Off the Beaten Path

Siesta Beach Ranked #1… But What’s Off the Beaten Path?

TripAdvisor and Dr. Beach ranked us number one. We can even boast #5 beach in the world, thanks to TripAdvisor! Siesta Beach gets the recognition it deserves. Of course, the criteria are brutal. But that’s no skin off Siesta’s back. We got this. Perfect soft sand? Check. Wide open space? Check. Soft gentle waves and perfectly sloping shorelines? Check-check. Ranked right along with Turks and Caicos, Aruba and Cuba? Well, you know I had to boast and write about it. But what if you wanted to venture out and find some even more interesting spots in Sarasota, less widely known, except to the locals? Here are my top five “off the beaten path” spots that I would recommend to anyone visiting Siesta Key and the surrounding area…

Beer Can Island
27°26’31.36″N 82°41’20.12″W
How to Get There: By boat

Beer Can Island is aptly named because it is a party-central spot on the northern tip of Longboat Key. Boats anchor in along the shore, and to each other. You’ll find a great game of Corn hole, grills roaring, and suddenly your circle of friends is extended by the ample size of this entire pristine shore. Since Beer Can Island sits at the mouth of the Gulf to Bay, there is often a rip-roaring current that nudges against the shoreline, and causes a deep drop to the sandy bay floor. But when this current is moving, it’s play time. Beachgoers will grab a beer, and a life vest, wrap it around their legs, and hop in the “make-shift lazy river” on the eastern part of the island. It will take you all the way to western side of the island, and then you simply walk back along the shore and start all over again! If looking for some peace and quiet, just meander over to the inner part of the island and lounge by the lagoon. It’s your personal undisturbed haven of fish and wildlife. Birds abound. And almost mysteriously, the massive uprooted driftwood seems to shift along the shoreline as the tides determine their ever-changing resting place. Always bring a camera so that you can capture the perfect photo where water meets woods, and drown your sorrows forever…

South Lido County Park (on the outskirts)
27°18’21.25″N 82°34’11.59″W
How to Get There: By car, or by foot

South Lido Park is quite large, and there are many areas to play and lounge, soaking in the Florida sun. But just across from The Ritz Carlton Residences is a special cut through the wooded areas to what I like to call “the sweet spot.” The entry is very easy to miss but once there, you’ll know, because you will cross over a quaint bridge, and stumble upon an extremely remote area. There you will find a small pier and a perfect little fishing spot. Snapper and mullet can be found abound in these shallow waters, but you must hit it at the right time of day. If you’re not an avid fisherman, then take your honey there. Quiet, birds everywhere, and the sound of water lapping against the mangroves doesn’t get any more romantic. You are totally alone. But then you could carve your names in the posts and make it even better. A word to the wise… when it gets dark, it gets very hard to find your way out, so if you’re the adventurist type, don’t forget your flashlight.

Midnight Pass
27°12’29.02″N 82°30’41.16″W
How to Get There: By boat, or by kayak

Midnight Pass is quite possibly my favorite spot. There is a lot of history and contention regarding Midnight Pass, and I highly recommend reading up on what Midnight Pass was and is today. Midnight Pass is a natural barrier of sand that essentially blocks Gulf to Bay access on the southern tip of Siesta Key. It’s width and position continually changes with the tide, but the pass itself features both lagoon and gulf frontage. For boaters, getting to Midnight Pass is a little tricky as you have limited boat access through the bay along mangroves, but keep your tides in mind, and you’ll be alright. For kayakers, this is by far the coolest trip ever, as you take to the water via Turtle Beach Marina Access (bay side) and finish your adventure with some exhilarating ocean kayaking. It’s truly the best of both worlds. Sweeping views of mangroves, and tiny canals to explore… then a hardy lunch on the dunes of Midnight Pass, followed by a wild ride in the Gulf with excellent (and quite interesting) views under the water as well above! Can life get any better? Did you think I would not provide you with your own kayak map/guide? Of course, I would…. just call us in Guest Services to receive your personal kayaking map!

