By enjoyFloridaBeaches.com January 10, 2017
Longboat Key, Florida is a 12-mile-long barrier island offering a rare combination of breathtaking white-sand beaches, perfect for relaxing, along with cultural activities, championship golf, fine dining, luxury resorts, and upscale shopping.
The town, Longboat Key, stretches the entire length of the key. And, the name "Longboat Key" is often used to include the two small keys to the south (Lido Key and St. Armands Key).
Longboat Key is an island paradise without mini-malls, towering billboards or bright neon signs. Instead, you’ll find tastefully landscaped homes, condominiums, and resorts all with an elegant and relaxed Florida lifestyle.
Although beaches on Longboat Key are mostly private, there are several beach access points with limited free parking. As a result, this key is not very crowded and a good spot for strolling and shelling.
Longboat Key Beaches
Longboat Key’s inviting, white-sand beaches along the Gulf welcome visitors every day of the year. There is an unmistakable air of exclusivity as most of the beaches are enjoyed only by residents and visitors staying in the upscale condominiums and resorts. However, there are plenty of accommodations available in local beachfront rental condos and resorts.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, you’ll find Longboat Key beaches an excellent choice. The beaches have limited public access, so peaceful strolls on the beaches are an excellent way to truly relax and unwind. Avoiding the crowds also means you will not have to worry about footballs or frisbees on Longboat's beaches.
The three public beaches on Longboat Key include Beer Can Island Beach, Whitney Beach, and Longboat Key Beach. There are also beaches on Lido Key.
Beer Can Island Beach
Beer Can Island Beach is a curvaceous, white powdered sandbar, located at the northern tip of Longboat Key. Created by tidal currents, this three-quarter mile stretch of white sand beach is only accessible by shallow boats at Longboat Pass. This utterly stunning beach is perfect for fishing, sunbathing, and hosting parties.
Locals often anchor their boat off the beach and wade ashore. The beach is a perfect getaway if you’re looking for a quiet experience, or just want to take a nature walk. If you’re a bird-watcher, bring your camera or binoculars because you'll see plenty of shorebirds. Th beach is also a great place for anglers, but there are no restrooms or food vendors on the beach.
A little south of Beer Can Island is Whitney Beach. Approximately a quarter mile long, Whitney Beach is located directly across from Whitney Plaza and behind several condominiums. As with Beer Can Island Beach, there are no amenities at the beach. However, there is public parking at Whitney Plaza and a number of well-marked beach access areas. This beach offers beautiful white sands, graceful sea oats, sparkling Gulf waters, and refreshing breezes. The beach is ideal for sunbathing, walking, and shelling.
Longboat Key Beach
Longboat Key Beach is south of Whitney Beach and includes 11 miles of beautiful white sandy beach on the Gulf. Luxurious vacation rentals, condos, and single-family homes line the beach and limit public access. However, there are a dozen public access points along Gulf Drive, marked with blue and white beach access signs along the side of the road.
Parking is very limited at this beach. Though some access points do not have public parking, there’s usually parking available nearby. If you’re not staying at one of the resorts, it’s best to scout out parking in advance. And remember, Longboat Key beaches do not have bathroom facilities, and there are no concessions or lifeguards.
Lido Key is just south of Longboat Key. Besides numerous sandy beaches, it’s home to numerous birds, making it a favorite location for birding. Lido Key offers a variety of ways to enjoy the Florida sun, including shelling, birding, kayaking, and more.
North Lido Beach
North Lido Beach is easy to get to and very private. The beach is located a quarter mile northwest of St. Armands Circle, and there is a small parking area at the north end of the beach that does not offer amenities.
The beach is maintained in a natural state and features a dune system that is home to many nesting shore birds, making it an excellent place for birding. During the summer nesting season, some areas may be roped off to protect the sandpiper and tern nests. However, the beach offers a quiet place to enjoy the Gulf and search for shells as you watch the birds.
Lido Beach is one half mile southwest of St. Armand's Circle and was ranked by TripAdvisor as the #3 beach for Outdoor Activity in 2016. The beach has beautiful dunes of fine white sand and is within walking distance from nearby resorts. Street parking is also available, with easy access to the beach.
Lido Beach is mostly private, which is ideal for anyone wanting to relax and enjoy the unique peace that only a Florida Gulf beach can offer. While the beach isn't as large as other nearby beaches, residents and visitors describe Lido Beach as more relaxed and less crowded. Sections of the beach can be reserved for large private parties and weddings.
Lido Beach Park has a pavilion, restaurant and concessions, restrooms, a playground, and plenty of parking. It also offers a public swimming pool so visitors can enjoy either fresh or saltwater bathing, and lifeguards.
A handicapped accessible observation deck allows everyone to enjoy the beach. And, you can also rent beach umbrellas and chairs.
South Lido Beach Park
South Lido Beach Park not only has a beach but a woodland trail as well. The Park, at the southern tip of Lido Key, is bordered by four bodies of water: The Gulf of Mexico, Big Pass, Sarasota Bay, and Brushy Bayou. The park has a kayak and canoe launching area, and a canoe trail. There are also self-guided water trails available.
South Lido Beach Park has shaded picnic tables, grills, nature trails, and lifeguards throughout the summer months. There’s also a volleyball court, nature trails, an observation tower and decks. Weddings and other private parties can book a section of the beach for special events.
