Welcome To Longboat Key, FL
Beach, beach and more glorious, unspoiled beach – that’s the secret to Longboat Key, a 12-mile stretch of glistening sugar-white sand that sits just off the mainland coast between Bradenton and Sarasota. Low-rise resorts, condos, cottages and a smattering of restaurants are the other prime attributes of this barrier island, hence it is very much a get-away-from-it-all destination within the cornucopia of great beach resorts in the Sunshine State.
Highlights of Longboat Key, FL
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Longboat Key, FL Location
Weather in Longboat Key, FL
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Things to do in Longboat Key, FL
Longboat key is not so much a town as a long stretch of sand stitched together by low-rise development, most of which has only been around since the 1960s and 70s, hence this is not an especially historic part of the Sunshine State. Originally inhabited by native Americans, it was part of the 16th century Spanish exploration of Florida, but was not opened up for settlement until the late 19th century. Even then, it remained immune to any outside influences and was used as a practice bombing range during World War II. Private development company Arvida began transforming it into an extensive luxury resort in the 1960s and it has largely existed as that ever since, with its championship-quality golf club one of the island’s prime attractions. For the area’s most historic attractions, visitors should head to nearby Bradenton and Sarasota.
Beaches & Parks
To a large extent, Longboat is one long, unbroken, gorgeous beach, with an idyllic Gulf Coast location but also an ‘alternative’ coastline along the more sheltered intracoastal waterway. It starts in the north, just across from Bradenton Beach and Amelia Island, and winds down to Lido Key and Sarasota, passing through a series of public and private beaches, notably at Coquina Beach, which provides restrooms and foot-washing stations, as well as sun-loungers and umbrellas, and The Resort at Longboat Key Club, with its dazzling array of five-star amenities. For a more natural touch, the 32-acre Joan M Durante Community Park at the northern end of the island offers a view of Sarasota Bay along with a lovely boardwalk and nature trail through the mangroves, providing glimpses of the wildlife, which includes crabs, jumping mullet and a profusion of birdlife.
Culture & Arts
This isn’t the place to come expecting a major cultural experience, unless your idea of culture consists of a good book, a great cocktail and a sun-lounger at a swish beach resort (of which the island has dozens!). Longboat Key has little in the way of development that is more than 40 years old, but here is where you get the best of both worlds as there is a LOT within a short drive of the island. Head north to Bradenton and there is the fabulous artist colony style of the Village of the Arts, the community theatre of Manatee Performing Arts Hall and the excellent South Florida Museum. Go a few miles south to Sarasota and you are practically at Cultural Central for Florida as a whole, with the likes of the amazing Ringling estate, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota Opera and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Health & Spa
In real terms, it doesn’t get much healthier than getting out in the open and enjoying the delights of great beaches and parks, plus outdoor activities like biking, kayaking and paddle-boarding. The weather here is among the best in a state that’s renowned for it, with almost 300 sunny days a year and an average temperature of 31-32C in summer and 22C in winter (albeit with more rain June-Sept than Oct-May). Yoga on the beach is an increasingly popular activity, and many resorts have their own fitness and wellness classes. There are several small-scale spas and salons on the island, of which Longboat Massage is a great example, offering neuromuscular, Swedish and oncology massages, but the grand Opal Spa at The Resort at Longboat Key Club has the full range of health and wellness options, from signature massages to skincare enhancements, manicures and pedicures. Reservations are strongly advised, though.
Wildlife & Ecotourism
Longboat Key may be packed with great beaches, but it is also a wonderful place for an eco-tourism adventure. The best way to enjoy the local wildlife is simply to get out on the water, either on the Gulf of Mexico side or the (more ecologically interesting) intracoastal waterway. Catherine’s Florida Charters is a great way of doing that, on a 53ft sailboat that cruises the Gulf and Sarasota Bay on daily sailings and private charters, including sight-seeing, dolphin watch cruises and eco-tours to the likes of Beer Can Island and Jewfish Key Sandbar. On land, Quick Point Nature Preserve is a 34-acre haven of trails, boardwalk and tidal pools. From May to early September, you can also take part in the Longboat Key Turtle Watch to learn about local sea turtle ecology and help volunteers mark and protect the many nests that pop up here in summer.
Recent years have seen a profusion of new restaurants open in Longboat Key, both in the bigger resorts but also stand-alone ventures. As ever in this part of Florida, fresh local seafood – especially stone crab, grouper and scallops – is the order of the day, but you can also get a great steak or burger. For the one-off restaurants, the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill is superbly situated with great views to match the food, while Lazy Lobster is a local institution and The Blue Dolphin is the place for a locals’ breakfast or lunch. When it comes to the resorts, Zota Beach Resort boasts the trendy indoor-outdoor style of Viento Kitchen + Bar, while the Four Diamond-rated The Resort at Longboat Key Club has no fewer than six wonderful options, including the chic Tavern & Whiskey Bar, Italian specialities at Portofino and elegant waterfront dining of Sands Pointe.
While there is a lot packed in to the island, this isn’t where to head for a major shopping experience. The shops tend to be low-key and local, with fun gift and souvenir items, while stand-out stores like family-owned Rip Current, on the northern end, feature a great array of swimwear and sports gear, especially for fishing, which is hugely popular hereabouts. If fashion is your passion, however, never fear, as you don’t have to travel far for some great retail therapy. The shops of St Armands Circle (one of Sarasota’s most chic districts) are only a few miles away on Lido Key to the south, with a dazzling array of boutiques, jewellers, galleries and cafes, including big-name designers like Sperry, Tommy Bahama, Wyland Galleries and Sunglass Hut. Head 25 miles north and the extensive Ellenton Premium Outlets features 130 designer and brand outlet stores for all the family.
If tennis and golf are among your main sporting interests, Longboat Key will definitely keep you busy. The Resort at Longboat Key Club features both sports in five-star style, with two championship-quality golf courses (including a links-style 18 holes) as well as The Tennis Gardens, one of the highest ranked tennis resorts in the world, boasting 20 courts and a full array of classes and instruction. There are also picturesque golf courses to be found in nearby Bradenton and Sarasota, so you’ll never be short of choice. At the same time, kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, water-skiing, boating and fishing are to be found almost everywhere up and down this stretch of coastline, with Cannons Marina offering a good array of rentals and charters. Head to neighbouring City Island, just to the south, and the Sarasota Sailing Squadron is one of the leading yachting clubs in Florida.