North Lido Beach
27°19’0.72″N 82°35’4.27″W
How to Get There: By car, or by foot

This beach is very interesting in that it is absolutely spectacular for its soft, white sands, wide open spaces, and its excellent views… but {HIGH FIVE} it is always *mostly* empty. You truly can experience an entire day at one of Sarasota’s top beaches, and you may share a football field’s length between you and the next beachgoer. It feels remote. It feels breathtaking, and raw. If you are a lover of fine beaches, but you don’t want to have to share another’s umbrella shade and choice of music on their radio station while sunbathing by the water’s edge, just go north to Lido. There are no wild parties, there are no umbrellas, and there are no children. North Lido is also widely known for its hills and sand dunes. With plenty of privacy, and no towering condo complexes so near, you can easily “pick your dune” and go sunbathing accordingly. Many people do, even though it is most definitely not a widely known fact. Most who venture to the sand dune area will figure this out almost immediately, and there is an etiquette to how you go about picking a dune of your own. Just remember that everyone here loves their space. So, give them plenty. The dunes are a little trek away from the surf, but it’s much like being in your oasis away from it all…. the winds will whip over the tops of the dunes, leaving you inside an eerie deep silence that only comes with such remoteness. Oddly enough, it will still only take you mere minutes to get back to your car, which if I were you, and I had such a tough, long day at the beach, I’d head south and hit the Lido Key Tiki Bar for a refreshing drink before exiting the island and going home for the night on the town… *A little disclaimer: during peak season, especially Spring Break weeks, no beach can or will be found empty… but if you are so inclined, you will still enjoy a more peaceful experience than Siesta Beach Main Access…

Siesta Key Sand Bar – Big Pass
27°17’32.77″N 82°33’44.90″W
How to Get There: By boat or by kayak or windsurfing

Well there is no better way to spell out a good time. A day at Siesta Key bar on Big Pass is all she wrote. You will never leave. This is where the vortex of fun ascends… it has no mercy on tourists. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself coming back to Sarasota every year… and then twice a year… and then four times a year… and then you’ll be looking at houses… or condos. And it will have all begun because of this very first day at the sand bar. Explanation to follow: The sand bar at Siesta Key’s Big Pass is where tourism meets locals. A tourist can rent a boat quite easily from The Black Pearl (exclusive to our guests!) or other rental companies in the area, and head out early in the day to hit this hotspot. It doesn’t take that long to get there, and the fun is literally magnetizing. If you never knew how to rope off to another boat, or anchor into a sandbar, you will do everything in your power to figure it out on this day. The party is contagious, and this is the place where you meet some really great people. They may be locals, they may be fishermen, returning in from a day out in the Gulf, who just want to stop in and enjoy the sunset. They may be families from out of town, but they are all really great people and they will call out to you, “Come join us!” while raising a frosty beverage and smiling wide happy smiles… of course you wouldn’t say no to that. Once there and anchored in, just crank up the tunes, hop off the boat into waste deep water and trudge it with your cooler to the sand bar. Plop down in the cool surf and watch the dogs chase each other back and forth, or gaze over to the horizon- just over near the South Lido Beach park is the best wind surfing spot to find! Those crazy dare devils will always put on a great show. The sunset at these coordinates is absolutely breathtaking. To stay and watch the sun melt into the waters is truly hard to describe in words. You just have to see it for yourself.

And so here are just a few of my favorite spots… These locations do require a restless sense of adventure, and the desire to experience a profoundly unique sliver of paradise unlike anything else in Florida. Some of them require access via boat, so I definitely suggest checking out The Black Pearl which is an exclusive pontoon boat rental service to our guests. They provide excellent discounted pricing! To all my out-of-town readers: if you stayed for a week and hit each of these spots, you would still not have enough time to enjoy all the other activities Siesta Key and Sarasota has to offer, which will have you and your family returning in no time. And let the addiction take over!

 

Author: Heather Plampin