Suncoast Beaches, FL - Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Longboat Key, Sarasota, Lido Key, Siesta Key & Venice - Vacation Travel Guide

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Suncoast Beaches Area Features

Find Your Place on the Florida Suncoast

  By: Jacquelyn Eurice
Let all of your burdens disappear in the warm sunshine on Florida’s southwestern coast. Here, the turquoise waters of the Gulf lap against the white sand beaches. Inland, entertainment and the arts flourish, attracting patrons from far and wide. Before a show, go out to eat at any one of the restaurants where chefs prepare dishes made with fresh local ingredients. Boutique stores are found throughout the region, offering interesting gifts and mementos of Florida. Welcome to the Suncoast. There’s a lot to explore here! Sunny Day Guide can help you make the most of your vacation.

Sarasota

Sarasota is perfectly located for easy access to the nearby keys for sun, sand and surf at award-winning beaches. Yet, it also combines the best of the natural world and the modern world with world-class galleries, stunning performances, tons of things to do, and exceptional shopping and dining—all within close proximity to natural surroundings and wildlife as found in Myakka River State Park or on the Gulf coast.

While in Sarasota, visit The Ringling. It’s one of the city’s top “must-see” sights featuring the elegantly decorated Cà d’Zan mansion. This was the home to John Ringling of circus fame and his wife, Mable. Today it stands as a monument to the roaring ‘20s and combines with many other buildings on the property to preserve the legacy of the famous circus which claimed the city as its home.

Bradenton

Bradenton is often referred to as the “friendly city” and its mix of art, history and nature consistently endears it to visitors. Nature reserves host hiking trails, lookout towers, and activities including biking, kayaking, and wildlife tours. Within the city is the funky Village of the Arts. Delve inside one of the colorful buildings to peruse the galleries and add an eclectic piece of art to your own collection. Or, step back in time to the era of Spanish Conquistadors while enjoying a beautiful park at the De Soto National Memorial. From December to April, re-enactors portray the history behind Hernando de Soto’s expedition in Florida.

Anna Maria Island

Visit the 7-mile-long paradise contained on the island of Anna Maria to get swept away to a state of bliss. This beautiful stretch of land not only holds the quaint little city of Anna Maria, but also Holmes Beach, Manatee Beach, Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach.

Getting around the island’s namesake city is easy—just hop on the free trolley! From there, you’ll find boutique shopping, waterfront dining and more. For a little seclusion and perhaps some sand dollars, journey a bit farther to Bean Point at the northernmost tip of the island.

Most visitors though, will find themselves on the largest beach on Anna Maria—Holmes Beach. It has all the amenities a beachgoer needs: concession stands, grills and picnic areas, restrooms and showers, and playgrounds and volleyball courts. It’s the ideal beach for families that want to play in the surf. Manatee Beach is just a bit north of Holmes Beach at the end of Manatee Avenue (Route 64). It is a beautiful, wide-open, public beach that is conveniently located across the bridge from West Bradenton.

Farther down the coast on Anna Maria Island, you’ll come across the clean, quiet area of Bradenton Beach. Rent a fishing pole on the pier or relax on the porch swings after enjoying the beauty of the beach. Bradenton Beach is a popular wedding destination since many who have seen the area fall in love with it.

Located in the city of Bradenton Beach are the picturesque sand dunes and gentle surf of Cortez Beach. Though it doesn’t have lifeguards, this small, secluded beach attracts couples looking for a quiet spot to swim, snorkel and soak up the rays.

Coquina Beach is the largest stretch of beach on Anna Maria Island. It’s extremely family-friendly with food stands, showers, shops, and beach rentals. Kids will enjoy shelling on the beach named for the colorful coquina shells that can be found on the shore. Launch a boat into the clear gulf waters to go fishing or snorkeling, or picnic on the shores in a pavilion near the towering pines.

Longboat Key

Longboat Key is mainly a residential island known for luxurious living and two beaches—Whitney and Longboat. There are very few public access areas along the 12 miles of the key, but visitors can look for the small blue signs to find a secluded beach. Stay at one of the welcoming resorts for a romantic getaway and find yourself steps away from the beach. Charter a boat and sail off into the sunset or simply relax on the beach while taking in nature and playing in the gulf.

Find the quiet serenity of Whitney Beach in the northern part of Longboat Key. Parking is limited, so plan ahead for access to this pristine beach. Although there are no public facilities, lifeguards or conveniences offered here, Whitney Beach attracts those who want to experience Sarasota’s natural splendor.

Longboat Beach is the beach of choice for locals and guests of the resorts who opt for a relaxing day in the sun, sand and gentle surf. As with Whitney Beach, there are no facilities and limited parking, but for those residing nearby, it’s a secluded haven. Even the small number of restaurants and shops are masked by the tropical landscape.

Lido Key

Lido Key is jam-packed with things to do and is easily accessible. Located directly across from Sarasota this barrier island is home to distinct attractions including the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium as well as St. Armands Circle—the shopping destination for the region. A number of watersport companies have also set up shop along the shores for access to kayaking, paddleboarding, and more. It’s no surprise that Lido Key is one of the most popular keys in the region.

The tucked-away area of North Lido Beach was once a destination for nudists seeking an all-over tan. Though the beach now requires clothing, it is still a quiet area with access to hiking trails through wooded groves of oak and cedar. Shore birds and migratory species often stop at the nature park, so some of the best bird-watching is here. Keep an eye on children since the currents can be strong and there are no lifeguards.

