Sarasota Florida Travel Guide

Sun, sand and water are three things Sarasota has an abundance of, but not all Sarasota beaches are the same. Six islands line Sarasota’s extensive coastline, each revealing its own personality, recreational options and natural beauty. They are Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Manasota Key, Casey Key, Osprey Key and Nokomis Key, all worth visiting while in Sarasota.  Sarasota Beaches are among the most beautiful in all of Florida and the United States, and that’s not just my opinion.  Siesta Key Beach has been rated #1 n a national poll of the Top beaches of the USA. Breathtaking views of the sparkling Gulf of Mexico combined with balmy gulf breezes make most beach-going days of the year here in paradise about as enjoyable as they can be; bright sunshine, warm air and water temperatures, soft sand, blue water.  With six keys, or barrier islands, a Sarasota beach vacation will give you plenty of options for beaches, and there is 35 miles of beaches!  Our Sarasota Florida Travel Guide will give you all the information you need to plan your next vacation to Sarasota Florida.

Sarasota Weather – When to Visit

The best times to visit Sarasota are from March to May and between September and November when crowds, temperatures and prices are manageable. Keep in mind that you may encounter a hurricane should you visit between June and November, Florida’s hurricane season. The city’s most comfortable temperatures come in December, January and February, but its population swells with Northern residents (or “snowbirds”) in the winter, meaning Sarasota’s streets will be packed with cars and its attractions filled with people. Prices are also at their highest during these months. For partially thinned crowds and cheaper hotel and airfare rates, travelers can visit between June and August. However, visitors should expect lots of rain and humidity, as well as average summertime highs in the low 90’s.

Sarasota Attractions

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Marie-Selby-Botanical-Gardens-300x225.jpgMarie Selby Botanical Gardens

Once the home and grounds of amateur gardener Marie Selby, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1975 after the death of its namesake. The garden, which specializes in epiphytes (or plants that grow on other plant species) features thousands of varieties in its outdoor gardens and more than 20,000 plants spread throughout its eight greenhouses. Flora found on-site include ferns, bamboo, banyan trees and orchids.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-John-Mable-Ringling-Museum-of-Art-300x199.jpgThe John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art

This museum features thousands of Medieval, Renaissance, Greek, Roman and Cypriot antiquities and works of art, is the main attraction on The Ringling museum campus. Numerous galleries showcase pieces from Ringling Bros. Circus co-founder John Ringling’s personal collection, including paintings by Velázquez, Rubens and Veronese. And in the museum’s courtyard, 20th-century bronze and stone casts of iconic works like Michelangelo’s “David” are on display.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ca-dZan-300x201.jpgCa’ d’Zan

Ca’ d’Zan woos visitors with its Venetian Gothic-style architecture and elegant interior. The property – which was once the home of Ringling Bros. Circus co-founder John Ringling and his wife, Mable – sits five stories tall and features details like a roof made of 16th-century Spanish tiles, a marble terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay, servants’ quarters, a game room and an 82-foot-high tower with a domed ceiling. Many of John and Mable Ringling’s personal belongings, plus unique furnishings, such as an Aeolian organ and a crystal chandelier that once hung in the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, are also on display in the building.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Myakka-Canopy-Walkway-300x169.jpgMyakka Canopy Walkway

Considered one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River State Park stretches across 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, pinelands and prairies. The area also features a river and two lakes, making it a prime place to enjoy water activities like canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Or, visitors can tour the lakes via one of the attraction’s airboats, which are the largest in the world. Land-based tours are offered seasonally as well.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lido-Key-Beach-300x225.jpgLido Key Beach

Though visitors have access to several beaches in Sarasota County, one of the easiest to reach from downtown is Lido Key Beach. Situated less than 5 miles southwest of the city center, Lido Key Beach offers more than 3,000 feet of white sand. Several recreation areas, with amenities like picnic tables and a pool (which can be enjoyed for a fee), are also available.  If you like hunting for seashells, you’ll love Lido Key Beach.

