BEACHES: Your guide to a place in the sun
Published: Monday, April 4, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.
Tom's Top Ten Beach Attractions
1. The fabled "Flash of Green" – if you're lucky enough to catch a glimpse at sunset.
2. Summer Beach Runs on Siesta Key
3. Dinner at Sharkey's on the Pier in Venice
4. The restored Beach Plaza at Nokomis Beach
5. The beach vibe of Anna Maria Island
6. The long, deserted shore at Stump Pass Beach south of Englewood
7. Searching for fossilized shark teeth in Venice
8. Turtle Beach, the quiet beach on Siesta Key
9. Watching the kite-surfers on windy days
10. The paw park at Brohard Beach in Venice
Each beach has its own character, shaped by everything from the curve of the shore to the size of the surf and the smell of the snack bar.
Link to information about the beaches below or use our search window to find more beaches along the Gulf Coast.
Siesta Public Beach
No less an authority than “Dr. Beach” – Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University – recognizes Siesta Beach as a national treasure. In 2011, in his annual survey of "America's Best Beaches", Leatherman ranked Siesta Beach No. 1 in the country, topping its No.2 position in 2009 and 2010. "The sugary sand is so fine that it squeaks when you walk across it. The beach is deep enough to accommodate bathers and joggers, Frisbee tosses and football games, drum circles and volleyball tournaments."
In the summer, hundreds of kids and grown-ups gather at Siesta Beach on Tuesday evenings. The weekly Beach Runs are a Manasota Track Club tradition, drawing generations of runners and fans.
Stretching over 14 acres at the south end of Siesta Key, Turtle Beach is the perfect place for a romantic stroll. This narrow beach is home to some of the highest beach dunes in the area. Parking, picinic tables and boat launches are available.
South Lido Park
Head north of Siesta Key and you will find South Lido Park, a 100-acre park with two walking trails, ample picnic tables, grills and a playground. This area is also big with boaters (who must stay away from designated swimming areas). One word of caution, rip tides have been known to be a problem in this area and lifeguards are only present on weekends from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
With its pavilion, concession stand, restrooms and ample parking, Lido Beach remains one of the Gulf Coast's most popular destinations.
North Lido Beach
Just off of St. Armands Circle you'll find North Lido Beach, where many locals go to flee the seasonal crowds. This secluded, half-mile stretch of beach was a nude beach until such things were banned in the 1980s. Great for shelling and strolling. Keep walking north and you will find some of the area's most spectacular homes.
Palmer Point, at the south end of Siesta and the north end of Casey Key, is accessible only by foot from Turtle Beach or by boat, and remains a relatively untouched beachfront oasis. Popular with boaters.
With coarser sands than its neighboring Siesta Key Beach, and with 22 acres to explore, Nokomis Beach is Sarasota's oldest public beach. Known for its fishing, this beach offers amenities including a boat ramp, picnic shelters and a boardwalk.
North Jetty Park
On the southern tip of Casey Key, adjacent to Nokomis Beach, is North Jetty Park, a popular picnicking and surfing spot. The jetty juts out into the Gulf for some of the finest fishing around. A bait shop, boat ramp, horseshoe and volleyball courts, are just a few of the amenities you'll find there.
Venice Municipal Beach
A fossilized coral reef is located one-quarter mile offshore of this popular beach, making it a perfect spot for scuba diving. Take a walk along the shore and discover sharks' teeth, for which this beach earned national acclaim. Situated near the shops and restaurants of downtown Venice.
Brohard Dog Beach and Paw Park
The area's only beach where dogs can roam free of leashes. Of the 22-acre park, one acre of it is designated for the dogs and includes doggie drinking fountains, showers and fire hydrants. Home to the City of Venice municipal pier, and a wetland area ideal for fishing and bird-watching.
South of Venice Airport, the southern two-thirds of this beachfront have been left in a natural state. Excellent shelling, boardwalk, a nature trail and a fishing pier make this a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
ENGLEWOOD AND SOUTH
Take a walk and discover seashells along the shore of Manasota Beach, at the west end of the Manasota Bridge. This beautiful setting includes a boardwalk on the Intracoastal that winds through mangroves, past boat ramps, docks, picnic areas and concession facilities.
Ample parking, showers, restrooms and picnic tables make Englewood Beach a
delightful option for families. No lifeguards are on duty, however. While there are no concession stands, you'll want to visit the numerous restaurants and shops just across the street.
This beach stretches way south from the parking lot and entrance at the north end. Most people turn around after walking a mile or two. Die-hards make the long march down and back.
On the bay side of the sandy strip is a popular body of water known as Ski Alley. On the beach side are sunbathers and wading birds.
A $4 toll bridge discourages visits to this quiet island, popular with wealthy snowbirds and discerning locals. The town of Boca Grande rewards day-trippers with casual shops, fine restaurants and the historic Gasparilla Inn.
Beaches at the south end of the island offer quiet surf and splendid views, along with treacherous tides.
Tarpon fishermen rave about Boca Grande Pass. Cyclists praise the 7-mile path that was Florida's first Rails-to-Trails project. Kids brag about driving golf carts around the island.
Cayo Costa State Park
This Lee County island park is only accessible by boat, which means a handful of beachgoers share several miles of shoreline. A shell collector's paradise. Twelve rustic cabins and 40 campsites put overnight visitors just a few yards from the surf.
One of the best-kept secrets on the Gulf Coast, with peace, quiet and a million-dollar view that money can't buy.
Boaters anchor off the beach or dock on the bay side of the island. A daily ferry takes visitors back and forth from Bokelia on Pine Island. Many stop for a cheeseburger on nearby Useppa Island.
LONGBOAT KEY AND NORTH
North of Lido Key, Longboat Key stretches over 11 beautifully manicured miles. While first impressions may lead you to believe that the beaches of Longboat are only for those who live in this exclusive Gulf-front community, it pays to take a closer look. There are public access points, if you know where to find them. Among the most popular is Whitney Beach, on the north end of the key. Secluded and quiet, you will find nothing but white sand and sea oats, as far as the eye can see.
Go out Cortez Road, through the quaint, historic fishing village of the same name, and you'll come to Coquina Beach. Beautiful white sand, hiding a plethora of coquina shells, gave this beach its name.
Large, Australian pines offer plenty of shade for picinickers, who will want to take advantage of the plentiful picinic tables and barbeque pits. Across the beach, a boat launch is available on the bay side of Gulf Drive.
As you head out Manatee Avenue in Bradenton, you will come to Palma Sola Causeway, along Palma Sola Bay. This beach may be short on public amenities, but it remains a popular boating and jet-skiing spot. The close proximity to the busy causeway can be a nuisance, but it is one of the few beaches where pets are allowed.
Keep going out Manatee Avenue and you will run right into Manatee Public Beach and Holmes Beach. With free parking, bountiful concessions, restrooms and showers, volleyball courts, a playground for the kids and more, this is one of the most family-friendly beaches around.
Located at the northernmost end of Anna Maria Island, This dune-filled beach is perfect for long strolls at sunset. Anna Maria is a seven mile long barrier island bordering the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. At various points, the island offers stunning views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key.
On North Bay Boulevard, just north of Pine Avenue, Bayfront Park is home to the popular Anna Maria City Pier, a favorite spot among local fishermen and boaters. Concessions are available at the pier.
Published June 10, 2009
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