The part of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico commonly referred to as “Siesta Key” or “Sarasota” is actually a very large populated area that covers Manatee & Sarasota County. It is also commonly referred to as “Paradise” for its tropical climate, beautiful sandy beaches, high end restaurants and resorts & laid back lifestyle.
If you followed the Gulf of Mexico coastline from Anna Maria Island to Venice you would find over 50 miles of some of the best waterfront property in the world. Each area has its own vibe and way of life and is special in its own right.
Here is a simple summary for each of the 11 Best Waterfront Locales near Sarasota Florida.
Anna Maria Island
“AMI” is known for great restaurants, small shops & great beaches. It is the most family orientated area on this list. It is also heavily populated by people from the state of Michigan. Like Michigan, AMI suffers from occasional bad weather, which is why nearly all homes are on stilts. It tends to get hit harder than other areas on this list by hurricanes or tropical storms. Keep this in mind when buying a home here.
The family friendly atmosphere, a quaint downtown and less crowded beaches make Anna Maria Island a great place to visit for a family friendly vacation. The fishing is also excellent and it is surrounded with the Gulf of Mexico. Basically, AMI is MI (Michigan) South.
Holmes Beach is a small city located on Anna Maria Island. It is the city you pass through heading north on Anna Maria Island after you have crossed the north bridge from Bradenton. This city has an older beach town feel to it and has a large number of bars and restaurants in it for its size. It serves as a less formal adult destination to escape the family friendly upscale north part of Anna Maria Island and the more tourist-filled upscale Bradenton Beach.
Taking advantage of the small area on the water, Holmes Beach consists of many Waterfront Properties. This allows people for people who want to live on AMI and still want a quicker drive to Bradenton for work. It also resembles a typical upper class suburban town the most out of any of the areas on the Gulf. If you don’t want to lose your conveniences and still want to live on an island, Holmes Beach is for you.
Bradenton (Manatee River Area)
The area of Bradenton along the Manatee River is a very unique area. You get the benefit of living near a medium sized city like Bradenton with all of the conveniences that go along with that as well as the beautiful waterfront. You also have a large tourism industry to help support the area.
The Bradenton Riverwalk is a beautiful trail that goes along the Manatee River. Once you get closer to downtown Bradenton, you will start to see some great restaurants and the South Florida Museum. People who buy Waterfront Property along the Manatee river can take their boats out onto the Gulf of Mexico or east and stay on the river. This allows for great fishing of all kinds and very cool boating opportunities right around the corner.
Bradenton Beach is the southern half of Anna Maria Island. This area has more of an “Old Florida” feel and works much more like a typical beach town. It is also right across the southern bridge from Cortez, the fishing capital of the area. The best seafood around is at Cortez restaurants.
Bradenton Beach is also home to Coquina Beach (south tip of AMI) which is a popular beach for watersports, partying and swimming. This area consists of nearly 100% tourists and is much more of a vacation spot than a place to live full time, although options do exist. Just realize that this area is completely based on tourism.
Longboat Key is a beautiful slender 10 mile long barrier island. Dubbed by some as “Long Nose Key” for the perceived “stuffiness” of the people who live and vacation here, there is no classier spot on this list that Longboat Key. That perception comes in part because of the 4 and 5 star resorts that are all over Longboat Key. It also comes along with the average home price being north of $625,000.
What you will find is a gorgeous secluded island filled with beautiful homes, great restaurants & lots of people with money to spend. It has ample opportunities for boating, fishing as well as some great Waterfront Restaurants. If you want to live in the classiest spot around Sarasota, you will want to live on Waterfront Property on Longboat Key.
Lido Key/St. Armand’s Circle/Bird Key
Lido Key might just be the beating heart of the whole Sarasota area. Lido Key is home to the world renowned Mote Marine Aquarium, world famous Columbia Restaurant, boat races, Ted Sperling Park’s beautiful Mangrove Tunnels, beautiful Lido Beach, the 1st class St. Armand’s Circle outdoor mall & the subdivision of the stars – Bird Key.
Real estate is limited, and expensive, but it is tough to find a place so unique in location. Located across the Ringling Bridge from downtown Sarasota and just south of Longboat Key, Lido Key has two amazing “bordering” neighbors. The only problem is that you’ll never want to leave Lido Key! Just beware that all it takes is the Ringling Bridge to be down to cut you off from the mainland (short of driving 20 miles north to go to the Cortez Bridge of Anna Maria Island) just like that!
The Downtown area of Sarasota continues to expand as the skyline steadily grows. The most urban of the Waterfront locations, Downtown Sarasota provides an urban lifestyle right near the shores of Sarasota Bay. This area continues to get new high end restaurants and bars. It is developing quickly while holding onto a small town feel with the Saturday Farmer’s Markets.
While centrally located, Downtown Sarasota does not provide any Gulf of Mexico beach access. You have to go to Lido Key or Siesta Key, although both are within a few miles. However, if you enjoy an active urban life and want to live in a developing, clean & “happening” location – Downtown Sarasota is your spot!
Siesta Key Beaches have sand that is over 99.9% quartz. This “sugar” sand is soft to the touch and stays cool in the heat. That, along with a great location, makes Siesta Key a consistent #1 or #2 beach in the USA. Siesta Key is actually a fairly large island (with an island named Palm Island in the middle of it). Roberts Bay lies to the northeast, Little Sarasota Bay to the southeast, and the Gulf of Mexico on its west and north.
Siesta Key has the Siesta Village, a small beach town with lots of great restaurants and bars to visit. Although there are some permanent residents who live on Siesta Key, it is mainly a tourist location. People of all ages come to Siesta Key year round. The type of crowd is usually determined by the time of year, with a party atmosphere on all holidays and during March & April. The rest of the year is more family focused tourism. Remember to get out to the drum circle on Sunday night at sunset, but avoid traffic moving towards the beach during that time!
Turtle Beach (South Siesta Key)
Known for privacy & shark fishing, the Turtle Beach area is for people looking to get away from the craziness of north Siesta Key. It has a much larger percentage of permanent residents & has lots of beautiful Waterfront homes on both sides of the island. The sand at Turtle Beach is not the same quality as Siesta Key Beach, but there are far less people on it consistently. Just beware of swimming too deep, as there is a quick drop-off (why it’s good for shark fishing).
If you like Siesta Key and want to be a close drive to Siesta Key Beach & Village while still living on the island, the Turtle Beach area is your best bet. Live where the locals on the island live and walk or bike to fine dining & great fishing all over the southern part of Siesta Key!
Sarasota County’s hidden treasure, Casey Key provides a great balance of privacy and fun. The north part of Casey Key is residential, while the southern part has restaurants, public beaches and a Jetty. To the west lies the Gulf of Mexico. The east of Casey Key is a system of 4 different beautiful bays covered in Mangroves and filled with jumping mullet.
Casey Key is a very family friendly spot that is only affected by tourism during holidays and March & April. Otherwise, Casey Key is a great mix of privacy and fun that is less known because of its location between Sarasota & Venice. It provides a great value for Waterfront Property and property on one of the 4 bays as well.
Want to know where to eat around Sarasota? I’ve created a Twitter List with all the local restaurants on it!
Some great local charities I support in Sarasota!
This blog was put together for David M. Levin. David is a shareholder with the law firm of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A. of Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch and Punta Gorda, Florida. He limits his practice to environmental and waterfront property law, including waterfront property closings.