Siesta Key - Soft Sand and Sunsets

We had never been to the Gulf coast of Florida before. We were pleasantly surprised to find one of the best beaches anywhere!

Siesta Key - Soft Sand and Sunsets

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on January 11, 2003

Like most of Florida, there are many things to do in the Siesta Key region, but the beach is the big attraction. The soft, white powdery sand which is like talcum powder, the beachcombing for shells, the birds, and the magnificent sunsets all add up to a world-class beach.

One of my favorite keepsakes from the trip is a Snapple bottle filled with tiny shells from the beach.

While Siesta Key is pretty laidback, a short drive on one of the bridges over the canal will take you into the hustle and bustle of Sarasota and it's great shopping, restaurants, museums, and parks. ${QuickSuggestions} Although the Sarasota airport is closer, you'll probably find a better airfare to the Tampa airport. Siesta Key is an hour or so drive by freeway south from Tampa.

The public Siesta Key Beach Park at the north end of the key can get pretty crowded so for a quieter experience, look for accomodations further to the south on the key. The middle part of Siesta Key is called Crescent Beach (where we were) and the southernmost part is called Turtle Beach. All are marvelous soft white sand beaches with gentle surf and fabulous shelling.

The grocery stores on Siesta Key are small and pricey, so take a quick trip over the Stickney Point Rd Bridge to the huge new Publix Supermarket in the the South Gate Mall. They have everything (including a sushi bar!) and the prices were great.

Shopping in Siesta Key runs the gamut of junky souvenir stores to high priced clothing boutiques. My wife purchased a nice souvenir sweatshirt at a, ahem, "head" shop - we only went in to show our son what the 60's were like. Really.${BestWay} There is a "trolley" that runs up and down the main drag in Siesta Key, but for the most convenience and to really enjoy the area, you'll need a car.

Walking the beach is a favorite activity - I did it every day. The neighborhoods adjoining the beach are interesting with an varied array of fancy mansions and quaint beach shacks and cottages and can be combined with a beach walk (there are several public access paths to the beach) for great exercise and exploration.

Crescent Arms

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on January 11, 2003

We rented a 7th floor 2-bedroom/2-bath condo from a private party at the Crescent Arms and were very pleased with it. The condo was quite comfortable with a queen bed in one bedroom, twin beds in the other bedroom, 2 baths (one with tub/shower, the other with shower only), a well-equipped kitchen, and screened porch with a beach and ocean view. Cable TV was available on the large screen TV in the living room and smaller TVs in both bedrooms. The large storage closet has lots of beach gear and a foldup bed for an additional guest.

The kitchen has a small eating bar with two stools and there is a round table with four chairs in the dining area. Washers and dryers are in a separate laundry room facility on the same floor.

The owners are extremely friendly and take great pride in their condo. It is very well maintained and thoroughly cleaned between occupancies.

The building is secure -- separate keys are provided for the building, condo, pool and laundry. One covered parking space is also provided. There are two 7-story highrises side by side on the beach. One story villas are also available on either side of the entry drive closer to the pool.

While not ocean front, the balcony has a nice view of the beach and Gulf and is screened to keep the bugs out (although I don''t recall seeing any). The location can''t be beat -- walk out the door and you''re on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This part of Siesta Key is called Crescent Beach. Lounge chairs are provided for condo guests and there''s an outdoor shower for washing off that soft sand.

The swimming pool is heated quite comfortably and is surrounded by tables and chairs. There is both sun and shade at most times of the day. One end of the pool is shallow for the kids. Rest rooms and showers are adjacent to the pool. There''s no hot tub but one day the poolman set the temperature a little high and the entire pool was a hot tub! It was so nice we stayed in the pool late into the cool of the November night.

Most of the condos are rented by private owners generally on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I only saw one chain brand hotel on Siesta Key (Best Western). Of the RCI listed resorts in Siesta Key, the Gold Crown Sandpiper Beach Club and Calini Beach Club are close to the Crescent Arms on Crescent Beach and look excellent as well.

Crescentview Beach Club Hotel
Siesta Key, Florida, 34242

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on January 11, 2003

Located about eight miles from Siesta Key, Sarasota Jungle Gardens is one of those Florida throwback attractions that were hugely popular before the big amusement parks arrived. Originally a swampy banana grove, it was developed into a botanical garden in the thirties. Featuring a wide range of plants from the Australian Nut Tree to the largest Norfolk Pine in Florida, a visit here is pretty low-key as you stroll through the grounds marveling at the plants and animal exhibits.

The bird acts reminded me of going to Parrot Jungle in Miami as a kid in the 60's. I guess a cockatoo riding a bike will always be a classic!

