are six barrier islands that hug Sarasota County’s 40 miles of coastline. The barrier islands, many called “keys”, each have their own personality. The beaches along the coasts of these areas range from calm and tapered to lively and expansive.
Longboat Key: Prim, Proper and Pristine
Longboat Key is the northernmost and longest island along Sarasota’s coast boasting twelve miles of shoreline. Pristine and manicured, the key is home to many public beach access points, although parking is a challenge. One spot that may be of interest (and have sufficient parking) is Beer Can Island, which is a very popular spot for beaching and boating on Longboat Key.
Lido Key: Timeless Sophistication
Lido Key is nestled between Longboat Key to the north and Siesta Key to the south and boasts three beaches: North Lido, Lido Beach and South Lido. And here’s a fun fact – did you know that the word “lido” in Italian means “beach?” Although a public beach, North Lido gives the impression of a secluded hideaway with 3,000 feet of sugary sand and a nature trail for guests to wander along in relative privacy. Lido Beach offers a lifeguard on duty, a public pavilion with restrooms and concessions are available. South Lido Beach Park mingles four significant bodies of water: The Gulf of Mexico, Big Pass, Sarasota Bay and Brushy Bayou. Two nature trails, a self-guided canoe trail, a multi-purpose field and a volleyball court top off South Lido’s amenities. And even though it’s not a beach, it’s worth mentioning that Lido Key is where you will find St. Armand’s Circle, a mecca for foodies and shopaholics alike.
Siesta Key: Flip Flops Required
This eight-mile island is accessible by two bridges from the mainland. Comprised of three beaches, this key offers Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach and Turtle Beach (offering a campground). The latter two are lovely, but I would be remiss not to mention that Siesta Beach continues to be the winner of many awards year after year naming it THE BEST (or at the very least in the top 3) beach in North America. There are playgrounds for children, public restrooms, concessions, a lifeguard on duty and the whitest, softest beach sand you will ever see or feel. Although there are multiple parking lots and ample spaces for Siesta Key Beach, you will need to get there early to claim your spot!
Casey Key: Secluded Luxury
Located amongst the million-dollar-plus homes, some owned by the rich and famous, you’ll find two very popular beach areas: North Jetty Park and Nokomis Beach. North Jetty Park, at the south end of Casey Key, encompasses 18 acres of picnic areas, pavilions, public restrooms, concession stands, a lifeguard and a fabulous viewing spot to watch the boats traverse the Venice inlet. Just a tad down the road from North Jetty you will find Nokomis Beach offering ample parking, concessions, restrooms and a lifeguard on duty. Another fun fact – Nokomis Beach is Sarasota County’s oldest public beach.
Venice Beaches: Birds, Sharks’ Teeth and Dogs
Heading North to South, the first public access beach you come to will be Chauncy Howard Park located in front of 800 The Esplanade North. A boardwalk will take you to this beautiful beach, but please note that this one must be arrived to by bike or foot as there is no automobile parking at all. Next in line will be Venice Beach which offers a lifeguard, public restrooms, concessions and decent parking. Venice Beach is known for being the Sharks Tooth Capital of the World! The next area is called Brohard Park and this park is actually comprised of five different beaches! Service Club Park, the beach at Sharky’s, Maxine Barritt Park, South Brohard Beach Paw Park (the ONLY dog friendly beach) and South Brohard Beach. In this group is some of the lesser known beach areas that the locals flock to, avoiding the crowds during season. Last, but definitely not least, of the Venice Beaches is Caspersen Beach. One of the longest stretches of beach still in its natural state along Sarasota County’s shoreline, it offers hiking paths, bird watching, public restrooms and beautiful untouched beauty.
Manasota Key: Idyllic Old Florida
For the ultimate in tranquility, try one of Manasota Key’s free beaches (there are four in all, but only 2 are located in Sarasota County and are free): Manasota Beach and Blind Pass Beach. Manasota Beach shows off its sand dunes and mangroves, which attract the nature lovers and offers public restrooms and a lifeguard on duty. Blind Pass Beach is 60 acres wide between the Gulf and the bay and offers nearly 3,000 feet of sand.
So whether you are just visiting this area for a short time, are a snowbird or a full-time resident, do yourself a favor and discover one of these gorgeous beaches during your time here to enjoy, relax and get that always needed Vitamin D!
Information gathered from scgov.net and visitsarasota.com