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Sarasota Tours & Tickets

Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Ecotour

Experience the flora and fauna near Sarasota on this guided, 2-hour, small-group, eco kayak tour. Choose from a morning or afternoon departure time, then roam and explore the beautiful mangrove tunnels and estuaries of picturesque Sarasota Bay. Also, see friendly manatees in their natural environment. It’s a favorite tour for all ages — great for the beginner or experienced paddler.  Read more about Sarasota Florida Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Guided 2-Hour Eco-tour

Downtown Sarasota Food Tour

Get an insider perspective of Sarasota during a downtown food walking tour that takes you to four restaurants, some of which you may never know about otherwise. You’ll have the chance to sample two to three dishes at each stop, including dessert, plus visit more local eateries in one tour than you would by dining out on your own.  Read more about Downtown Sarasota Food Tour

TreeUmph Adventure Course

Reserve your place in advance to save time on vacation and unleash your inner Tarzan with this ticket to the TreeUmph! Adventure Course in Bradenton. Enter the park and swing into action on the zip lines, ropes, bridges, and cargo nets between the pine trees, bonding with friends and family as you brave the challenges. Adults’ and childrens’ courses, full instructions, all equipment, and a choice of time slots are included.  Read more about TreeUmph Adventure Course

I Kayak Sarasota

They Rent Kayaks, Stand up Paddle Boards, and offer Professional Guided Kayak Tours.  They are close to all resorts near Sarasota, Venice, Bradenton, Longboat Key Anna Maria Beach, North Port, Lido Key and the 34236 zip code.  They deliver for kayaking exclusively for the Mangrove Tunnel on Lido Key and Bird Key Park.  Telephone:  941-302-2677 or reserve online at I Kayak Sarasota.

Discover Sarasota Tours

Discover Sarasota Tours offers entertaining, interactive, and informative air-conditioned trolley tours of the most interesting people, intriguing places, and amazing stories that shaped Sarasota’s rich cultural past. We offer 8 different trolley tours! City Sightseeing Tour, Ghost Tour, Circus City Tour, Sports History Tour, Amish Experience Tour, Public Art of Sarasota Tour, Psychic Sunday Tour and an “Infamous Sarasota” Happy Hour Tour.  Telephone:  941-260-9818  Web:  Discover Sarasota Tours

Best Sarasota Restaurants
Lido Beach Restaurant  Under $10

Home of the lido lobster roll.  Welcome to the Lido Beach Restaurant where they pride themselves on serving restaurant quality food, in a simple beach concession. You can come to Lido Key Public Beach and not have to bother packing food to eat sitting on your blanket. Just stop by their window and grab great food for yourself or your whole family and not worry about busting your budget.  They also offer beer and wine, so wash down that lobster roll or burger with a cold one.  Telephone:  941-388-0400  Web:  Lido Beach Restaurant.

Café Gabbiano  $11 – 30

Just a short walk from the beautiful beaches of Sarasota, Café Gabbiano brings Italy to Siesta Key.  Café Gabbiano’s serene, casual ambiance imitates that of the paradise surrounding it. Café Gabbiano offers intimate, private dining in their wine rooms as well as comfortable outdoor seating on their climate controlled patio.  They offer authentic Italian cuisine and an extensive collection of wine from around the world. They feature $5 happy hour specials, from 4-6, and $10 wine tasting samplers offered daily.  Telephone:  941-349-1423  Web:  Café Gabbiano.

Shore Diner  $11 – 30

Shore Diner is their expression of an open air, mid-century Florida beach café. They crafted a menu that utilizes many local farms, to create a fabulous abundance of fresh choices. Creative recipes are their specialty, combined with local coastal favorites, all served in an open air dining space. From your first sip of our signature cocktail, to your last bite of Key West Shrimp and Scallop Risotto, the entire Shore experience is nothing short of a beach day makeover, with laughter, a cool vibe and delicious eats.  Telephone:  941-296-0301  Web:  Shore Diner.

