Exploring Beaches

Walking the Beach on Siesta KeyMany of our guests are content to hang out right in front of the condo enjoying the beach chairs and umbrellas we provide.  Other guests enjoy walking the miles of beach that extend both north and south.  Don’t be surprised if a Blue Heron decides to join you for a walk; especially if you are carrying a fishing pole.

Since our condo sits directly on the beach and is less than 100 feet from The Gulf of Mexico, we spend most of our beach-time close by too.  However, we also enjoy exploring nearby beaches and know the best places for finding sand dollars and fossilized shark teeth that are millions of years old.

This page covers what we think are the most interesting beaches within an hour’s drive from our condo, and includes our inside info about the best places to find sand dollars and fossilized shark teeth.

The Quiet Southern End of Siesta Key

Our condo sits directly on the beach and is direct oceanfront (Gulf-front).  With the lanai and master bedroom less than 100 feet from the Gulf, it is by far the closest condo to the Gulf of Mexico on Siesta Key.  Uniquely positioned on a VERY narrow strip of sand, the guest bedroom and east balcony are a similar distance from the bay where our guest have free use of our boat docks and grills.

The beach in front of our condo stretches for nearly 2 miles to the north and farther to the south than you probably want to walk.  The best shelling on Siesta Key starts right in front of our condo.

The best shelling on Siesta KeyIt is impossible to predict when or exactly where the shelling will be best.  However, we typically find the shelling is better early in the morning and to the south; particularly if there were good waves the night before and when the tide is beginning to recede.  You can click here for a direct link to the weekly tide table on weather page.

If you are into collecting seashells, please take a moment to inspect the shell to insure it is not housing a living creature.  If it is, please toss the shell back into the Gulf.  This is not only the humane thing to do; it will also help you avoid a smelly suitcase.

Walking South from our Condo:  Casey Key

If you walk to the south from our condo you’ll pass by the last house on Siesta Key in only 1/3rd of a mile.  Beyond that, you’ll enjoy a mile or so of totally undeveloped beachfront.

Siesta Key and Casey Key are joined

Siesta Key and Casey Key used to be separated by Midnight Pass, which provided access between Little Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  However, that pass was closed years ago and the islands are now joined.  Unless you notice the small marker at the edge of the vegetation that is only about ½ mile south of our condo, you probably won’t even realize that you have crossed over to Casey Key.

Just beyond the marker, in an area called Palmer Point, the island narrows to only about 150 feet.  This is where Kayakers and boaters that are exploring the Jim Neville Preserve and Bird Islands often beach on the Bay side and cross over to enjoy the beach.

The shelling usually improves as you walk south from Palmer Point, and if you examine the piles of shells carefully in this area, you may find an occasional fossilized shark tooth mixed in.  However, as noted below, the best place to find fossilized shark teeth, which are typically millions of years old, is on Manasota Key.

A shady beach on Casey KeyAs you continue your walk to the south you will pass by Stephen King’s property (beware of Cujo).  The house is set back way too far to be visible from the beach, but there is a lone tree that marks the entrance to the property.  If you have the stamina, keep walking south; the shelling tends to get better and there are some really cool shaded areas where you can rest before heading back.

Walking North from Our Condo

To the north of our condo you can walk for nearly two miles before reaching the southern end of Point of Rocks.  Point of Rocks is a rock formation that covers approximately ½ mile of shoreline and extends east under Little Sarasota Bay into mainland Florida.

As you venture north from our condo you’ll first pass by the public beach (Turtle Beach).  Following that there are several private residences, and then four condos that sit well back from the Gulf.  North of there are private residences and you will probably see far more birds than you will people.

Hunting for Fossilized Shark Teeth

Fossilized Megalodon Shark Tooth from Beachfront Siesta KeyDon’t be surprised if you find fossilized shark teeth on the beach by our condo.  One of our guests found a very large Megalodon tooth that is likely more than 5 million years old in knee deep water directly in front of our condo during their stay Christmas 2017.

However, it is very unusual to find a Megalodon tooth that large on or close to the beach.  Most large teeth you see in gift shops or displays were found by scuba divers a mile or more from shore or in the muddy banks of the Myakka River.  If you intend to explore the Myakka River, I recommend securing a professional guide; there are Alligators in the Myakka River.

While brochures and most locals will suggest going to Venice Beach by Sharky’s or Caspersen Beach, which is a short distance to the south of that, those areas are often crowded with tourists.  I don’t know if it’s due to the number of people or if it’s just the nature of the area, but you usually have to dig in the sand at the water’s edge to find shark teeth on these beaches.

