Lido Key Beach is a public beach with ample beach resorts nearby. It’s the closest beach to Sarasota with its own share of sugar sand.
Longboat Key looks like it should have beautiful beaches, but it is lined with private homes, condominiums, and rental properties that limit public access to the beach. If you’re lucky enough to rent one of these, you’ll have the beach almost to yourself. There are public access points, but parking is hard to find. A little farther north, and you reach Coquina Beach and Bradenton Beach. They are just across the drawbridge to Anna Maria and offer 1.5-miles of public beach with all of the amenities you would expect (including parking).
Siesta Key is a wide barrier island accessible by a toll bridge. It’s wide enough to support Siesta Key Village with several blocks of shops and restaurants. Our favorite is Made in Rome Gelato, which is the best we have had in Florida. The beaches are snow-white sugar sand that’s so pure it squeaks under your feet. What’s more, they have a free local ferry that runs the length of Siesta Key so, once you park for the weekend, you never need to drive again until you leave. That means you get to enjoy that extra daiquiri at happy hour. No wonder Siesta Key keeps getting named as America’s Best Beach.
Venice Beach is a nice enough beach. It doesn’t have the sugar sand or solitude of other area beaches. It has a pier and restaurant, but those alone wouldn’t have earned it a spot on this list. Venice Beach is the shark tooth capital of the world! You can go shark tooth hunting here during low tide and expect to return with about 50-100 shark teeth every trip. I would say it’s loads of fun for kids, but that would be seriously underplaying how much I enjoyed it. Really, you have to try it out.