Back to the Beach

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Hard as it is to believe, there are year-round residents on the Suncoast who haven’t visited a beach in 10 years. It may have been their first destination after disembarking their plane from up North; but work and worry have clouded their vision, and now they can’t remember what fine crystal quartz feels like sliding […]


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Hard as it is to believe, there are year-round residents on the Suncoast who haven’t visited a beach in 10 years. It may have been their first destination after disembarking their plane from up North; but work and worry have clouded their vision, and now they can’t remember what fine crystal quartz feels like sliding between their toes.

But our beaches are what drew most of us here, first for vacation, when we’d plunge into the Gulf like carefree children, then allow our minds to be lulled to sleep by its waves. A week later, we felt tearful at the thought of leaving it all behind.

Many of us picked up our lives and moved them because of these beaches, with their turquoise waters and seagulls wheeling in free flight while the palm trees rustled in a warm breeze. Whether you’re a visitor or an old-timer in need of a shoreline fix, it’s time to heed the call of Sarasota’s beaches-nearly 20 in all-which stretch along the coastline from Venice to Anna Maria, justbegging to be bathed in, fished, and explored.

Parking is (still) free, and mostly ample. Sarasota County is one of the few areas left in Florida where alcohol is allowed on the beaches, and Lido Key even boasts a rollicking beachside bar. Plus, lifeguards are plentiful. So grab a book, a blanket and the sunscreen, and go rediscover your inner beach bunny.

ANNA MARIA

Bean Point (at the extreme north end of Anna Maria Island)

Parking No

Alcohol Not allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms No

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas No

Other amenities Basically an unspoiled dune-filled beach for walking and reflection, it enjoys beautiful views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key.

Bayfront Park (just north of Pine Avenue)

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Not allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms No

Lifeguards No

Concessions Available at the pier

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Home of the Anna Maria municipal city pier and a favorite of fishermen, boaters, kayakers and canoeists. The shopping center across the street offers several fun boutiques and fine dining.

BRADENTON

Manatee Public Beach (off Gulf Drive in Homes Beach)

S.R. 64 and Gulf Drive

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Not allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Playground, volleyball, fishing.

Palma Sola Causeway (a few miles east of Manatee Public Beach on Manatee Avenue)

Parking Limited

Alcohol Not allowed

Showers No

Pets Allowed on leashes

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Short on amenities, but big on a rollicking local crowd.

Cortez Beach and Coquina Beach (further south on Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach), west side of Gulf Drive (S.R. 789)

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Not allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Lots of shade trees, great fishing and snorkeling. Volleyball, grills. Caution: Dangerous tides.

LONGBOAT KEY

Whitney Beach (on the north end of Longboat Key)

Parking Limited

Alcohol No

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms No

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas No

Other amenities This blindingly white sand beach is extremely secluded and quiet.

LIDO KEY

Lido Beach (just off St. Armands Circle)

400 Ben Franklin Drive

Parking 400 spaces, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes (serves beer)

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Beach wheelchairs, gift shop, playground, cabana rentals. This is where many locals flee seasonal crowds. Home to one of the best hamburgers in town. The public pool is undergoing renovation.

North Lido Beach (just off St. Armands Circle at the north end of Lido Key)

400 Ben Franklin Drive

Parking Park at Lido Beach

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms No

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas No

Other amenities Fishing, nature trail. Good shelling, surprisingly remote, thanks to a small forest of Australian pines. If the tide is low enough, you can walk far enough north to see some of Sarasota’s most spectacular Gulf-front homes.

South Lido Beach (at the tip of Lido)

190 Taft Drive and 2201 Ben Franklin Drive

Parking On-site, but can be tight on weekends.

Alcohol Allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Playground, volleyball, fishing, fitness trail, grills. Beware the dangerous currents. This is not a good swimming beach. Also, do not feed the raccoons. They’re cute, but they can carry rabies-and they may bite.

