Go Where the Locals Go

Enjoy a list of lesser known beaches of Sarasota County.

No matter what list or poll you read, the results are in: Sarasota has some of the best beaches in the world.

All it takes is a single visit to become a fan of Sarasota’s beaches. Once you plant your feet in the powdery, pearly white sand and take in the mesmerizing view of the aquamarine Gulf of Mexico, you’ll be hooked.

Even the tangerine colored sunsets are celebrated with applause as revelers salute another “day in paradise.” And beach weddings are set against the magnificent backdrop of sea and sky to make ceremonies unforgettable.

But with the popularity of Sarasota’s famous beaches, a couple of nagging obstacles arise: crowds and limited parking.

No worries.

Locals know which beaches to go to for a quieter retreat, a relaxing walk by the water’s edge and more parking options.

So to help you along, here are six select spots along Sarasota County’s waterfront highlighting lesser-known beaches:

Manasota Key: Blind Pass Beach

Manasota Key is Sarasota’s southernmost barrier island. Blind Pass Beach, known to locals as “middle beach,” is situated halfway down the island. Amble down the beach pathway, and set your chair down. The Hermitage Artist’s Retreat, a sanctuary for international artists adds an “old Florida” backdrop with its historical old structures. Enjoy a leisurely walk on the beach and in just minutes, you may notice that you have found your own quiet serenity. Throw some lunch on the barbecue and you’ll never want to leave this slice of heaven.

Venice Beaches

Venice is known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” Prehistoric fossilized shark teeth wash ashore daily, drawing many visitors. Still, there are plenty of beach options away from the throngs, especially in south Venice.

West of the Venice municipal airport is Venice Beach where you’ll find the 740-foot Venice Pier, offering a stunning view and a place for anglers to vie for the local catch. This is the most popular beach and draws many visitors.

To get away from the crowds, consider a few beaches that are contiguous to one another not far from the pier. Head south along Harbor Drive and you’ll come across the lesser-visited beach parks including South Brohard Beach Park, a hidden gem with boardwalks winding through mangroves trees and stretching over the sand dunes covered with sea oats. The park next door is pet friendly Brohard Beach & Paw Park where your canine companion can play and swim without a leash. The southernmost park is Caspersen Beach popular with locals and considered the best place to find shark teeth. 

Casey Key: North Jetty Beach Park

The main beach, on Casey Key is Nokomis Beach but at the southern end is the North Jetty Beach Park. Easy parking makes this a go-to destination with several boardwalks leading to the beach. Once on the beach, walk north to get some privacy or head south to mix with the locals and anglers fishing off the jetty rocks. For shelling, this is a prime spot, so bring your bucket.

The reason it’s called North Jetty Beach Park is because of the channel between Venice and Casey Key where you can watch the boats cruise out to the Gulf of Mexico. Join anglers and cast your fishing line into the blue green water as changing tides create prime fishing conditions. Shaded areas for picnicking are abundant, with nearby playground, bathroom and shower facilities making this a full service locale. 

Nokomis North Jetty

Most admit Siesta Key Beach, mid-way on Siesta Key, sets the “gold standard” for Sarasota’s best beach with its broad expanse of sugary-white sand, but another gem is Turtle Beach, a favorite with locals. This southernmost beach park on Siesta Key provides a nice respite from the crowds. Turtle Beach commands a stunning ocean view over the sand dunes and boardwalks down to the beach. Beachcombers can walk south along the Gulf of Mexico, along a beach that connects Casey Key and Siesta Key. It’s so quiet here you may not see a soul. 

Lido Key: Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach

Not far from downtown Sarasota, the iconic Ringling Causeway leads to Lido Key. Circle your way around the charming shopping district of St. Armands and head to the beach. The most popular spot is designated Lido Beach, but if you continue to the south on Benjamin Franklin Drive to the end, you’ll land at South Lido Park, also known as Ted Sperling Park. This family park, situated under shady pines makes an ideal spot for families. It stretches from Gulf to Bay overlooking Big Pass, the waterway separating Lido from Siesta Key. Boats stream by, visitors fire up grills, kids play on the playground and beachcombers walk along the shoreline. 

North Lido Beach Park

At the intersection of Benjamin Franklin Drive and John Ringling Boulevard is North Lido Beach. If you want some real privacy and a place to read a book and relax - North Lido is your spot. The natural walkway adjacent to the sand dunes offers a quiet retreat and a good place to watch shorebirds.

No matter where in Sarasota you set your beach chair, there are a few tips to remember: go early and when possible, go on weekdays.

And go where the locals go.

Oh, and one more thing…don’t forget your sunscreen.

Sarasota native Robin Draper is a columnist, author and owner of the award-winning “Blog of the Year” and “Best Travel Blog” website, AuthenticFlorida.com, a travel and lifestyle blog devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living.