Ophelia’s On The Bay  $31 – 60

When you visit Ophelia’s, one of the first things you’ll notice is their view. Their two glass walled dining rooms and outside open air patio give you an unfettered, eye-level view of Little Sarasota Bay. As you peruse their menu and enjoy one of our carefully chosen wines, you’ll watch tropical birds fly among preserved mangrove islands, watch the water gently sway, and see dolphins, blue herons, and other sea life pass by. Telephone:  941-349-2212  Web:  Ophelia’s On The Bay.

Surf Shack  $11 – 30

Their menu features only the freshest ingredients served in a clean, fun and casual environment.  Although they are already famous for their Gourmet Tacos, they are “Soon to be Famous” for things like their handmade Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls, Ahi Tuna and Udon Noodle Salad, Pat LaFreida Burger and the Steak and Onion S’mac and Cheese.  They didn’t just stop at the food either.  They take pride in offering draft beers from local breweries such Big Top, Darwins and JDubs as well as make the BEST margaritas in all of Sarasota!  Telephone:  941-960-1122  Web:  Surf Shack.

Best Sarasota Bars & Nightlife

Siesta Key Oyster Bar

Siesta Key Oyster Bar (or as the locals call it “SKOB”) is the hangout with the laidback, beachy atmosphere that will get you right into the Island Spirit. When you’re at SKOB you feel right at home, like you’re hanging out with good friends on your back patio.  From Raw Oysters and Crawfish to Crab Legs and Crab Cakes – there is something for everyone on the menu. And with over 21 beers on tap along with Domestic, Imports, and specialty bottled beer – you will not go away thirsty!  Telephone:  941-346-5443  Web:  Siesta Key Oyster Bar.

Daiquiri Deck

The Daiquiri Deck is the perfect place to share a meal with the whole family or kick back and relax with friends while you enjoy Live Music, Tasty Treats, and the best Frozen Daiquiris anywhere!  Their casual atmosphere and unparalleled selection of taste-tempting Frozen Daiquiris will bring you in, but our Raw Bar and full menu, which includes mouthwatering selections for seafood lovers and land lovers alike, served by the friendliest wait staff around, will keep you coming back for more.  Telephone:  941-349-8697  Web:  Daiquiri Deck.

The Blasé Café & Martini Bar

They have been offering Siesta Key a casual and unique dining experience since 1997. Their menu includes a variety of appetizers and entrées, which include seafood, pasta, beef, and poultry. They also offer a full bar, which is a great place to stop and have a drink to meet up with friends or to make new ones.  Telephone:  941-349-9822  Web:  The Blasé Café & Martini Bar.

The Old Salty Dog

Always a friendly place, great food. Pleasant, relaxing, an overall great experience. Peel & eat shrimp, ice cold beer, wonderful salads and of course the “Salty Dogs!”  Casual dining, Seafood, Burgers, Their World Famous “Salty Dog”, A 1/4 lb. Hot Dog deep fried in their Beer Batter. Try if fully loaded as seen on TV’s “Man-Vs.-Food  Telephone:  941-349-0158  Web:  The Old Salty Dog.

Beach Club Siesta Key

Sarasota’s Premiere Live Music Venue. The Beach Club is located in Sarasota on Siesta Key Island and has South Florida’s premiere live local and national bands including some of the hottest DJ’s playing 7 nights week. Join them any night of the week for the best entertainment around and great customer service. The Beach Club offers a huge dance floor, amazing lighting and great drink specials daily.  Telephone:  941-349-6311  Web:  Beach Club Siesta Key.

Best Sarasota Hotels

Carlyle Inn Sarasota


Make yourself comfortable with a combination of modern comforts and Amish tradition, including handsome handcrafted beds, a checkerboard, jigsaw puzzles, all-season swimming pool and deluxe continental breakfast.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Sarasota-Lakewood Ranch


They are nestled in the middle of the University Town Center, providing easy access to shopping and entertainment destinations. Walk to the Mall at University Town Center or to Nathan Benderson Park, a unique 600 acre community park slated to become North America’s premier 2,000-meter sprint rowing course and Regatta Center. Their hotel features 133 new over sized suites, ideal for accommodating families and groups.