For every beach perk you could possibly need, head to Lido Beach. The area has just about everything including an Olympic-size public pool, playgrounds and beach rentals. Amenities such as outdoor showers, meeting rooms, locker rooms, lots of parking and two really good concession stands make a day at the beach pleasurable and relaxing. Lido is a favorite of visitors and Sarasota residents alike, so it can become very busy. However, the fun that can be experienced brings people back time and time again.

South Lido Beach and Park is surrounded by four bodies of water: The Gulf of Mexico, Big Pass, Sarasota Bay, and Brushy Bayou, so currents can become very strong. However, in addition to swimming there are many other fun things to do at the park. Stroll along the nature paths, pausing at scenic overlooks. Paddle a canoe or kayak along the coastline, or jog down the wide sidewalks that are lined with swaying palm trees.

Siesta Key

Siesta Key is consistently recognized as having one of the best beaches in the nation, but there are a couple of fabulous beaches that make this barrier island a must-visit destination for travelers to the region.

The world-class Siesta Key Beach is famous for its blue waters, “the world’s finest, whitest sand™” and for having been named the best beach in the United States by numerous travel authorities and publications. The unique feature of Siesta Key Beach is that the sand is 99% quartz, so it stays cool even under the hot Florida sun. Undoubtedly it is the most popular beach in Sarasota and there is plenty to do while visiting the key. Every watersport imaginable—from snorkeling below the surface of the water to parasailing above it—is available for those who like to get wet. On land, there are volleyball and tennis courts, concession stands and picnic areas, shelling opportunities, and even stores and restaurants never more than a short walk away. Those with disabilities can enjoy the beach through the use of beach wheelchairs and access ramps. On Sundays, the Siesta Key Drum Circle enlivens the crowds with talented percussionists, dancers and other entertaining acts. Amenities including restrooms, shower facilities and ample parking enable a stress-free day at the beach. It doesn’t take much for the love affair to begin after a trip to Siesta Key Beach.

As one of the least crowded beaches along the western Florida coast, Crescent Beach attracts those who yearn for clear water and wide-open spaces. The clarity of the water and the coral rock formations contribute to a spectacular snorkeling adventure. Most visitors to this beach are also lodging nearby, so there are very few facilities. However, within walking distance are a couple of restaurants that are recommended by locals.

On the southern end of Siesta Key is Turtle Beach. This tranquil beach is named for the turtles that nest here, and chances are good that you may see them. But please don’t disturb the nests and harm these native, wild treasures! Boat launches, picnic and playground areas, and ample parking are amenities of this beach. Many of Turtle Beach’s patrons also take advantage of the wide range of nearby accommodations—everything from inexpensive and privately managed rooms to high-end resorts that excel in providing a luxurious stay in Siesta Key. It’s an ideal location for a romantic afternoon swim or to fish in peace and quiet.

Casey Key

Casey Key is a favorite of those looking for a quiet escape to a beach house or beachside resort. The key draws people to its shores with turquoise water on one side and clear blue water on the other.  Residences are interspersed throughout the landscape, but public beaches and parks are here as well.

It may have been the area’s first public beach, but Nokomis Beach is still quiet and relaxing. Shells can be found on the white sand beaches that border the calm green waters. Watch fish swim through the water or maybe even see some turtle nests on the beach. There are hardly any hotels or condos but the beach does provide restrooms, picnic shelters, and a boardwalk for strolling over the dunes. The Nokomis Beach Drum Circle is a favorite activity, featuring belly dancers and percussion instrumentalists on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at sunset. Those who wish to bring their own rhythm are welcome to participate, though it is almost more fun to watch the festivities.

North Jetty Park is known for its superb fishing but offers decent surfing as well. Shells can often be found on the soft, white sand beach, and the warm waters attract beach lovers again and again. The seaside park has recently been enhanced with the addition of a new concession stand and public restroom facilities. If you do want to go fishing in the gulf, head out onto the jetty for a prime location! You can even watch the boats come and go at the inlet.

Venice

The clear, sapphire blue gulf draws adventurers to Venice Beach for snorkeling or diving in the coral reef and treasure hunters in search of fossilized shark’s teeth. There are many amenities including picnic tables, ample parking, and restrooms. Along the beach, lifeguards patrol the waters that grace the white sands. Dog lovers can stop by the nearby Brohard Paw Park and Beach and let your furry friends run and swim untethered within a fenced acre of grass and shoreline. There are even doggie showers to clean off in and water fountains to keep your dog hydrated.

On the southwest coast of Florida, the friendly people, warm and inviting weather, and the countless opportunities for fun, entertainment and amusement are yours for the taking. Explore the area and discover what will bring you and your family back to this cherished destination. We welcome you to enjoy any of these delightful areas of the Florida Suncoast.

High Achievements!

This region is renowned for its excellence in a variety of categories. Here’s just a small sampling of some of the recent awards the Suncoast has earned:

Anna Maria Island (Coquina Beach)

  • #5 The 10 Best Beaches for Families—Parents Magazine, 2017

Sarasota:

  • #14 Best Food Cities in the U.S. —Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice, 2016

Siesta Key:

  • #2 U.S. Beach—TripAdvisor People’s Choice, 2018
  • #1 "The Best Beach in America"—Dr. Beach, 2017
  • #5 Beach in the World—TripAdvisor People’s Choice, 2015

Venice:

  • #6 Best Beaches To Snorkel in Florida—Coastal Living, 2018
  • #2 America's Happiest Seaside Towns—Coastal Living, 2015

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