Manasota Key

The north public beach on Manasota Key is our favorite place to find fossilized shark teeth.  It is a nicely equipped beach with changing and restroom facilities located at 8570 Manasota Key Rd, Englewood, FL.  This is about a 30 mile drive from our condo and with normal traffic conditions, can be reached in less than one hour.

Fossilized Shark TeethIn an hour’s walk on Manasota Beach we usually find enough fossilized shark teeth laying right on top the sand to fill the palm of our hand.  If the tide is low, tidal pools that remain filled with water are often good places to look, and it seems as though if you find one, you’ll find more in the same area.

Another good place is the public beach access that is about 3.5 miles to the south at approximately 6600 Manasota Key Rd.  There is parking at this location as well as rest room facilities, but they are not as nice as the facilities further north.

The easiest route to Manasota is to take Tamiami (highway 41) south to 776 south.  Follow 776 south to Manasota Beach Rd and take that west.  When you hit Manasota Key Rd you’re at the northern beach facilities – general parking is on your right – handicapped parking and the beach facilities are directly ahead.

Where to find Sand Dollars

Siesta Key Sand DollarsSand Dollars can be found anywhere along the Gulf Coast of Florida, but the best place by far that we’ve discovered is at the northern end of Longboat Key on Whitney Beach, which is immediately south of what is known as “Beer Can Island” and approximately 23 miles from our condo.

There is a seawall that separates the northern end of Whitney Beach from Beer Can Island.  The seawall extends for about 100 yards and that means to get between the two you have to either cross private land (not a good idea) or wade in the water.

To get the public access for Whitney Beach, take the Gulf of Mexico Dr. nearly the full-length of Longboat Key (about 9.5 miles) to Broadway.  Turn left on Broadway and you’ll see a parking lot on your left. If you miss the turn on Broadway, take the next left or you’ll end up crossing the bridge to Anna Marie Island.  For GPS navigation, use 100 Broadway, Longboat Key, FL.

It is best to go just before low tide when you can see them more easily on the sand bars. You can click here for information about weekly tide tables.   You can find a link to weekly tide table on our weather page.

Sand Dollar Island Siesta Key

Sand Dollar Island

Another good spot to find sand dollars is on what has become known as Sand Dollar Island.  As recently as only several years ago, the island was only visible during low tide and referred to by locals as Sandbar Island.  However, it has since grown significantly in size and is now well above the high tide line.

Sand Dollar Island sits off the northern coast of Siesta Key and to the south of Lido Key.  The only practical way to reach Sand Dollar Island is by boat.  To explore Sand Dollar Island,  you can charter a private cruise or join other passengers on a pontoon boat from Siesta Key Marina.

Sand dollars are living creatures and it’s important to only collect those that you know are already dead.  You can click here to learn more about sand dollars and how to tell the difference between living and dead sand dollars.

Northern Siesta Key:  Crescent Beach

Got Sand? There's no shortage of that at the annual Siesta Key Crystal ClassicThis is where you will find the 99.7% pure quartz sand that made Siesta Key famous.  This sand is unique – even on the hottest day it feels cool to the touch.  It is also so fine that if you bring some back in your luggage, airport security may insist on running a chemical test to insure it isn’t cocaine.  Don’t laugh – it happened to us.

Beach access points number from north to south with number 2 at the northern flagpole where there is a sunset ceremony with taps played every night, to number 13 at Point of Rocks.

Access points 5, 7, 8, 9 and 12 have 20 to 30 parking spaces that are often filled by 10:00 AM on weekdays and much earlier on weekends and holidays.  Unless you plan to arrive early in the morning, it is usually better to take the free Siesta Key Breeze Trolley.

Siesta Key Point of RocksPoint of Rocks marks the southern end of Crescent Beach and extends along the shore for about ½ mile to the south.  This divides northern and southern Siesta Key and is one of the best areas on the entire Gulf coast for snorkeling.  However, since the water is shallow, it is best to snorkel at high tide.

Point of Rocks is also one of the very few places on northern Siesta Key where you’ll find a reasonably good selection of seashells. One potential downside though is seaweed can gather along this area.

The mansion you see by Point of Rocks belongs to the founder of 1-800-ASK-GARY and is featured, along with Gary’s son, in the MTV Special, “Siesta Key.”  Access number 13 runs down the north side of this house.

On northern Siesta Key, the closest condos to the Gulf are at the northern end of Crescent Beach; close to Point of Rocks.  The distance from the closest condos to the Gulf (distances according to Google Map) is about 350 feet.  As you walk south towards Siesta Key Public Beach, the beach widens to the point the closest condos to the Gulf are set back over 700 feet from the water’s edge.  If you are staying on the northern part of Siesta Key, it’s a good idea to get a very clear description of the condo location and view.

