Check out the slideshow below which includes descriptions of all beaches in the Sarasota, FL area from yoursarasota.com.
SARASOTA, Fla. - This sophisticated city on the central Gulf Coast has all the charms and attractions of metropolitan life with the added advantages of warm weather and soft, sandy beaches. And then there are the sunsets.
As dusk gathers over the barrier islands, tourists and residents stop what they are doing and head for the beaches to watch one of the great natural wonders of the area, the setting of the sun into the Gulf of Mexico.
Each evening the show is different. Sometimes, if the sky is clear, the sun is a blazing ball that looks like it is burning its way into the Gulf. You almost expect to see steam rising as it sinks over the horizon. On other evenings, the display can last for an hour as clouds turn into coral-colored puffs.
The sunsets are only one of the things that keep bringing my wife, Pat, and me back to Sarasota. Unlike other winter vacation destinations that specialize in seashell stores and T-shirt shops, this is a place where art and culture mix with sun and surf.
You can wander under the banyans and live oaks of an urban botanical garden, see manatees, sea turtles, and sharks at a working marine laboratory, and stand in awe before a Dutch master's painting in a world-class art museum.
"It all stems from John Ringling," says Erin Thomas Duggan, public relations director for the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau. She says the late circus magnate's passion for collecting art and donating it to the state attracted other like-minded artists and patrons to the area.
The city has a symphony orchestra, an opera house, ballet, and an entertainment venue that brings in big-name talent that ranges from Willie Nelson to Emanuel Ax. Plus, it has spring-training baseball.
Pat and I have vacationed in Sarasota several times over the years and we have always stayed on Lido Key, one of Sarasota's barrier islands.
We walk the beach to St. Armands Circle, a traffic rotary ringed with shops and restaurants. The complex, dating from the 1920s, was one of John Ringling's early developments to entice buyers for his vast real estate holdings. The circle, named for a French pioneer, is also the site of several community events including concerts and art and auto shows.
Over the years, we learned that late January can serve up cool mornings, so we take day trips early in the day while the beach warms up. This time we put the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the Mote Marine Laboratory, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on our list of places to visit.
Selby Gardens, like so many of the large gardens now open to the public, including Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, started out as the private retreat of the wealthy. William and Marie Selby came from Ohio families who were pioneers in the oil business. William Selby was one of the founders of Texaco. The couple, who had no children, established a foundation to give scholarships to local high school students headed to college. After Marie Selby died in 1971, her wishes to preserve her home and gardens and establish a botanical research facility were followed, and the gardens opened to the public in 1975.
We started our tour in the conservatory, a greenhouse full of orchids and other tropical foliage. Intricate blooms are everywhere. A docent with an encyclopedic knowledge of the plants describes their native habitats and rattles off their genus and species names in rapid fire, leading us from epiphyte to bromeliad.
Outside, the gardens cover a 14-acre wedge of Florida's natural past in the heart of this modern city. A flock of white ibis, hunting for insects in the shade of an old banyan tree, walk by on stick legs. In a pool along the path, dappled koi the size of footballs rise to the surface, begging to be fed. A long-legged shorebird works the mud flats. Ducks kick up a ruckus in a palm-fringed tidal pond.
The few rays of sun that sneak through the thick canopy light up the Spanish moss like holiday lace. We are in a tropical time warp, suddenly transported into a Gulf Coast bound by mangroves with only a few glimpses of the green-blue waters of Sarasota Bay peeking through the thick foliage.
The white stucco house that was home to the Selbys is now a tearoom. It is a sizable house, but by the local standards of the very rich, it is a mere cottage.
Near the end of the tour stands the imposing Christy Payne Mansion with its columned portico. Payne was another oilman and fishing pal of William Selby's. His mansion was not part of the Selby estate and was purchased by the gardens in 1973. It is something of a Florida wonder in its own right.
As we enter the front door and pass through a hallway, we find ourselves in a two-story room with a breathtaking view of gardens, ponds, and palms. Two grand staircases sweep up to a second-floor balcony.
A docent explains that Payne combined a variety of styles when he built his mansion in 1934. She says that Sarasota had just been hit head-on by a hurricane and Payne wanted to make sure his house would stand. He built it on a foundation of train rails and used poured concrete in the walls.
February 03, 2013|By Dick Cooper, For The Inquirer
Getting colder and colder up North. Isn't it time you planned for a vacation to Florida?
We just finished renovating and furnishing a neat 2 bedroom in Sarasota that sleeps 6 and is now ready for your stay: South Gate Home
P.S. don't just look at that water... go there. goSiesta.com
Not your run of the mill people at this event but I recommend all make the trip. Watch the sunset while the locals pay respects to the God of the sun or who knows what. People of all ages and areas come with their drums to join in to this fun and interesting event every week at the largest public beach access in siesta.
Sarasota, FloridaSiesta Beach is the number one beach in the 21st annual Top 10 Beach List, produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.
Siesta Beach in Sarasota boasts that it has the finest and whitest sand in the world, and I cannot argue with this claim; the powdery sand is nearly pure quartz crystal. The beautiful blue-colored water is clean and clear, making it so inviting to bathers and swimmers. The beach is hundreds of yards wide, attracting volleyball players and beachcombers as well as those who just want to find their place in the sun. Waves at Siesta Beach are normally measured in inches and the beach gradually slopes into the Gulf waters, making it a very safe area for children.
This beach park is complete with showers and bathrooms, snack bars, grills, picnic tables, shade trees, and a large parking area, which does fill up on summer weekends. Siesta Beach is a smokeless beach, earning extra points for cleanliness and environmental management. My favorite time to visit is after Labor Day when things have calmed down, and the water is still warm enough for swimming until November. Snowbirds from northern climes call this area home during the winter because of the great weather. The beaches are for exploring, but not swimming at this time of year, albeit I have been in the water as early as March.
1. Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida
2. Coronado Beach in San Diego, California
3. Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
4. Main Beach in East Hampton, New York
5. Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
6. St. George Island State Park, Florida panhandle
7. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina
8. Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
9. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park on Oahu, Hawaii
10. Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Florida
Some of the best artist in the world travel to Sarasota in the first week of November for this famous event. Check out just a taste of the masterpieces. Sarasota is a great town to enjoy many different ways. In five days we went to the beaches, clubs, art shows,
Find out what is going on at goSiesta and hear from others about their experiences.