Florida is certainly not at a loss for beautiful beaches, but the ones found on Siesta Key are particularly inviting. This eight-mile, crescent-shaped barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico consistently wins national accolades and “best beach” titles.
The sand at the public beach, in the central part of the island, is simply stunning. Sugary and white, the pure crystal quartz granules are amazingly cool to the feet, even on the hottest summer day. Even better, there is plenty of it, so you won't be on top of anyone when claiming space for the day.
In contrast to the bright sand is the stunning turquoise water, so clear you can see your feet as you wade into it. And the sunsets are breathtaking.
Iconic lifeguard stands are still in use at Siesta Key Beach — Photo courtesy of Shawn McLoughlin/Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce
The coastline of this small island varies greatly. Just south of the public beach, you’ll find exposed lime rock. Point-of-Rocks beach is a great spot for snorkeling and spotting blue crabs, along with other marine life.
Even farther south is Turtle Beach, lined with condos and almost no commercial space. Look for public beach access points for exploring this quiet stretch, known for its sea turtle nesting May through Oct. 31. The sand here is not as pristine; the beach is narrower and slopes more than the northern part of the island.
This is a good spot to stay if you are looking for quiet or perhaps romance. If sleeping under the stars is appealing, try Turtle Beach Campground. The narrow, 14-acre, beachfront park can accommodate both tents and RVs.
Siesta Key has lots of sporting activities for athletes and families alike. Consider renting kayaks or paddleboards to explore the islands in the Jim Neville Marine Preserve. The birding is top-notch and you may also see dolphins and manatees.
Southbridge Mall is a convenient place to rent all kinds of gear, get in some shopping and grab a bite to eat at Anna’s Restaurant & Deli. You’ll often find a line stretching out of the door, full of hungry visitors wanting a sandwich on Anna’s famous, round "can bread."
Three wheel, motorized carts are popular modes of transportation on the island — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
No car is necessary on the island. Walk, rent a bicycle or scooter, or take a trolley to and from Siesta Key Village. It's a hub of activity, full of local shops, casual bars and dining establishments. Try the Lobster Pot and its award-winning lobster bisque, or the fresh oysters at the famous Siesta Key Oyster Bar.
Considering a day trip? The lack of beach parking has become a contentious issue over the years. If you are lucky, there are about 20 free beachside spots, north of the public beach and limited spaces around some beach access points.
A $21.5 million renovation project at the public beach should be completed by December. Not only will visitors have better parking, but also new bathrooms, pavilions, concessions and recreation facilities.
If You Go
From Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, expect a 20- to 25-minute drive. Most direct flights come from east coast cities, such as the New York area, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as Toronto, Canada. For more options and competitive pricing, consider Tampa International Airport (one and a half hours north) or the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers (one and a half hours south).
Accommodations on the beach vary widely in price by the time of year. You won't find big chains, but rather smaller resorts and lots of condominium rentals. Expect to pay a premium between February and April. Rates drop the end of April through December, with the exception of holidays such as the Fourth of July. For less expensive accommodations, consider downtown Sarasota, about six miles inland.