Sarasota at a Glance
|North Port, Sarasota, Venice, Longboat Key|
|Sandy Beaches||35 miles|
|Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail||15 sites|
|State Parks & Lands||Acres|
|Deer Prairie Creek Preserve||6,140|
|Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve (Charlotte)||8,000|
|Myakka River State Park (Manatee)||37,199|
|Myakka State Forest||8,593|
|Oscar Scherer State Park||1,396|
|Bays & Inlets|
|New Pass, Sarasota Bay, Lemon Bay, Lyons Bay, Roberts Bay, Blackburn Bay, Dryman Bay, Little Sarasota Bay|
|Rivers & Paddling Trails|
|Myakka Wild & Scenic River, Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass, Shakett Creek, Blind Pass, Big Pass, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail|
Sarasota County is a blend of cities, natural areas, and 35 miles of white sand beaches on five very different barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico–Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key and Manasota Key. Mangroves and seagrass edge their bay sides. The city of Sarasota, home of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, bustles with indoor and outdoor attractions–fishing, boating, golf, tennis, aquariums, botanical gardens and a host of cultural events–many connected to Ringling.
Longboat Key's secluded beach has no amenities and limited parking. Further south on Lido Key, three busy beaches have free parking: North Lido Beach with 3,000 feet of undeveloped beach, nesting birds, rolling dunes and trails; Lido Beach with lifeguards, fenced pool, picnic tables, playground, showers and restrooms; and South Lido Beach with 640 feet on the gulf and 3,500 feet on Sarasota Bay Brushy Bayou for fishing, sunbathing, picnic shelters and boat-anchor area. It looks over Big Pass where swimming is not advised due to strong currents.
South over Big Pass, Siesta Key is flanked by the gulf and Roberts Bay. The village of Siesta Key on its north is laced with canals. Crescent Beach is shaped by the island's crescent. Its middle stretch, Siesta Beach, features very fine sand and a host of amenities. At the southern end of the key, Turtle Beach has dark, coarse sand, an abundance of shells, overnight camping, boat ramps and sandy drop-ins for kayaks and canoes.
Isolated eight-mile-long Casey Key, accessible by bridge, 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, while North Jetty Park Beach, Venice Inlet offers excellent surfing and fishing in Roberts Bay. Moving south, the Venice area is laced with bays, canals and ten miles of Intracoastal Waterway. It encompasses five communities: Osprey, Laurel, Nokomis, Venice and South Venice. The Venetian Waterway Trail flanks the Intracoastal Waterway offering a waterfront view of boats and dolphins and place to stroll or jog. Three drawbridges connect Venice's four beaches: Venice Beach, a great area to find prehistoric sharks' teeth and sea shells, hosts an annual Sharks Tooth and Seafood Festival; Brohard Beach has 67 acres of beach, fishing piers and full facilities; South Brohard Beach (Paw Park) has facilities for pets; and Caspersen Beach, Sarasota's largest beach with 9,150 feet on Lemon Bay, offers numerous activities and amenities including a canopied playground, fitness park, fishing pier, canoe/kayak launch and paved and shelled paths. Its southern two-thirds are rolling dunes, mangroves, freshwater and saltwater marsh.
Manasota Key borders Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve with two remote full-facility beaches. Rarely crowded, Manasota Beach is 14 acres of beach and dunes with lifeguards and free parking. Even more secluded Blind Pass Beach is a popular retreat for artists. On the mainland across Lemon Bay from Casey and Manasota Keys, the city of Osprey showcases the Historic Spanish Point Archaeological Museum built inside a prehistoric shell mound. Oscar Scherer State Park has grills, pavilions, full-facility campsites, nature exhibits, miles of trails, natural areas and Lake Osprey for water activities. Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve's shallow water hosts hundreds of species of birds, invertebrates and fish in a network of mangroves, marsh and seagrass meadows. Fishing, kayaking, birding, wading and beachcombing are common.
Other points of interest: Ringling Museum of Art; Myakka River, a Florida Wild and Scenic River that flows through the immense, natural Myakka River State Park, which features a suspension bridge, tower, 1940s log cabins and camp sites; Quick Point Nature Preserve, 34 acres of trails, boardwalks, canoe/kayak launch, fishing docks and a man-made tidal lagoon on Longboat Key; Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on Lido Key; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, in the city of Sarasota, an open-air and under-glass museum with thousands of exotic plants and a rain forest environment; and Sarasota Jungle Gardens with acres of winding jungle trails, rescued native crocodiles and rare, exotic birds.