Welcome To Siesta Key, FL
One of Florida’s best-kept secrets (at least by the locals), this is very possibly the best beach destination in a state that’s renowned for them. One of the Gulf Coast barrier islands, it is situated between Sarasota and Venice Beach, hence it forms a blissful combination of the sophisticated and laid-back. It is also a notable sea turtle nesting area, hence eco-awareness is very much part of the Siesta Key scene
Highlights of Siesta Key, FL
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Things to do in Siesta Key, FL
Despite being so close to the city of Sarasota, Siesta Key (or Clam Island as it was known) was virtually ignored by settlers until the early 20th century, with the first hotel opening in 1906. The first bridge to the island followed in 1917, but Siesta remained a rather sleepy backwater until after World War II when it became popular with a number of artists at the time and also attracted Hollywood stars like Bette Davis and Dorothy Lamour. Its popularity accelerated rapidly through the 1960s and 1970s, with tourism quickly becoming its main activity. As part of Sarasota County, its history and development can be traced at the quaint Sarasota County History Centre Museum in Sarasota (inside the historic Chidsey Library Building). The island’s artist colony history is also well represented in a number of modern art galleries.
Beaches & Parks
While Siesta Key is one continuous island that tails away to the south, it is grouped into three beaches, all with the trademark super-fine white sands: Siesta Beach in the main (north) part of the island; Crescent Beach, the long, shallow, curved section in the centre, backed by many resorts and condos; and smaller Turtle Beach at the southernmost extent. The latter is quieter, but usually has paddle boards and kayaks for rent, while Siesta Beach tends to be busier, with more amenities, including the Village with its shops and cafes along Ocean Boulevard. The rare geological formation of Point-of-Rocks, a flat limestone beach, sits at the end of Crescent Beach. All the beaches are likely to have turtle nests from May to October, and these must not be interfered with in any way. It’s a great place to collect sea shells, and the International Sand-sculpting Festival is held each November.
Culture & Arts
Artists have been coming to Siesta Key for almost a century, inspired by its tranquil ambience and gorgeous coastline. That is reflected today in the variety of art galleries that are sprinkled through the island and provide some great shopping and browsing opportunities. The Gallery on Siesta Key on Ocean Boulevard is a great example of a co-op style artist’s colony, offering paintings, ceramics, shell art, photographs, sculpture, jewellery and more. Ocean Boulevard is also home to other shops and galleries featuring art, jewellery and bric-a-brac, mixed in with the cafes and boutiques. African arts and crafts are featured at the nearby Nontando boutique/gallery in South Sarasota. Head further in to Sarasota and you find one of Florida’s leading cultural centres, including the amazing Ringling Estate, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Sarasota Ballet among a wealth of performing arts and artist communities.
Health & Spa
Keeping with the island’s outdoor theme, Siesta Key is a great place to enjoy a healthy dose of pampering and fitness, including yoga and Pilates classes. You’ll often see yoga on the beach, and even on paddle-boards, but surprisingly, there are no major spas in any of the island resorts. However, you will find several individual spas and health clubs, notably Hands of Light Massage Therapy, Siesta Healing, Massage Experience Siesta Key, LaPlaya Spa and, just across the causeway at Siesta Key Marina, the impressive Mandala Med Spa and Yoga Shala. There are also a wealth of spa offerings in nearby Sarasota, including at The Westin and fabulous The Resort at Longboat Key Club. However, for the most upmarket and indulgent experience on this stretch of coast, head for the pure luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, with its profusion of treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and relaxation lounges.
Wildlife & Ecotourism
For all of Siesta Key’s beach charms, some of the most remarkable features are to be found just off its coast, with a series of dolphin-watch cruises and other eco-tours into the waters of the Gulf and intracoastal waterway. For the best selection, head for Siesta Key Marina on Old Stickney Point Road, which has boat and jet-ski rentals, plus an array of tours, including the island’s signature sea life excursions that usually include dolphins, manatees, bald eagles, mangrove forests and more. There are also sunset cruises and adventure tours to some of the smaller islands, with snorkelling included. Kokomo Charters and Key Life Charters offer similar opportunities to explore the local waters and get up close with the wildlife. On land, less than 20 miles east, is Myakka River State Park with a wonderful array of boat and tram tours into the heart of natural Florida.
From rustic beachfront dining to gourmet fare, Siesta Key has some wonderful restaurant offerings, many at a reasonable price and nearly all within a short walk of the beach. Seafood is top of the menu for the majority, especially as it isn’t hard to get fresh, locally sourced fish hereabouts. Look for specialities in oysters, crab and shrimp, plus grouper, mahi-mahi and snapper. Check out Big Water Fish Market for the day’s catch, which you can buy or sample at their own restaurant, with their Fish or Shrimp Tacos and Grouper Sandwich the most popular menu items. Other must-try venues are the down-home style of Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar, The Old Salty Dog and Siesta Key Oyster Bar; breakfast specialities at Sun Garden Café, Village Café and Another Broken Egg Café; Peruvian flavours at The Cottage and Javier’s; and the fine-dining of Ophelia’s On The Bay, Café Gabbiano and Miguel’s.
Bearing in mind the Island’s history with art and artists, this is definitely the place to come for local arts and crafts, with several excellent options for unique gifts and souvenirs. Siesta Key Village, on Ocean Boulevard, is the epicentre of the shopping choice, with a number of small, one-off boutiques mixed in with the wonderfully ramshackle restaurants and cafes. Start at The Gallery on Siesta Key, with its ever-changing array of art and artists, then wander both sides of the street for other individual stand-outs such as Beach Bazaar, Le Grand Bisou, Sandal Factory and Sea Pleasures & Treasures. For an original jewellers, check out Silver City Sarasota on Midnight Pass Road, where you’ll also find Sunshine & Sand Hidden Treasures. There is plenty more shopping nearby in Sarasota, of course, with St Armand’s Circle on Lido Key offering an extensive range of upscale retail therapy.
Being an island, it should be no surprise that virtually all the sports opportunities here are water-based, and you can easily discover great ways to go kayaking and paddle-boarding; water-skiing and jet-skiing; sailing and fishing; and even parasailing. You’ll find many of the activities on offer at the three main beaches, while the best fishing charters set out from Siesta Key Marina. Sarasota Wind & Water Adventures, based on Beach Road, feature a wide array of water-sports, notably kayak tours through the mangrove tunnels along the intracoastal waterway, as do Siesta Key Bike & Kayak, with self-guided or group eco-tours by kayak. There are no golf courses on the island, but golfers can find a great array of choice for their favourite sport nearby in Sarasota, including the Bobby Jones Golf Complex and magnificent courses of The Resort at Longboat Key Club.