Nestled along the Gulf Coast of Florida, southwest of Orlando, south of Tampa and north of Naples, Sarasota County boasts 40 miles of coastline and eight barrier islands, making it truly unique place for outdoor activities in Florida. There are numerous beaches and state parks, two Audubon societies, the Legacy Trail, a world-renowned rowing facility, historic archeological sites and numerous attractions that showcase wildlife, nature and opportunities for fun. There’s also a variety of organizations that blend the outdoors with art and culture, such as The Ringling Museum and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which is one of the reasons Sarasota County is so unique.
For those who have yet to journey to Florida’s Gulf Coast®, here’s the best insider tip: Get outdoors in Sarasota County. There’s no registration or fee for our views. Live off the bounties off the sea, gaze over the dune grasses, find your own slice of saltwater and sand. There might even be a surprise or two beneath the surface or beyond the branches. So, enjoy our beaches and discover what’s beyond. Here’s a few ideas on where to start…
Hit the Course, Courts or Beach at The Resort at Longboat Key
If you want the convenience of the outdoors, with the luxuries of a resort, consider The Resort at Longboat Key. Located at the north end of Sarasota County, The Resort at LBK is a AAA Four-Diamond full-service resort, and both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast have ranked it is one of the top-rated in Florida.
With 45-holes of championship golf, award-winning Tennis Gardens, and a prime location on the beachfront, this resort is a perfect accommodation for those who are ready to play. The course options include tree-lined Harbourside Golf Course that runs along Sarasota Bay and Links of Longboat Course that borders the Gulf of Mexico. There’s also a spa that’s ideal after a long day of traveling and six restaurants, each offering an experience in its own. Farm-to-table and fresh-caught seafood are a given and candlelit dinners at the deep-water marina are what vacation dreams are made of. Tee off, work on your forehand, or relax by a tropical outdoor pool, without ever leaving The Resort at Longboat Key Club.
Maneuver the Mangroves on Lido or Siesta
Not far from Longboat Key is Lido Key, and further south is Siesta Key. If you prefer to get out on the water and wander through the wildlife, kayak through the mangroves. Sometimes it’s calm, quiet and serene – while other times your journey could be guided by delightful chirping and the fiddling of crabs scurrying away. As you maneuver each turn, the overarching enclaves and tangled roots remind you of how durable and adaptable nature is. Don’t fear getting lost and take the tunnel less traveled.
If you decide you’d like a guide as you venture through the trees and brush, consider Kayaking SRQ Tours and Rentals or Ultimate Kayak SRQ. Both companies are owned by locals who have navigated these waterways for generations. They can simply provide the equipment if you’re brave enough to adventure alone or stick around and provide a fully guided tour. Kayaking is family-friendly, safe, and fun, and you can expect to find a diverse population of sea life and coastal birds. The real goal? Find yourself at one with nature and revel in this incredibly important natural Florida ecosystem.
Dig or Dive at the Shark Tooth Capital of the World
Venice is a city in southern Sarasota County, featuring beaches known for being the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. What better souvenir to bring home to your friends than a Megalodon shark tooth, or a hand-made necklace with smaller, yet still prehistoric fossils and teeth? It’s quite simple as well. There are many local shops that can supply you with a shovel or a kitchen strainer, or you can just scoop the sand and shells with your hands. To find the larger teeth, hire a local dive charter such as SiestaKation Charters and explore underwater a few miles offshore.
If you’re looking to build your trip around shark tooth hunting, visit in April and attend the Shark’s Tooth Festival, held annually in Venice, Florida. It’s the No. 1 fossil festival featuring collectors from across the southeast who display and sell shark’s teeth and other prehistoric fossils, and more than 100 artists offer their original work. There’s also a lineup of music and fare to enjoy, from seafood to BBQ. It’s an inexpensive event that benefits Special Olympics Florida.
Traverse a Trail in the City of North Port
From horseback riding, cycling, hiking, birding and canoeing, the city of North Port has a trail for every type of visitor – 80 miles in fact. Whether blueways or greenways, each trail offers a sense of adventure, and exploration is highly encouraged! Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park has winding trails – including some of the most intense for biking enthusiasts – and Myakka River State Forest offers more mild nature trails. As a designated “Tree City USA,” North Port takes pride in the pristine canopy filled with ancient oak trees and associated flora.
Another natural attraction in North Port is Warm Mineral Springs. Reported to have 51 healing minerals and a soothing 85-degree year-round temperature, this outdoor artesian spring will make you feel rejuvenated after traversing the trails. And, if you’re up for a little site-seeing, seek the “city life” and experience the rich Eastern European culture nearby, including authentic food and traditions.
Kick Back with a Local Craft Beer or Cocktail
Everyone deserves a little R&R while on vacation – and our guess is even the most adventurous traveler needs a break now and then. But you don’t have to sacrifice sunshine and the fresh air to kick back and relax. With the Brew Trail Map AKA the Gulf Toast Guide to Southwest Florida’s Local Brews and Spirits, you can opt for a cold craft beer from a local brewery, many of which offer “al fresco” drinking areas, all while still enjoying the great outdoors.
Take veteran-owned JDub’s Brewing Co. for instance, located near downtown Sarasota. This brewery has a great taproom with more space to hang outside than in. The fenced-in grass area and beer garden allow kids – and pups – to run around and is frequently used to host events. Craft beer and yoga, food truck rallies, live bands and comedy open mic nights are just a few types of happenings you can experience. And did we mention the beer and food trucks? J Dub’s Up Top! IPA is a local favorite!
If you would rather lift your spirits with a locally distilled small-batch craft liquor, look no further than Drum Circle Distilling’s Siesta Key Rum. The assortment of awards and accolades confirms that this is some of the best rum in the world. With infusions such as Toasted Coconut, Coffee and Spiced Rum, and a tasting room at the distillery, you’ll truly feel like you’re in paradise with one of their tropical drinks in your hand.
Year-Round Weather and Plenty of Opportunities to Explore
Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall, getting outdoors in Sarasota County is a breeze. With year-round sunshine and temperate climates, the opportunities to explore and appreciate the great outdoors are abundant in Sarasota County.