If you are visiting Sarasota from another part of the country, you may have heard about Siesta Key. This would be understandable, as the beach on this gorgeous barrier island has been the recipient of hundreds of accolades. Siesta Key Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world, but it is not the only amazing beach in the area – nor is the Key the only barrier island. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that Sarasota actually boasts four direct barrier islands – and there are a few more worthy destinations close by. The barrier islands, also known as the Sarasota Keys, each have their own vibe, ethos, and personality. Although connected to the mainland, these Keys are surrounded by Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Each of the Sarasota Keys offers cross breezes, gorgeous water views, and access to myriad water sports, including kayaking, boating, and parasailing.
Sarasota Keys: Unique and Diverse
If you are planning a visit to Sarasota, be sure to visit each of our Keys and explore the many diverse vacation spots they offer. From north to south, here is your concise travel guide to Sarasota’s barrier islands.
- Longboat Key: Best for Golf & Tennis Lovers
This narrow, 11-mile-long barrier island is located just to the north of Lido Key and south of Anna Maria Island. Longboat Key is most frequently visited by golf and tennis enthusiasts, as both will find world-class facilities to accommodate their game. While the Key boasts some of the most elegant private clubs, upscale condominiums, and luxurious homes, the casual visitor may have trouble viewing the over 12 miles of meandering coastline – most areas are considered private access. Longboat Key is accessible from the mainland or can be reached by heading north along the water from Lido Key. Bicyclists take note – the flat route between these two Keys is breathtaking.
- Lido Key: Panoramic Views and Shopping
Lido Key delivers some of the most spectacular views on any of the Sarasota Keys, providing sweeping vistas of the Gulf, Sarasota Bay, and our glittering, modern downtown skyline. Lido Key is famous for its diverse range of attractions, from the unique boutiques and restaurants of St. Armand’s Circle to the kayaking tours of the mangrove tunnels. Nature lovers can walk shaded boardwalks, explore the wildlife around lagoons, or visit the world-renowned Mote Marine Aquarium. Lido Key is located just across the iconic John Ringling Bridge, making it accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists who wish to explore in a more adventurous way. If you want to walk across the bridge but want a shorter hike, park at Bird Key Park located on the west side approach.
- Bird Key: History and Homes:
Bird Key is located on some of the most coveted real estate in Sarasota, as it is situated within walking or biking distance of Sarasota downtown, Bayfront Park, the John Ringling Bridge, and St. Armand’s Circle. This small barrier island is comprised primarily of residential homes along deep-water canals, making it the perfect neighborhood for boaters. There is a private yacht club that once belonged to the Ringling family – in fact, the entire enclave was developed by the famous circus promoter. Although some of the most impressive and expensive homes in Sarasota are located on Bird Key, there are no gates – meaning that interested visitors can stroll, bike, or drive through these quiet streets without issue.
- Siesta Key: The One with the Beach
Siesta Key is most known for its award-winning, stunning beach which attracts millions of tourists annually. But Siesta Key is also one of the most interesting vacation spots for those looking for diverse experiences. Visitors can enjoy the silence while kayaking on a lagoon – or stay up late to partake in live music at open-air bars. They can stay beachfront in a bustling condominium, or rent a home in a quiet, tree-lined avenue. There are restaurants ranging from simple to-go counters to fine dining, and shops for the refined taste or the kitschy flair. Siesta Key is eclectic, casual, and vibrant – and not to be missed.
Ready to Explore? Check Out These Nearby Islands
- Casey Key is located just south of Sarasota, with access from mainland Osprey and Nokomis. Casey Key is home to multi-million-dollar-plus residences and boasts some very rich and famous homeowners. The barrier island is so narrow in places that homes claim the Gulf of Mexico as their front yard, and Sarasota Bay as their backyard. It’s worth a drive just to view some spectacular residences, but the best place to get out is on the South end, where you’ll find well-appointed Nokomis Beach, complete with a covered picnic area, concession stands, and on-duty lifeguards.
- Manasota Key is the southernmost of Sarasota County’s barrier islands. Although the Key only offers a quiet two-lane road with no traffic lights, it is home to a wildlife sanctuary, natural dunes, and mangroves. Englewood Beach provides grills, picnic tables, pavilions, and Stump Pass Beach State Park, a natural hiking paradise.
- Anna Maria Island is a charming beachfront community north of Longboat Key and just west of Bradenton. Named by Spanish explorers many centuries ago, Anna Maria eventually provided the backdrop for many Hollywood movies. Although it has grown over the years due to tourism, areas still live up to its old-world charm.
Ride and Paddle: Your Partner for Exploring the Sarasota Keys
Whether you are looking to bike on Siesta Key, kayak on Lido Key, or relax on Anna Maria Beach – you’ll find everything you need at Ride and Paddle. From bicycles and kayaks for the entire family to beach chairs, umbrellas, and coolers – just make one call, and we’ll deliver it all.
Ride and Paddle transforms an already amazing vacation into an unforgettable one. If you are visiting the Sarasota area, call today to learn more.