Ringling Causeway (at the tip of Lido)

Parking On-site, but limited

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets See other amenities.

Restrooms No

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas No

Other amenities Because this is not technically a beach for swimmers (the water abuts the parking lot), this is one of the few places where dogs can splash to their hearts’ content. It’s a lunchtime favorite for downtown workers, and on weekends comes alive with windsurfers, kayakers and fishermen who launch from the parking lot.

SIESTA KEY

Siesta Key Public Beach (along Midnight Pass Road)

Parking 800 spaces, free, but fills up quickly during seasonal months. If lot is full, try one of the 13 beach accesses located between the beach and Siesta Village.

Alcohol Allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Beach wheelchairs, grills, playground, volleyball, gift shop, four public tennis courts, fitness trail, ball field, live music on the weekends.

Turtle Beach (on Midnight Pass Road at Siesta Key’s south end)

Parking On-site

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Two free boat ramps allow access to Little Sarasota Bay. Two horseshoe courts, playground, volleyball court and dune walkovers. This beach is more narrow than others and can become a sliver at high tide. Also more shells, but beautiful sunset views.

CASEY KEY

Palmer Point (at the southern tip of Siesta)

Parking Accessible only by boat.

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms No

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas No

Other amenities Very secluded, due its dearth of parking.

Nokomis Beach (on Casey Key)

901 Casey Key Road

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities This is Sarasota’s oldest public beach. Also has boat ramps and a boardwalk.

North Jetty Park (on the southern tip of Casey Key and adjacent to Nokomis)

1000 Casey Key Road

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes, sells beer

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Bait shop. A family favorite for its horseshoe and volleyball courts and rowdy weekend local crowd. The jetty juts out into the Gulf for some of the finest fishing around. Boat ramps, lots of dolphin activity and beautiful sunset views. The surfing here draws people from across the state.

VENICE

Venice Municipal Beach (just off downtown Venice)

101 The Esplanade

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers On-site

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions Yes

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Beach wheelchairs and volleyball. Famous for its petrified sharks’ teeth that wash ashore. Also popular for scuba diving and snorkeling along its coral reef.

Caspersen Beach (south of Venice airport)

4100 Harbor Drive S.

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities The southern two-thirds of the beachfront has been left in its natural state. Excellent shelling, boardwalk, nature trail, fishing pier.

Brohard Park and Beach (north of Caspersen)

1600 Harbor Drive S.

Parking Limited

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Allowed. Brohard is the area’s only "dog beach," where animals can roam free of leashes. Has a watering hole, a "penalty box" for frisky critters and a waste disposal area.

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards No

Concessions Yes

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Home to the City of Venice municipal pier and a wetland area that makes it ideal for fishing and bird watching. Also has a snack bar and bait shop. Home to Sharkey’s Restaurant.

Service Club Park

1190 Harbor Drive S.

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Playground

ENGLEWOOD

Blind Pass Beach

6725 Manasota Key Road

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Canoe launch, fishing, nature trail.

Manasota Beach (on Manasota Key at the west end of the Manasota bridge)

8570 Manasota Key Road

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Allowed

Showers No

Pets Not allowed

Restrooms On-site

Lifeguards On duty year-round

Concessions No

Picnic areas Yes

Other amenities Scenic boardwalk on the Intracoastal that winds through the mangroves, two boat ramps, fishing.

BOCA GRANDE

Gasparilla Island (south of Englewood and across the bridge to Boca Grande)

Gasparilla Island comprises four beaches: Range Light, Sea Grape, Sea Wall, Dune and Light House.

Parking On-site, free

Alcohol Not allowed

Showers At Range Light and Light House

Pets On leashes in the parking lot.

Restrooms At Range Light and Light House

Lifeguards No

Concessions No

Picnic areas At Range Light and Light House

Other amenities Gift shop at Light House Beach. Excellent fishing, one of the state’s top locations for tarpon.










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