Have you ever heard of Siesta Key? Find Sarasota on a map of Florida (south of Tampa), and look for a slim barrier island just off the west coast. Siesta means “nap” in Spanish, and perhaps this long isle resembles a hammock slung from the coast – but spending time on Siesta Key is definitely not a snooze. In fact, the Island Runaways duo like it so much we lived here for a year. We could walk about 15 minutes and arrive at this beach:
(Siesta Beach on Siesta Key, Florida; photo by Mathew Ingram, Flickr)
Whenever we’re back in Sarasota, we’re sure to spend time at the wide Siesta Beach with its famous soft, white sand. Siesta Key’s full-time population numbers around 7500, but ever since “Dr. Beach” declared Siesta Beach one of America’s best beaches, vacationers in search of an island getaway have been flocking here to lounge on the sands and enjoy the sea. The Gulf of Mexico's waves gently lap the shore, and the ocean here is temperate in winter and downright warm in summer. A very soothing experience.
(A bright, sunny day on Siesta Beach; photo (c) Zickie Allgrove)
Zickie and I love to wander the few streets of Siesta Village, the town center, with cute restaurants, bars, and shops. There are plenty of good places to eat or get a beer. The vibe is laid-back, Old Florida, and family-friendly. One of our favorites? The Old Salty Dog, an easy place to eat dinner on Friday nights. The nautical theme reminds you that you’re surrounded by the ocean on this quiet, pretty island. Zickie’s choice? The tasty fish and chips.
(One of the picturesque lifeguard stations on Siesta Key, photo (c) Zickie Allgrove)
Even in high tourist season, a small town atmosphere remains. Parents, grandparents, and kids get ice cream cones at Big Olaf’s and window shop through town. The younger crowd drinks martinis or rum drinks and slurps raw oysters at S.K.O.B. (Siesta Key Oyster Bar).
What else is there to do? On Sunday evenings before sunset, head to Siesta Beach for the drum circle. This hippie happening welcomes everyone, from old to young.
(A Siesta Beach sunset, photo by Roger Wollstadt, Flickr)
Another Sunday activity, from 9 to 2pm, is the farmer’s market in the village, where vendors sell organic produce, hand made soaps, and other goodies. Or drop by Davidson Drugs, an old timey pharmacy and store that sells everything from beach towels and children’s toys to wine and chocolates. There’s even a tiny post office tucked in the back!
If you head down to mid-island, by the Stickney Point Bridge, you'll find more restaurants, like at the casual seafood spot Captain Curt's, and the Crescent Beach Grocery Store, where they sell all the provisions needs for a fantastic beach picnic. Rent a kayak from Adventure Kayak Outfitters to paddle through Little Sarasota Bay and the Jim Neville Marine Preserve, with dolphins, manatees, and seabirds making regular appearances. Or further south, to quiet Turtle Beach. One secret? There is a waterfront campsite at Turtle Beach – one of the Sunshine State’s great bargains. We also sometimes stop by Turtle’s Restaurant on the marina for Sunday brunch.
Although Siesta Key hosts many travelers throughout the year, the island itself does not feel overly developed. There are some modestly sized condo buildings, small motels, and many one and two story houses for rent. Do you like to retreat to an island where the pace of life is calm, even slow? Where nature shows off, from sunrise to sunset?
If this sounds like your "kind of thing," then Siesta Key may just be your own perfect Island Runaway!