Before a summer storm at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota is one of the most attractive cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Not only is it home to miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, but it also offers much more, namely a vibrant arts scene, top notch golfing, beautiful parks, and plenty of fun attractions.

Sarasota is home to beautiful Siesta Key Beach, which features gorgeous white sands and clear waters. Siesta’s sand is 99% quartz. Sarasota is known to being home to some of the most beautiful beaches comprised of the whitest sand in the world.

White sand and clear water at Sarasota's Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key is a beautiful, wide beach with the smoothest sand you will ever touch. It also tends to be much less congested than the Tampa area beaches with a wider stretch of sand to enjoy the day. Volleyball courts and a restaurant are also found on site.

White 99% quartz sand at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida

Casperan Beach is known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” Turtle Beach is less crowded, although the sand is a bit more rough. However, the beach combing opportunities are great. One of the most popular beaches is Lido Beach, located adjacent to St. Armands Circle, an upscale dining and shopping area.

Although there are many great choices for lunch in St. Armand’s Circle, one of the best is Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant. The Sarasota location is beautiful with both indoor and covered outdoor seating. Make sure to try the Cuban Black Bean soup – it’s the best!

A few recommended attractions in the area…

Myakka River State Park – Myakka is one of the biggest and oldest state parks in Florida. The scenery here is beautiful and peaceful- a stark contrast to the businesses and apartment complexes taking over Florida.

Beautiful moss covered oak trees at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida

There are endless activities to keep you occupied at this park – biking and hiking trails, a scenic drive (or bike ride) around the park, a canopy walk, an observation tower, airboat gator rides, tram rides, and more! The beautiful combination of moss covered oak, pine, and palm trees offers both shade and endless photography opportunities.

Airboat gator ride at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida

Big Cat Habitat – This nonprofit rescue saves lions, tigers, bears, turtles, camels, and exotic birds. Being able to see the animals up so close is a once in a lifetime experience.  The bears were walking around, enjoying the pool, and seemed happy. They even had a Liger on site! A Liger, the result of tiger/lion breeding, is not found in nature. They can weight over 1000 lbs!

Tiger at Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, Florida

The Animal Encounter show featured tiger and chimpanzee performances. The trainers use positive reinforcement and seem to take great care of the animals!

Sarasota Jungle Gardens – This historic park features many rescued exotic animals such as alligators and flamingos in a lush tropical setting. Daily shows featuring exotic birds and reptiles offer both entertainment and educational opportunities.

The Cat Depot – The place to stop if you are a cat lover! This is the nicest, largest cat refuge I have ever come across. The no-kill shelter offers plenty of space, unique design schemes in each room, and plenty of luxury amenities for the cats. So much care and design is placed into each living space for the cats.

The cats have their own TVs with nature videos, screened outdoor patios, plenty of beds and toys, and individual rooms each with their own unique color theme (leopard room, purple room, etc.).

Where to stay: Sarasota offers everything from budget hotels (Best Western Plus Siesta Key Getaway, La Quinta Inn and Suites Sarasota) to upscale options (Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota and Hyatt Regency Sarasota).

Have you visited any of these beach destinations? What are your favorite beach towns?