Anyone who has visited the Sarasota area knows that there are hundreds of potential places to visit and explore. But ask a local about their favorite destination, and you are sure to hear Island Park. Located on the Bay in downtown Sarasota, this popular park is frequented by families, fishermen, and boaters – as well as many others. In this article, we take a look at this iconic downtown destination and community gathering place.

Did You Know? Island Park is also known as Sarasota Bayfront Park or is sometimes called “Marina Jack’s” by the locals—a reference to the famous teal-glass restaurant located there. Island Park is located on Sarasota Bay at the western termination points of Main Street and Ringling Boulevard.

Sarasota vacation rentals

Island Park spans several city blocks and offers expansive parking lots to accommodate its popularity. The entrances to the park on either end are graced by large arches draped in hibiscus flowers. The park is characterized by a wide-open green space that juts out into Sarasota Bay. A paved trail leads around the perimeter of the park. This pathway is used by those on foot, bike, or rollerblade and leads past a marina, the famous dolphin fountain, massive banyan trees, and rocky beaches.

The park features a gated playground, picnic areas, and a large splash pad with whimsical animal-shaped fountains for kids to play in. There is also a waterfront tiki bar for drinks and a restaurant offering sandwiches, burgers, and ice cream.

Community Events at Island Park

Island (Bay Front) Park is a central gathering place for many of Sarasota’s most popular events. There are two major art festivals installed each year: an annual sculpture festival that features abstract submissions from around the world; and the “Embracing our Differences” exhibit, which showcases 50 billboards featuring works of art and thought-provoking quotations about inclusion and kindness. The latter event had 16,604 entries in 2024, arriving from 125 countries and 44 states.

Island Park is also a central location for community fireworks displays and is a strategic place to settle in and watch the annual Christmas Boat Parade, which floats around the park.

Scenic Views Abound

There are many different views to enjoy at Island Park. Looking back at downtown, you’ll see Sarasota’s eclectic downtown skyline. To the south, you’ll see the lush treescape of Selby Garden and the shoreline of Siesta Key. To the northwest, the majestic condos of Golden Gate Point rise to the sky, and the John Ringling Bridge stretches across to Lido Key.

Directly across from the park is Marina Jack’s Restaurant, which offers a fine-dining indoor restaurant and a bustling casual patio with an outdoor bar that looks out over the water and the marina’s moored yachts. You can charter a fishing boat from the marina or buy a ticket to one of the most popular Bay cruises, a two-story barge adorned with palm trees and mirrored mermaids.

Did You Know? Sarasota Bay is home to a large and thriving community of dolphins, which are well-documented and monitored by marine experts.

Take Ride and Paddle with You

If you are visiting Island Park for the day with your family, be sure to call Ride and Paddle first. We can provide strollers and beach chairs, bicycles and coolers, and kayaks so you can easily drop into the water and explore the Bay.

If you are interested in seeing Island Park from the water, call us to reserve your spot on our popular guided kayak tours. Located at The Bay (just north of the Park) we will provide the kayak, safety gear and expert guides – guaranteed to deliver an unforgettable experience.

When you rent equipment from Ride and Paddle, you are free to take it with you to explore Island Park. Call today to learn more, or browse our website to build your vacation wish list.