• Sarasota and Sarasota County

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The City of Sarasota

The City of Sarasota and Sarasota County are two different entities. The city, located on the shore of Sarasota Bay, is an exciting community of about 56,000 inhabitants with an interesting history that offers its residents an urban-suburban mix feel.

In the late 1880's, Sarasota was marketed to wealthy people in Scotland as a golfing community. Leftover Scottish influence defines many buildings in the city, and the more than 30 golf courses are also a remnant from that early time in history. 

In the 1920s, Sarasota became a top resort and real estate investment attraction. That Sarasota became famous was more or less the achievement of one person. Winters are relatively mild with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and lows rarely below 50. When the circus magnate John Ringling was searching for a winter residence for his circus, he fell in love with Sarasota. For many years he used Sarasota to keep his animals in a pleasant place. However, he didn't stay idle while in Sarasota. Longboat Key, St. Armands Key, and other areas bear his signature of elegance. Under his influence, the city started to grow exponentially. 

Today, the area is still booming as a pleasant residential area and retirement destination. There is so much going on in Sarasota. The city is still trying to keep everybody happy; therefore, Sarasota is not short of bars, restaurants with international cuisine, coffee shops, world-class cultural amenities, and beautiful beaches. 

Sarasota County is the Elephant in the Room

More than 380,000 residents enjoy a blend of cities, natural areas, and 35 miles of white sand beaches. Five very different barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico – Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, and Manasota Key are part of this grand county on Florida's West coast. It also includes the Cities of Venice, regions of Englewood, North Port, and, of course, the new Wellen Park community. 

The city of Sarasota, former home of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, bustles with predominantly indoor attractions. Aquariums, botanical gardens, and a host of cultural events – many connected to Ringling - are Sarasota's domain. 

However, the County of Sarasota is where the "real action" is: Fishing, boating, diving, surfing, golfing, tennis, and whatever activity you have in mind, you name it, and there is guaranteed a place where you can do it in Sarasota County.

Sarasota County's Barrier Islands

Sarasota County has 35 miles of sandy beaches, and all of them are located on the Barrier Islands of, let us start in the north, Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, Venice Isla and Manasota Key. The southern part of Longboat Key belongs to Sarasota County, the northern section belongs to Bradenton. Longboat Key's secluded beach has absolutely no amenities and minimal parking. Huge Condominium complexes are occupying most of the beach area with no access for non-residents. 

Farther south is Lido Key. Three beaches with free parking: North Lido Beach is an undeveloped beach with nesting birds, dunes, and trails; Lido Beach has lifeguards on duty, a fenced pool, picnic tables, playground, showers, and restrooms. South Lido Beach is relatively small. The beach is suitable for fishing and sunbathing. Swimming in the Pass is not advised due to strong currents.

Siesta Key, the next island to the south, is flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and Roberts Bay. The Village of Siesta Key on its north is where the heart of the island beats. All the entertainment is located in the Village. 

Siesta Key with its #1 Beach

Crescent Beach is shaped by the island's crescent. Siesta Beach features excellent sand. It is this perfect white quartz sand that makes Siesta Key so unique in the US. Because of the sand content, the beach was named the # 1 beach in the country and the # 11 beach in the world in TripAdvisor's annual Traveler's Choice Awards. There is a host of amenities by the public beach, including food concessions and a vast parking area. However, there are never enough parking lots available in season. 

Sunbathers can grab a t-shirt and walk to the Village of Siesta Key. The village is where the heart of the island beats. Restaurants, many with live music, bars, ice cream parlors, and a variety of stores provide entertainment to the people. In certain times it is pretty crowded and touristy in the Village, however, it is still fun to be there. You only see happy faces - some of them as red as a cooked lobster. But who cares, the sun takes its toll. 

Turtle Beach has dark, coarse sand at the southern end of the key and an abundance of shells. Boat ramps and sandy drop-ins for kayaks and canoes are also available. But the boats are only launched into a shallow lagoon that is connected to the Intracoastal waterway. There is no access to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Casey Key, the Venice Isle, and Manasota Key are quieter

The eight-mile-long Casey Key, accessible by two bridges, has two public beaches near its southern end. Twenty-acre, sandy Nokomis Beach has lifeguards, dune walkovers, a boat ramp, fishing, playground, picnic areas, and free parking. Further south is the North Jetty Park Beach. It offers excellent surfing and fishing. 

Further south, three drawbridges connect Venice's four beaches: Venice Beach, a great area to find prehistoric sharks' teeth and seashells.

Brohard Beach and Paw Park have a fishing pier and full facilities; South Brohard Beach is ideal for scuba diving. 

Caspersen Beach, Sarasota's largest beach with 9,000 feet on Lemon Bay, offers numerous activities and amenities like a canopied playground, fitness park, fishing pier, canoe/kayak launch, and paved/ shelled paths. 

Manasota Key borders Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve with two remote full-facility beaches. Manasota Beach is 14 acres of beach and dunes with lifeguards and free parking. The secluded Blind Pass Beach is not only a popular retreat for artists, but it is also an excellent beach for swimming and sunbathing. 

Englewood Beach and Stump Pass Beach State Park

There are two more beaches on Manasota Key, Englewood Beach and Stump Pass Beach State Park, but both beaches are already in Charlotte County. The State Park Beach is a very quiet beach. So, is there any chance to see wildlife there? Yes, this is the best place to meet and greet dolphins, tortoises, and other wildlife. The only other excitement is a coke vending machine. 

Englewood beach, or Chadwick Beach, is the opposite. Here you have the beach plus restaurants, bars, boat and jet ski rentals, and more. It is not as crazy as the Siesta Key Village, but in certain times it is pretty busy as well.