Northern Siesta Key:  Siesta Key Public Beach

Siesta Key Beach

As you walk north, the beach widens significantly until reaching about 800 feet at Siesta Key Public Beach, which is about a 1.5 mile walk from Point of Rocks.  While there is a fairly large public parking lot there, it usually fills before noon on weekdays and by 9:30 AM on weekends, holidays and during peak snowbird season.  As you might imagine, the crowds can be overwhelming at times.

Siesta Key Public Beach is about ½ mile long and has four life guard towers.  If you think of it, stop by the Green Tower and say high to my buddy Scooter.  Scooter gives a morning beach report when he is working and posts a variety of other videos on his Facebook Page, Scooter of the Beach.

As you continue walking north, the beach narrows again and you’ll reach the flag pole at the northern tip of Siesta Key in about 1 mile.  In my opinion, this is one of the coolest spots on Northern Siesta Key.  There is a very touching ceremony at sunset as the flag is lowered and a bugler sounds Taps.

The total distance from Point of Rocks to the Flag Pole is approximately 3 miles.

Lido Beach Park

Lido Beach ParkAcross Big Pass to the north of Siesta Key is Lido Beach Park.  There are some nice shady areas on the southern and eastern edges.  However, there is no swimming allowed in those areas since boats are allowed to beach and it is often used for fishing.  There can also be very strong currents here that are associated with inbound or outbound tides.  I think this area, which is only about 13 miles from our condo, is worth checking out even if you just drive through.

Lido Public Beach

To the north of Lido Beach Park on Benjamin Franklin Dr. is Lido Public Beach.  This is a nice beach, but nothing particularly special unless you are into fishing.  While there are limited areas to fish directly on Lido Beach, just beyond the rock jetty that is at the south end of the public beach is an area where Snook and Pompano are commonly caught.

Beer Can Island

Beer Can Island is not an island and it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any beer cans there; it is actually the northern tip of Longboat Key, which is about 23 miles from our condo.  It is rustic, unspoiled and, in my opinion, beautiful.

Beachfront Siesta Key Beer Can Island 01To drive to Beer Can Island, take Gulf of Mexico Dr. (789), which is the main north / south road on Longboat Key, one block north past Broadway to North Shore Dr.  Turn left, park in the first permissible spot you find and walk west to the beach.  For GPS navigation, use 260 N Shore Drive, Longboat Key, FL.

North Shore Dr. is the only direct public access to Beer Can Island.  The parking here is very limited,  so it’s usually best to arrive fairly early unless you don’t mind walking a few blocks from the larger public parking lot off Broadway (mentioned above as where to park to look for Sand Dollars).

You will enter the beach by a cement pier, and as you look north, see another pier that is about 100 yards away.  The fishing by these piers can be good during tide changes (an hour or so before and after low and high tides).

Beachfront Siesta Key Beer Can Island 02Walk north past the piers through the mangroves and you’ll come across the first opening.  There is a bit too much driftwood here to allow for comfortable swimming, but it’s a good place to pause and take a picture.

If you continue your walk north and then around the point, you’ll find a number of really cool open beach areas.  You can walk all the way around the northern point of Longboat Key and under the bridge that extends north to Anna Maria Island.

Please be mindful if you swim in the pass between Longboat and Anna Maria – as is the case with all passes, there can be strong currents associated with inbound and outbound tidal flows.

Casey Key North Jetty Park & Beach

Snake Island - No snakes - just a cool island between Casey Key and VeniceIf you decide to check out North Jetty Beach, I suggest taking Tamiami (41) south to Blackburn Point Rd., which will take you over a one-lane swivel bridge to enter Casey Key.  About ¼ mile past the bridge, turn south on Casey Key Rd., and for the next four miles, you’ll enjoy one of the most scenic drives along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

At the southern tip of Casey Key, which is about 16 miles from our condo, you’ll find North Jetty Beach Park.  It’s called “North Jetty” because it is the northern Venice Jetty – Venice, FL is directly to the south across Venice Inlet.

Before you park to go to the beach, be sure to drive around the east side of the park by the boat launch where you can see Snake Island.  There are no snakes there and it is only accessible by boat, but surrounded by azure water, it is nice to see and photograph.

North Venice Jetty (Casey Key Side)To reach the beach, take the sidewalk that runs next to the inlet and extends to the end of the rock jetty where you will often see people fishing.  Due to boat traffic and strong currents, there is no swimming allowed in the inlet on the south side of the jetty.  However, you may see some manatees there if you look closely.

There is good snorkeling along the north side of the jetty that you can access from the beach.  One thing to consider is the beach by the jetty is literally covered with seashells – enough to make walking uncomfortable.  However, once you get past that small area, the beach extends for miles to the north and is very comfortable to walk in bare feet.

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