crowd at a beach
Siesta Beach has been ranked No. 1 in the U.S. multiple times

A Best-Of Award for Every Beach

Sarasota County’s barrier islands offer a diverse landscape of beaches and experiences to try along the Gulf of Mexico

July 9, 2020

With nearly 40 miles of shoreline, Sarasota County is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, each with its own unique characteristics. Depending on what you want to do—from sandcastles to surfing to shopping and more—you will want to choose your beach wisely. Here’s a list of local beach “awards” to help give you an idea of which one is the right choice for your vacation.  

Most Relaxing: Longboat

beach with a tent

While all of our beaches can be relaxing, Longboat Key is known as one of the most secluded due to its limited public access.  The 11 access areas, indicated by “Public Beach Access” signs, are just a short walk to stunning Gulf views. There are a few small parking areas along or across from the public beach entrances (e.g. Whitney Beach on the north end), but most hotels and rentals are designated their very own slice of sand for guests to enjoy. Keep in mind, Longboat Key beaches have no lifeguards or public amenities. However, if you need a refreshment, check out Dry Dock Waterfront Grill or Harry’s Continental Kitchens.

Best Overall Experience: Siesta

people on a beach

Ranked the No. 1 Beach in the U.S. in 2020 by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards™, you will quickly understand why when you feel the powdery quartz-crystal sand between your toes at Siesta Beach. Thanks to a massive amenities revamp in recent years at the public beach, visitors have access to hundreds of free parking spots, two concession stands, bathrooms, grills, equipment rentals, a sandcastle-shaped playground, lounge areas and a rotating list of pop-up vendors (think hair-braiding, frozen treats, jewelry and more). With the free Siesta Key Breeze Trolley to get around on the island, and nearby fun Siesta Key Village, you can plan your whole trip centered around this gorgeous Key without getting bored. Nearby restaurant options include Spearfish Grille (featuring locally caught fish), Daiquiri Deck (two locations on the key) and Siesta Key Oyster Bar. The Siesta Key Village features unique shopping and a Sunday farmer’s market. Also on Sunday evenings is the popular Drum Circle at the public beach. There are plenty of walk-on access areas for Siesta Beach. One unique area near access points 12 and 13 is Point of Rocks—regarded as the best snorkeling spot in the destination.

Most Connected: Lido

empty beach

If you want to try a lot of different things in one day, Lido Beach is the place to go. You can visit the beach, grab a bite to eat, shop for a bit, stroll through art galleries and then even go for some spa treatment. It’s within walking distance to St. Armands Circle and its over 130 merchants (Sarasota’s own mini Rodeo Drive). Throughout the year you can find festivals, car shows, powerboat races and holiday themed events hosted right on the key.

Best for Pictures: Any Beach in Sarasota County

two people sitting on a beach during sunset

Whether you’re looking for a location to take your next family photo or want to get the most likes on social while you’re on vacay, our beaches are ready to say cheese. Siesta and Lido Beaches are known for their iconic colorful lifeguard stands that will definitely brighten your feed. Venice Fishing Pier (especially underneath) can make for some Insta-worthy shots. For family photos, the sand dunes at Manasota and Lido key beaches make a great backdrop (be careful not to stand too close to these environmentally protected areas though). Sunset pictures are gorgeous along any of our Gulf Coast beaches with the water as a horizon, and are a popular backdrop for vacation photos, posed photos, couple photos, family photos, or make-your-friends-and-family-jealous photos.

Best Beach for Kids: Caspersen

people looking for shells on a beach

Shark tooth hunting is the main attraction at Caspersen Beach. Venice is known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World, and fossil aficionados flock to all Venice-area beaches to find these fossilized teeth that have been washing ashore for thousands of years. Bring a sand sifter (or rent your own nearby), arrive early, and wear comfy sandals as some parts of Caspersen are rocky. Once the kids get their fill of shark tooth hunting, they can run around on the nearby playground. Other beaches with playgrounds are: South Lido Beach/Ted Sperling Park, Blind Pass Beach Park, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty Beach Park, Siesta Beach, and Turtle Beach Park.

Best Beach for Fishing: Venice

people standing near beach restaurant and pier

The Venice Fishing Pier stretches 700 ft and offers bird’s eye views of a mix of species from bait fish to sharks. The best part is that anyone can fish from the pier for free and without a fishing license. Need supplies? Papa’s Bait Shop is located in the middle of the pier and offers rentals for rods and sand sifters—a.k.a. “Florida snow shovels.” At the base of the pier are the two beloved watering holes Sharky’s on the Pier and Fins at Sharky’s. Venice Beach offers a little bit of everything: size, social media-worthy views, turquoise water, fun shark-tooth hunting, and more right below the pier.

Best Beach for Paddling: South Lido

man paddleboarding through mangrove tunnel

Not far from the main public entrance at Lido Beach is South Lido Park, tucked away and offering equally spectacular views with a quieter vibe. On one side you have the park overlooking Sarasota Bay and offering plenty of room to swim, kayak, canoe or paddleboard. The other side of the park provides another wide beach with magnificent Gulf views and plenty of space to spread out or take a walk in the powdery sand. Ted Sperling Nature Park and its famous mangrove tunnels make a memorable route cherished by those fond of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding on beautiful Sarasota Bay.

Best Beach for Everyone: Maxine Barritt Park

If you want the best of a beach and non-beach park experience, then Maxine Barritt Park is the place to go. Located near Brohard Paw Park and the Venice Fishing Pier, you can catch beach views if you want, but there is also a pond with a walking trail, picnic areas with grills and a playground for the little ones. Bring your own food for a cookout, or head to one of Venice’s Fin’s nearby restaurants for your favorite fish or seafood and top-notch sunsets.