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LONGBOAT KEY VACATIONS
off the coast of Sarasota in SW Florida
The Visitor Information & vacation Travel Guide to World Famous Longboat Key Florida
Visit Longboat Key ...and the neighboring St Armands Circle Shops
on Florida's Sun Coast on the Gulf of Mexico with its Beautiful Beaches,
Challenging Golf Courses, Warm Breezes and Spectacular
Check AJ's Blog for latest happenings & special deals!
Longboat Key is a vacation Eden just minutes from
the shores of Bradenton/ Sarasota and 60 miles south of Tampa. Home to some of the states finest five-star
restaurants and not to mention twelve miles of gleaming white beaches, Longboat Key has an unmistakable air of
As a matter of fact, most beaches and shoreline are enjoyed only by residents and visitors staying in the many
upscale condominiums, homes and resorts. In other words, public beach access is limited.
That’s probably why Conde Nast ranked Longboat Key # 2 in their 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards.
Bridged to the north at Anna Maria Island and south at Lido Key, there are no billboards, neon signs or malls, just
homes, condominiums and resorts with outstanding Zagat Rated restaurants.
If interested in a fun day of exploration, try the Longboat Key
trolley with three pick-up locations; the Hilton Hotel, Bay Isles Road (near the Longboat Key Town
Hall) and at Harborside Drive.
Arriving every 20-30 minutes, the cost is a mere 75 cents to any designated stop. The trolley services Mote Marine
Laboratory, St. Armands Circle and terminates one block from Sarasota’s downtown Main Street.
The trolley also travels north to
Anna Maria Island from
Coquina Beach to the north end at Anna Maria City Pier.
If debarking at
Holmes Beach, the widest point on Anna Maria, the trolley service operates Northbound on Marina Drive and Southbound on Gulf Drive. So, it’s possible you’ll have to walk a block or two to pick up a ride heading the opposite way.
Imagine not straining to hear that robotic voice on your GPS, parking hassles or feeding a hungry meter; just hop
aboard an air cooled trolley for plenty of sightseeing adventure! Hours of operation have changed to the following:
Trolley Service is from 5:30 am to 8:00 pm
At the northern tip of the island is a picturesque spit of sand called
Beer Can Island where boaters pull-up for an afternoon of enjoyment and where walkers, at low tide, have been
known to access the island from nearby
A public beach offering shaded parking is Whitney Beach. Featuring a wide long stretch of sand for sunbathing,
walking and shelling, this is where sand dollars are plentiful at low tide.
Beyond Whitney Beach, most of the shore is restricted to residents and guests, although some
access points are available along Gulf Drive. Parking is very limited and some locations offer wheel chair
access with shaded picnic tables.
For the serious beachcomber, the most important thing about shelling is to know the tides. Charts are featured in most local newspapers, as the best shells are found just before low tide. Another opportune time is after a storm – advancing cold fronts tend to push water away from the beach and tropical storms can churn up the tides bringing shells ashore like Left Handed Whelks, Augers and Coquina shells.
A word of caution!
While many may be drawn to a live shell... that is a shell with a living animal...our Florida state laws are strictly enforced. Please, do not take living shell dwellers… and that includes sand dollars!
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring a few home...
Living sand dollars possess a gray to brown colored shell covered by a skin of velvet-textured spines... while
sand dollars that are bleached white have lost their living organism to a tiger fish and are perfectly legal to
Once gathered, you may want to identify your shells. Yes... Who was in that little house? The Bailey-Matthews Shell
Museum has a wonderful online shell guide that will help identify the various pieces in your collection. To browse
shells found in South West Florida Click:
About our Loggerhead Turtle Nests
You may notice here and there on the beach four stakes in the sand with bright orange tape.
Florida accounts for more than 90 percent of loggerhead nests in the U.S. and generally speaking, sea turtles begin
their trek to shore around March with peak activity from May through August. Females are known to nest up to seven
times within a season laying clutches of 100-125 eggs. OUCH!
Meanwhile, with help from 300 volunteers, the Mote Marine Turtle Patrol mark and document the nest locations found
during nesting season.
Nesting occurs mainly at night where the eggs are left to incubate for approximately 45 to 60 days. Hatchlings emerge
generally at night and head to the ocean for 20 to 30 years before reaching full size and sexual maturity.