The southern beach portion of the park offers views of the skyline of downtown Sarasota and the Gulf. It features a picnic area shaded by Australian Pines. Area wildlife includes raccoons, wading birds, manatee, dolphins, pelicans, and osprey.
An average year-round average temperature of 75-degrees makes Longboat Key the perfect spot for just about anything. Tennis and golf enthusiasts will enjoy first-class facilities both on and off the island. If biking or rollerblading is more your style, tour Longboat Key’s bike path trail that’s nearly 10 miles long.
The Intracoastal Waterway provides excellent opportunities for windsurfers, water skiers, jet skiers, boaters and fishermen to enjoy the water. Access points are located on the bayside for kayaks and skiffs. Charters are also available for deep sea fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling enthusiasts.
St. Armand’s Key
St. Armands Key is a small island in Sarasota Bay, nuzzled up close to the eastern shore of Lido Key. The major feature of St. Armands Key is a large roundabout with a small park in the center called St. Armands Circle. This roundabout, also known as "The Circle," along with the surrounding area is a repurposed historic community well known for its shops and restaurants.
St. Armands Circle includes a statue walk that features works originally purchased by John Ringling, of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Circus Ring of Fame honors Sarasota's circus tradition. It’s like the Hollywood Walk of Fame for circus performers and contributors, with the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation inducting new members each year.
Longboat Key Trolley
For a different way to explore, try the air-cooled Longboat Key Trolley. There are three pick-up locations: the Hilton Hotel, Bay Isles Road (near the Longboat Key Town Hall) and at Harborside Drive.
The trolley services Mote Marine Laboratory, St. Armands Circle, and terminates one block from Sarasota’s downtown Main Street.
Mote Marine Aquarium
At the south end of Longboat Key is the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, a world-renowned marine research center. The aquarium offers a fascinating array of sea life for viewing. A 30-foot Touch Tank and a 350,000-gallon Shark Tank bring you face-to-face with a variety of marine life.
If your schedule permits, visit The Circus Museum in Sarasota. This unique museum celebrates the American circus, its history, and its relationship to Sarasota which was the winter home of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey® Circus. Displays include the world’s largest miniature circus, costumes, wagons, performance equipment, and other artifacts chronicling the history of the circus.
With the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay in their backyard, many restaurants specialize in fresh, local seafood. Several restaurants are also as famous for their waterfront views as they are for their menu. Longboat Key offers romantic, candlelight dining as well as a casual place for the entire family, and many restaurants are accessible by boat. Some breakfast restaurants are open by 7 a.m., and most restaurants are open seven days a week.
As you might expect, seafood doesn’t get any fresher than on Longboat Key. You can also find Italian, Asian, and American fare, as well as options for steak, sandwiches, pizza, vegetarian dining and much more. Zagat rates many Longboat Key restaurants highly. Some offer catering services and can host private parties and events.
For the ultimate in fine French dining, try Maison Blanche (French for “white house”). The restaurant has a reputation for being the best restaurant in the Sarasota area, and one of the finest in the state of Florida. Open for dinner only, Maison Blanche holds the prestigious Zagat Award for being one of the Top 100 restaurants in America.
For an early start to the day, try Harry's Continental Kitchens. Open at 9 a.m., Harry's Restaurant features globally inspired coastal cuisine for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner in the intimate dining room or on the al fresco patio. Harry’s is a Longboat Key landmark, and the recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Award for excellent reviews from travelers.
For casual waterfront dining, try the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill at the south end of Longboat Key, located just a few minutes from St. Armand’s Circle on Sarasota Bay.
There are resorts, hotels, motels, and private condos available on Longboat Key and Lido Key. The vacation rentals on Longboat Key are numerous and include luxury condominiums, tennis & golf resorts, and rental vacation condos & villas. You can even find apartment efficiencies and single-family homes for rent. And if easy beach access is important to you, there are plenty of options for places to stay.
For resorts, the Resort at Longboat Key Club on the southern end of the key is a 45-hole championship golf course. In addition to golf, the resort has tennis, a pool, and Fitness Center.
This AAA Four-Diamond resort sits on 400 acres of lush lawns and pristine beachfront with authentic Old Florida boardwalks.
When you’re in the mood to shop, St. Armands Key is the place for you. There are high-end men’s and women’s fashion and accessories stores, jewelry stores, one-of-a-kind art galleries, antique stores, and a variety of specialty stores.
For a day trip, check out “The Circle” on St. Armands Key. Begin by shopping, then pamper yourself with a massage and manicure. Finish the day with dinner at one of the Circle’s many restaurants.
Longboat Key is an ideal setting for exchanging wedding vows. Its beaches are private and offer an intimate setting to celebrate your special day. But the Key’s pristine beaches are just one option for ceremonies. Venues range from four-star resorts to smaller hotels. And, don’t overlook Longboat Key’s lush gardens, parks, golf courses, many unique restaurants, and places of worship.
Vendors on Longboat Key can provide everything you need for the wedding of your dreams. Wedding planners can coordinate and make all the arrangements, including the venue, caterer, florist, limo service, hair and makeup, photographer, and much more.