To top it off, when we bought our tickets, the cashier casually mentioned not to miss the Flying Wallendas show. Excuse me? Do you mean THE Flying Wallendas? Sure enough, in a small clearing, a number of plastic chairs were set up next to a high wire. We then enjoyed a terrific show by the surviving members of the famous family. Apparently they were in town for a few days and were making appearances at various locales. It was totally unexpected and off-beat but a great memory at an old-fashioned Florida attraction!

Sarasota Jungle Gardens
3701 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota, Florida, 34234
(941) 355-5305

Myakka State Park

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on January 11, 2003

Myakka State Park is located about 12 miles east of Siesta Key on State Route 72. This is the nicest and most interesting state park in the Sarasota area and is not to be missed!

The cost is $4/car and is open every day from 8am to sunset. You enter on a scenic winding road that eventually ends up at Upper Myakka Lake. Along the way we made numerous stops to look at birds and gators. They are everywhere! Our son was fascinated by the huge gators in the Myakka River and shot a lot of video tape as they slowly swam near us.

At the lake, we boarded the "Gator Gal", one of the world''s largest airboats. Our knowledgable guide pointed out all sorts of birds and, of course, gators with the right combination of folksiness and cornball humor.

Cost of the tour is $8 for adults and $4 for kids. There is also a tram tour which can be combined with the boat tour for a discount. There''s a nice shaded picnic area at the boat launch as well as a small gift shop and snack bar.

There are almost 40 miles of hiking trails in the park. Our favorite was the Boylston nature trail. The 45-minute hike is highlighted by a climb up the 75-foot canopy walkway tower and walking across the suspension bridge high in the trees.

Check out the excellent Florida State Parks web site for Myakka at this link.

Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota, Florida, 34231
(941) 361-6511

Dining in the Siesta Key Area

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on January 11, 2003

On Siesta Key proper, there are a wide range of eating options, although most places lean toward the open air funky beach style joint. A short drive over the Stickney Point Road bridge into Sarasota offers everything from fast food to fine dining. I'm not ashamed to admit that one of the favorites was for dad to get into the rental car and make a Wendy's run and bring it back to the pool at the condo.

Here's a rundown of places we enjoyed:

Daiquiri Deck (5250 Ocean Blvd, Siesta Key) -- As the name implies, they feature about every flavor of daiquiri you can think of and they are quite good and reasonably priced. The outdoor deck is on the main drag in Siesta Key and is pretty good location to do a little people watching, sip a watermelon frozen daiquiri, and munch on some fried clams. They'll make virgin versions of the daiquiris for the kids.

Phillipi Creek Oyster Village (5353 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota) -- Just a short drive away, this creekside restaurant has both indoor and outdoor casual dining and pretty good seafood. We even tried some gator. No, it doesn't taste like chicken - it tastes like gator! Look for the giant great white shark in the parking lot. They claim it came out of the creek but I think that's just to scare the kids so they'll be careful out on the dock!

Turtles on Little Sarasota Bay (8875 Midnight Pass Rd, Siesta Key) -- Located on the south end of Siesta Key, this dressy casual restaurant features seafood and great views out on the deck. The night we went it was very crowded and the only spot on the deck was next to some smokers, so we were forced to dine inside. The fresh grouper was excellent.

Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse (7113 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota) -- Within a short distance from each other are Outback, Ruth Chris, and Sam Seltzer's Steakhouses. Every time we drove by, Sam Seltzer's was packed so we decided to check it out. After a long wait (outside on a comfortable porch with ESPN on the TV!), we sat down to a traditional steakhouse meal that was excellent and reasonably priced. Portions were huge - we dined on prime rib sandwiches for another two days!

Shells Seafood Restaurant (7253 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota) -- This local chain was also packed every night and provides great seafood at reasonable prices in a casual, kid friendly atmosphere. Good chowder, conch fritters, "u peel 'em" shrimp, calamari, and fresh fish which they'll prepare grilled, blackenend, or fried in either six or ten ounce portions.

Coasters at the Southbridge (1500 Stickney Point Rd, Siesta Key) -- Nice location on the water with casual outdoor dining. As we finished our meal, it started to sprinkle. We made it inside just as the downpour hit - I felt sorry for those who were still eating and not as lucky. There are some nice shops adjacent to the restaurant for browsing and walking off your dinner (or for refuge from the rain!).

Olive Garden (4900 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota) -- I'm not a big fan of Olive Garden, but this one in a typical strip mall location was pretty good.

Carraba's Italian Grill (1940 Stickney Point Rd, Sarasota) -- Just over the bridge from Siesta Key, this is where we really wanted to go for Italian food but it was always so popular and crowded, we wound up at Olive Garden instead.

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