While males never return to land, females actually come back to the same beach and generally nest within feet of
their own place of birth. About 80 percent of the world’s population is believed to nest in Florida or Oman on the
Our nest numbers have dwindled over the years placing the Loggerhead on the list of threatened species.
Please join us in keeping our beaches "Turtle Friendly".
• If you encounter a nesting turtle, remain quiet and observe from a distance.
• Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
• Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water.
• Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
• Place trash in its proper place.
• Do not approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
• Do not use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
• Do not encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the
Jet Skis, Parasailing & Kayaking
With wind in your hair and a splash of salt water, you’ll probably want to cruise Sarasota Bay or venture out in the
Gulf on a jet-ski rental. They can be found on Anna Maria Island at Bradenton Beach Marina or Enticer Watersports at
the Sarasota Bayfront Plaza. Opportunities for parasailing and small boat rentals are also available.
Summer is best for jet skis but, there is one note of caution...
We have lumbering “sea cows” or manatees in these here waters!
A large aquatic relative of the elephant, the manatee is Florida’s state marine mammal. They are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin. Their front flippers help them steer or sometimes crawl while their powerful flat tails help propel them through water.
Like all mammals, manatees breathe air...
So, it’s necessary for them to rise to the surface and take a breath. While resting this happens every 20 minutes, but when actively moving… it’s more like 3 to 5 minutes.
Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees are known to venture out with their calves around Sarasota Bay, Bean Point and Bimini Bay. On average Manatees can weigh as much as 1200 lb (410-545 kg).
You do not want to collide with one of these giants!
So, Caution is necessary when approaching shallow areas... especially around sea grass... their favorite munchie
Speaking of munchie food, if jet skiing on Bimini Bay, there’s easy docking with outdoor dining at
Rotten Ralph’s in the Gallati Marina.
Of all marine mammals, manatees are the only herbivores. Just to keep their big bodies warm, they need to eat one
tenth of their body weight every day.
For the typical manatee that means more than 100 pounds of water plants! As a
matter of fact, that’s equal to more than 200 heads of lettuce!
If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with our manatees or "sea cows"
kayaks are best and it’s recommended you go with a
guide who knows the area and can navigate the waters safely.
Whether it's clear saltwater bayous and bays, or a flowing, freshwater river tour, there’s no better way to observe
nature than by kayak.
You’ll love the hidden lagoons, beaches and hiking trails of
Jim Neville Marine Preserve
These islands in Little Sarasota Bay are accessible only by water. This 35-acre preserve provides for excellent bird
watching while exploring a maze of waterways. The rookeries, (baby nurseries), are home to roseate spoonbill, great
blue heron, great egret, brown pelican, osprey and many other birds. The surrounding grassy sea beds are home to many
marine animals... including the manatees. With a low elevation, the islands are a wet hike during high tide, but the
variety of coastal birds, plants and wildlife make a visit well worth it!
There are numerous natural aquatic habitats offering unique personalities, natural beauty and a profusion of
So, if you’re looking for a great workout ... or want to drift with the current, you’ll certainly enjoy kayaking on
your Longboat Key vacation.
For more eco-friendly activities please refer to our
vacation planner for details.
Golf and Tennis
With year round temperatures averaging 75 degrees, this island paradise is very conducive for just about anything.
Golf enthusiasts will find first-class facilities both on and off island. The
Longboat Key Tennis Center features ten manicured clay courts while the Longboat Key Club offers two award
winning golf courses featured in Golf Digest as being among the "Best Places to Play".
Off island, there are 60 additional
Courses and numerous tennis courts, including Leddbetter/ Bollitierri’s "IMG Sports Facility".
You may want to take a weekend's worth of lessons, one week, multiple weeks, or an entire summer of athletic
advancement... with some of the industry’s top coaches and trainers.
Notables who’ve honed their skills with IMG now declare this area home. Tennis stars Martina Navratilova, Maria
Sharapova and Monica Seles as well as golfing greats Paul Azinger and Tony Jacklin.
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Baseball enjoys a rich tradition from February through March at Ed Smith Stadium and McKechnie
Field where the
Baltimore Orioles and
Pittsburgh Pirates conduct spring trainings.