Hotel Ranola


Only hotel in the heart of Downtown Sarasota, Florida. Walk to dozens of fabulous restaurants. Shops, galleries, etc. Full kitchens, sitting area, spacious rooms. Pillowtop mattresses, luxurious linens, flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi and more. Minutes to beaches.

Siesta Key Palms Hotel


The fully renovated rooms are nestled among hammocks and two tropical outdoor pools. The main family pool and Tiki Hut area is heated and open year-round with heated outdoor showers and adjoining dining and barbecue area. The second pool is for guests desiring a 21 and over environment. Some rooms include a small kitchenette with stove, oven and kitchen supplies, pull out sofa beds, flat-screen TVs, safes, cable channels, upgraded “quite air units”, free amplified WiFi throughout the property, and queen size beds.

Comfort Suites Sarasota


Guests of the Comfort Suites Sarasota hotel are invited to relax in the outdoor heated pool and work out in the Fitness Center. There are 2 meeting rooms, with the hotel able to accommodate 35 people for banquets and conferences. Other amenities include: Free wireless high-speed Internet access, Free newspaper M-F, Business Center.


Booking.com

28 Comments

  1. Trevor

    Highly detailed article! I really could use a nice beach vacation however work, work and more work. Pictures look really exotic, I now have a desire to leave my location and travel.

    I’ve literally not been on holiday in years! One day I shall travel but until then its looking at pictures. lol

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Well looking at pictures gets you thinking about it and then one day, you’ll just do it 🙂 Sarasota beaches and the whole area is wonderful, you would love it!

      Reply
  2. Lauren

    I love this page! So much helpful information that spans way more than just about the beaches. I’m not too familiar with these beaches as I’ve only been down to Florida a couple of times, but there are so many beaches in Australia and New Zealand where I’ve lived, that just nothing can compare too. Pristine waters, and such white sand. It really feels like a dream come true. I’ll have to make a trip down to Florida eventually, and check these out as well!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      The beaches in Florida have some that are ranked in the Top Ten in the U.S. Which is pretty amazing itself. I think Florida has a lot of great beaches to offer. Thanks for reading the Sarasota Florida Travel Guide!

      Reply
  3. Christine

    Thank you for the well written information and great pictures. I have not been to Sarasota in over 8 years, after reading your article I am ready to return. Thank you for the information about places to visit while there, some I have visited in the past and some are new to me.
    Bottom line is I am now ready to return.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Christine, you have been so you know you will love it 🙂 Sarasota beaches are great!

      Reply
  4. Ed

    Nice article.

    All the pictures make me want to get into the sun instead of in dreary old Manchester!

    I’m saving up to visit Disney Land Florida (the big kid that I am) but want to branch out for a few weeks after – glad I stumbled across your page it’s got some good recommendations.

    I am a total USA noob but this looks like a good place to start!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You can stay in Orlando and still be able to hit beaches on the West or East side. Last time I visited, I did just that. Simply because I have a timeshare there, but I drove to the beach every day. I have outgrown Disneyland, LOL

      Reply
  5. massagearroo

    Thank You for this great information.We have cousins in Tampa who want us to visit. You have made it easier for me to budget and get the most out of the holiday for all 4 of us.Two adults and two children. It’s great to be given B&B options when you have a young family as they get tired out during the day and it feels more homely for them. With your detail in, weather and how far beaches and restaurants plus cafes, I can now plan what to pack in terms of clothes also what type are needed for eating out. I feel confident that you have provided me with enough knowledge with regards to food as children can be fussy eaters. I feel I know now where I can bring them where we will all be satisfied and not spending money on food they won’t eat. You have provided me with enough interests to keep us all busy for the week. the Eco park sounds great. This gives me confidence now, to look forward to the holiday, have good quality time with family and friends and to enjoy and relax.
    Sinead

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad I could help you plan and decide to go! You will have to check out my travel guides for the St. Pete, Clearwater and Fort Myers area as well. All are close to Tampa 🙂 Thanks for visiting Beach Travel Destinations.

