Even though Sarasota and Siesta Key are most famous for their expansive white sand beaches, watersports, and fishing, there is so much more to see and do when you visit the area. If you need a break from the sun’s rays or simply want to explore more of the art and culture that permeates our region, we can provide a long list of potential attractions. One of the most surprising and beautiful places to visit is the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, located on the Bay just north of Siesta Key. Selby Gardens is a favorite of locals and visitors from around the world.

The Gardens showcase Florida’s most exotic and tropical native species, from massive banyans and fig trees to tiny orchids. In addition, the botanical garden is the only one in the world specifically committed to the research and display of epiphytes—more commonly known as air plants—that thrive in the tree canopy. These amazing plants include orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, ferns, and other tropical plants. The collection of orchids is well worth the visit to this peaceful downtown oasis.

In January 2024, Selby Gardens added more than 188,000 square feet of new facilities, highlighting a behind-the-scenes view of the world-renowned research that Selby Gardens represents. But don’t let the emphasis on research scare you away – Selby Gardens’ breathtaking greenspaces offer truly special natural beauty – from brilliant flowers to towering trees. Wandering the grounds, you’ll also notice the many displays of artwork integrated seamlessly into the natural landscape.

Siesta Key bicycle rentals

Selby Gardens offers self-guided tours as well as group tour programs. Visitors will enjoy an immersive experience that showcases not only the diverse flora of Florida but also the installed artwork, botanical research, and history of the gardens and the region. Group tours are led by experienced educators and are appropriate for all ages. Should you opt to explore the Gardens on your own, you’ll still find a wealth of information – and don’t be shy about asking questions of any of the trained botanists or horticulturalists you will encounter as you stroll through the grounds. Another option for visitors is a boat tour, which takes guests from the downtown campus to Selby’s sister campus located 10 miles south at Historic Spanish Point. This adjunct location features the history of the region’s ancient peoples and pioneers, as well as over 30 acres of natural preserve land, replete with native Florida plants and 5,000 years of Florida archeological history.

Special Exhibitions: The Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series features the work of significant artists and their relationships to nature. Masterworks of art on loan from museums are surrounded and displayed in a garden setting. Previous exhibitions have included works by masters such as Salvador Dali, Paul Gauguin, Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, and renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Clyde Butcher: Nature Through the Lens is currently displayed at the Spanish Point campus. Large-scale prints of the photographer’s iconic black-and-white images of Florida plants, animals, and habitats are installed amid the natural landscape of the waterfront preserve.

Visiting Selby Gardens by Bicycle

Whether you love flowers, nature, art, or history, a visit to Selby Gardens will not disappoint. The Gardens are easily accessible from Siesta Key and Sarasota’s downtown. Bicyclists can travel across the northern Causeway and north on Osprey or Orange Avenues to reach the site. The distance is between 4 and 10 miles, depending on where you are located on Siesta Key.

If you are visiting Siesta Key, call Ride and Paddle to rent the bicycles you need for the entire family. Whether you visit Selby Botanical Gardens or simply cruise to Siesta Key Village for dinner – bikes are a fantastic way to explore the area in a whole new way. Call today to learn more about our inventory of street bikes, beach bikes, or e-bikes.