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Siesta Key is the Sarasota area’s most well-known barrier island, most famous for its pristine beach, Siesta Beach, which is often ranked among or at the top of the best beaches in the country. This top family-friendly destination in Florida not only boasts lots of things to do on the sand but also in the water and beyond. These are just a few ideas to keep you busy, but you could always spend your time simply relaxing and enjoying the scenery too.
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As mentioned, Siesta Beach is one of the top beaches in the United States, with TripAdvisor and other travel sites and publications rating it the country’s No. 1 beach multiple times. Its soft white powder and stunning turquoise waters make it especially inviting for swimming as well as sunbathing. It’s made up of fine, sugary sands and wildlife sightings like dolphins and manatees, pelicans and egrets, among other coastal birds are quite common. There are lifeguards on duty year-round, concessions with refreshments, beach chair and umbrella rentals, a playground, lighted tennis courts, outdoor showers, BBQ grills and more.
The Crystal Classic is an International Sand Castle Festival that runs over four days in mid-November and is one of the most beloved local events in Florida. It’s a great time to go and view the incredible sculptures with some of the world’s best competing here. They come for the beauty and cleanliness of the pristine white sands, remarking that the results of their sand sculptures look almost as if they were “carved in marble.” The competitors have just 24 hours to sculpt across the vent, creating remarkable sand masterpieces, some more than 10 ten feet tall.
While Siesta Key covers an area that’s under four square miles, the crescent-shaped, narrow island spans eight miles, which can mean quite a distance for visitors who want to hit different shops and restaurants. The good news is that you won’t need a car as you can ride the trolley for free. It offers round trip service from Siesta Key Village to Turtle Beach on the south end of Siesta Key with many stops along the way. Jonnys Free Beach Rides is yet another option, operating a fleet of electric vehicles that seat six. They’ve become a tourist attraction in their own right and are frequently featured in photos of the island. They’re similar to golf carts and have a box at the rear to transport your gear like beach chairs, coolers, shopping items and the like.
Siesta Key is a great place to enjoy parasailing, and with the scenery so jaw-dropping it’s not hard to see why. It typically begins with a pleasant boat ride around the area for a good look at what you’ll be seeing from above. Then riders are lifted up, slowing rising as one of the crew members allows the rope to get longer. It’s an incredible adventure watching the marine life, including sea turtles, dolphin pods and even small fish that can be seen through the strikingly clear blue waters.
There are countless different types of shells can be found in the shallow waters off Siesta Key, and hundreds of various species that live further out in the Gulf of Mexico. The tiny and colorful coquina clam is the most common shell to collect as it lives only along the shore. Be sure to keep an eye out for the spiky Lace Murex too – it has a distinct brown and white coloration with spiky points, while the Junonia is a rare shell with a crisp white color and beautiful brown dot pattern. But you can find all sorts of treasures with some of the best spots for discovering them at Point of Rocks where the many small and large rocks in the natural formation host some rather beautiful shells. Turtle Beach and Crescent Beach are excellent too.
Kayaking and paddle boarding are both popular activities in the waters that surround Siesta Key, from the beaches and coves to bays and creeks. At Turtle Beach with its slow waves, you can glide among the fish, rays, dolphins, and birds, looking down into the clear waters to discover all sorts of fascinating sea life too. Rent your gear or take a tour – the Jim Neville Marine Preserve offers a fabulous eco-friendly kayak tour where you’ll discover wildlife, unspoiled beaches and hidden lagoons. It launches from Turtle Beach, traveling through the shallow waters into multiple tidal flats. During the warmer months of the year, manatees and dolphins are often spotted around the mangrove islands, and in the winter, there’s a vast amount of migrating birds.
As the name belies, taking a fun boat tour is a really fun thing to do on Siesta Key. There are a variety of options to choose from for a scenic trip through the stunning waters where you’ll encounter a wide range of wildlife and more. A two-and-a-half hour leisurely cruise includes searching for dolphins and other aquatic creatures while sailing through the mangrove islands. You’ll even be able to get your feet wet at the sandbar while searching for sand dollars and seashells before watching the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico.
And, of course, whether you take a boat tour or not, watching the sun go down from Siesta Key every evening is sure to be a highlight every day you’re here. The colors are simply breathtaking.