      Reply
  6. Tom

    Hello,
    I will honestly say before reading this I have always wanted to go to California over Florida. However, after this article and so much information on Sarasota, it has for sure moved up on my list. Thank you for such a detailed guide and providing so much information!

    So what is your favorite thing to do in Sarasota?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I used to agree as well. I have been to California beaches, and then I have been to Florida beaches….over and over and over. I just like the laid back attitude, the friendliness of the people, and then the cost is better as well. Thanks for reading Tom.

      Reply
  7. Hans

    Hi

    Thank you for detailed description of Sarasota, it makes me feel the sand between my toes:-) Do you have any suggestion regarding the most interesting food place in the area?
    A place like Sarasota usually have a number of places, however one usually sticks out from the crowd. Restaurants or coffee shops like that can really change the whole vacation experience:-)

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hands down The Lido Beach Restaurant. You have to try it when you are in Sarasota. Thank your checking out the Sarasota Florida Travel Guide.

      Reply
  8. Mel

    Thanks for sharing this post and keeping it so informative.
    Were looking to branch out for our summer holiday this year and Florida has some of the best beaches. This has definitely given us food for thought, Lido beach resort looks especially promising since we love eating out!

    Great post,

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You would enjoy the Sarasota beaches for sure and the Lido Beach Resort is an awesome pick. Glad you enjoyed!

      Reply
  9. Demi

    Florida is my favorite beach destination but I haven’t been to Sarasota. It seems a lovely place to enjoy.However I’m more excited by seeing the pic of Myakka Canopy Walkway. I’m already planning my next trip there. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Demi. Yes, my favorite place is Florida as well. You do really have to make it to Sarasota. They have so much to do and see besides the beautiful Sarasota Beaches! Thanks for checking out our Sarasota Florida Travel Guide!

      Reply
  10. Brett

    Very nice, now I will know where to go when I’m in that area. I’m going to move into a van soon, you see? I’ll be hittin up those oyster bars and booze places you mentioned. The Myakka canopy walkway looks like a must do as well. I’m gonna surf and drink on the beach and all that stuff.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Sounds like a blast Brett! I like the oyster bars for sure. Thanks for reading Beach Travel Destinations!

      Reply
  11. Jeff

    Great article and nice pictures. I haven’t been to Sarasota beach since I was a kid. All I remember is that the sand on the beach was like flour. Softest sand I’ve ever felt.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Exactly, the west coast beaches of Florida do have the softest whitest sand, hands down. Hope you can make it back soon. Sarasota beaches are definitely a place to keep coming back to! Thanks for visiting the Sarasota Florida Travel Guide!

      Reply
  12. Tyson Aziz

    Excellent post! I always thought about visiting florida and what I would do if I did, now I feel like I need to visit solely to experience these amazing activities exclusively the kyak tour!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Tyson and glad you enjoyed reading. It really is a great place that most people would not associate as having amazing beaches.

      Reply
  13. Benson

    Wow! these are some really nice places. When I am ready to go on vacation here, I will definitely take the advice from this website. I am glad I found this information. I didn’t know that there would be so many things to do in Sarasota. Can’t wait! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes Benson, Sarasota is a wonderful place with plenty of things to do for everyone. Please let me know if you need any additional information.

      Reply
  14. Owain

    Thank you Leahrae for your insightful guide to Sarasota. I’d love to visit Florida one day and this looks like a great place to visit. Although it is a bit warm for me in the summer, I think I will visit during the colder months. Will it be less busy then as well?
    I think that when I do come to visit I would stay at Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway. They’re a large chain that I am aware of, and I have stayed at many of them. So Sarasota sounds like a great place to stay!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are right Owain, it will not be near as crowded at the beaches in the winter months, yet still very nice. Yes, the Best Western is a very budget friendly, and good hotel choice. Thanks for reading the Sarasota Florida Travel Guide.

      Reply

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