The Suncoast Beach Guide

The suncoast’s pristine beaches feature miles and miles of sugar-white sand and gentle waves. Read on for our guide to the perfect places to disconnect from the world, put your toes in the sand and drift away on waves of happiness. Treat yourself to diverse dining, enriching arts and culture, shopping districts of all sorts and natural Florida fun.

Bean Point, Anna Maria Island

Why we love it: If you’re looking for a quiet intimate setting, look no further than Bean Point. This beach, located at the very tip of the island, is a hidden gem and features powder-soft white sand, sweeping views of Tampa Bay and the iconic Sunshine Skyway bridge, and a relaxed atmosphere that can be hard to find on most public beaches. 
Insider tip: We love to lunch at Rod & Reel Pier and the Sandbar Restaurant, shop for cute beachy outfits at the Sand Dollar or stop for a cocktail and gorgeous meal at The Chateau located in the Waterline Villas & Marina.

Whitney Beach, Longboat Key 

Why we love it: Also known as the Secret Beach, Whitney Beach is a quarter-mile long, located directly across from Whitney Plaza on Longboat Key, where you can grab lunch to go at Whitney’s and some beach essentials at Driftwood Beach Home and Garden. This pristine beach extends southward behind several condominium residences and is one of the most secluded beaches around. A public parking area is conveniently located on Broadway Street just west of Gulf of Mexico Drive. Remember to bring everything you’ll need for the day, as they do not provide modern conveniences.
Insider tip: Walk along the path just north of the tree line to get to the northern tip of the island where you can find some beautiful driftwood. You can also access this area by boat via the Gulf or Bay.

Lido Beach, Lido Key

Why we love it: Located just one block from the beach is St. Armands Circle. Renowned as a continental marketplace, the Circle is a charming and graceful combination of the past and present. The sand at Lido Beach in Sarasota runs a close second to that at Siesta Beach. But the crowds here can be a bit thinner (although the word is getting out). Lido gets frequent praise from parents for its year-round lifeguards, easy access to clean restrooms, and an amazing snack bar that even offers lobster rolls on Sundays. 
Insider tip: Explore the shops, dine in the sidewalk cafes, or relax in the lush tropical gardens. With over 100 stores like The Met Fashion House and Shore, St. Armands Circle is an unforgettable destination for visitors worldwide. From trinkets to designer clothing, gourmet snacks to candlelight feasts, there is something for everyone on St. Armands Circle.

Siesta Key Beach

Why we love it: Sarasota’s Siesta Beach has gotten lots of national attention in the past few years, and for good reason. Named the best beach in America twice by Dr. Beach, and Best in the U.S. on the 2020 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards, it has powdery, white, nearly pure quartz crystal sand that’s soft on your feet and doesn’t get too hot even when temperatures are scorching. Lifeguards are present year-round, a concession stand and beach rentals are located on-site, and the public beach access has hundreds of parking spots, a giant sandcastle playground, tennis courts and dozens of picnic and grilling areas surrounded by green space. If you are looking for a more secluded beach on Siesta, drive to the southern tip of the island to Turtle Beach. The beach itself is huge, so there’s lots of room for the kids to spread out and play. But that size is one common drawback for parents, as it can take a while to walk from the parking lot to the edge of the water. Pack accordingly in case you need a free hand to give tired little legs a lift.
Insider tip: Start with a stroll through Siesta Key Village, centered around the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Canal Road. The Village is home to beach retailers like Marmalade, and Foxy Lady, as well as locally owned restaurants like the Summer House, Cafe Gabbiano, and Morton’s Gourmet Market. Siesta Key Village offers wide sidewalks lined with trees and park benches, making it ideal for people watching, a lazy four-block stroll, or window shopping with friends.There is free on-street parking on Ocean Boulevard and both free and paid parking lots are available as well.

Venice Beach, Venice Beach Florida

Why we love it: Venice, just south of Sarasota along Florida’s white-sanded Gulf Coast, offers 14 miles of beaches, from Casey Key to Manasota Key and plenty of recreational opportunities, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing and boating. Shelling is also a favorite pastime in Venice, and fossilized shark’s teeth can be found in abundance by sifting through the sand.
Insider tip: We absolutely love the local steakhouse, Fins at Sharky’s, located next door to its popular and long standing sister restaurant, Sharky’s on the Pier. The restaurants look is coastal contemporary put into motion by Sweet Sparkman and Tandem Construction and features an ovate shape with clear, polished windows and railings, complete with two fins atop its highest peak. When talking fare, both food and drink are progressive with a seasonal and daily-changing menu that embraces local and fresh ingredients. And, when they say local, they mean it, using Venice Olive Oil Company, local produce, Dakin Dairy, Ciao Gelato and more! 

Gasparilla Island State Park, Boca Grande

Why we love it: Separated from the mainland by Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, this island is part of a chain of Gulf Coast barrier islands. Swimming, snorkeling, fishing and nature study are popular activities that can be accessed at any of their five parking lots. The beaches have white-powder sand and there are two picturesque lighthouses, one of which you can tour. And don’t forget the shelling is particularly good in the winter months along the gulf.

Insider tip: It is so much fun to rent a golf cart and spend the day touring the island. Carts are available at the Gasparilla Inn but make sure you call ahead. There’s also a scenic bike path that runs 6.5 miles, the length of the island, past some great scenery. The historic downtown is full of quaint old homes, churches, and stores. Fishing has been drawing anglers for more than 100 years—it is one of the best places in the world to fish for tarpon. You can have lunch at the elite Gasparilla Inn at The Pink Elephant, to experience a place that hosts presidents and celebrities, or choose another of the excellent restaurants on Gasparilla Island like Temptations, Eagle’s Grill or pick up a picnic to-go at Hudson’s Grocery.

For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Sarasota, browse or buy a copy of The Scout Guide Sarasota, Anna Maria Island to Boca Grande and follow TSG Sarasota on Instagram.