And, for summer pro ball, cross the Skyway Bridge to St. Pete where the
Tampa Bay Ray’s play in an indoor climate controlled stadium.
If coming in July, the Gulf of Mexico explodes with rooster tail plumes featuring the Sun Coast Off shore Grand Prix
Races. This nationally sanctioned American Power Boat Race is the highlight of a 10 day, Fourth of July festival.
Families will surely enjoy "Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium", located at the south end of Longboat Key.
Featuring sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and 100 other species of marine life, staff members are there to
educate and answer your every question. It’s good to plan for a Monday, Wednesday or Friday as those are shark
feeding days... and every day you can slip your hand in a touch tank and pet a sea cucumber or baby ray.
From there, get on the water with the
Sarasota Bay Explorers for a true interactive marine science expedition. Offering sea life encounter cruises,
guided kayak tours and a nature safari, the staff is friendly and informative on the history and wild life of the
bay. The nature safari is (hands on find, your own creatures) while the sea life encounter is for those less
interested in holding a slimy creature. The biologist led experience provides interesting information and a cruise
on the bay is a spectacular way to spend an afternoon.
Across from Mote Marine is "
Save Our Birds ", where recovering shorebirds are up-close and personal. Travel the boardwalks on two waterfront acres and see “endangered” brown pelicans with their famous throat pouches. Unlike most birds, which warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs under the webs that stretch from the front toes to the hind toe and essentially stand on the eggs to warm them. This peculiar incubation method has made them vulnerable to the effects of DDT which made the eggshells thin and parents frequently cracked their own eggs.
I’ve been on a roll with marine and bird life and I’ve only scratched the surface of what awaits you! For more
things to see and do check-out our
Vacation Planner for more age appropriate activities.
We have Peacocks
Head to Broadway Street at the north end of the island and park your car at Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant for a
pleasant stroll through the neighborhoods. You’re bound to see a bunch of show offs strutting their stuff... even in
the middle of the road.
Surprisingly, sixty percent of the male’s body is all tail feathers and during courtship he'll flaunt his plumage to
attract many a girl. Females are believed to choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of the
Suitable males gather harems of females where each will lay three to five eggs. In fact, they often roost in forest
trees and gather in groups called "parties".
Unfortunately, these parties tend to get very vocal and have been known to offend some of our human residents.
After scanning for peacocks, step into
Moore’s for a cool drink and a bountiful plate of Florida Stone Crab. Family owned and operated Moore’s has its
own fishermen harvesting the largest claws. Each crab is then tossed back in the ocean to regenerate a new claw that
takes only a year to grow back to normal size.
Served with cocktail or mustard sauce, they’re sweet, succulent and similar to lobster.
You’ve never heard of this? Believe it or not, "Horse Surfing" was invented right near Longboat Key in
Bradenton, Florida! The smooth sandy shore and calm waters of Palma Sola Bay are perfect for a guide-led refreshing
dip while you... swim...ski...and surf, all on the back of a well trained animal! Recommended for any age with swim
suits, shorts and tees as there are no saddles and you "will" get wet!
If art is your passion, the "Ringling Museum" houses fine baroque period paintings including the oversized works of Rubens and many sculptures
from John and Mable Ringling’s collection. Stroll the bay-front grounds and tour the rose gardens then step inside
Ringling’s home, the Ca d’Zan, "the last of America’s Gilded Age mansions". Constructed in 1924-1925, at a cost of
$1.5 million this "home" is 36,000 square feet with 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms.
See memorabilia and artifacts at the nearby circus museum where visitors of all ages can experience the magic of the
center ring. For unusual and surreal, there’s always Saint Petersburg’s
Dali Museum with a building to match the artist’s quirky ways The architectural design includes a free-standing
spiral staircase and gleaming Glass Enigma with spectacular views of St. Petersburg’s waterfront.
Also in St. Pete is the
Morean Arts Center with a fine collection of Dale Chihuly as well as a working hot shop where the art of glass
blowing is demonstrated.
Other artists include Jasper Johns, Duncan McClellan, Allison Massari, Peter Max, Babs Reingold, Jun Kaneko and more.
Downtown Sarasota and the city of Bradenton house two large artist communities called
Towles Court and the
Village of the Arts. Both feature a colorful collection of "Old Florida" bungalows housing galleries,
studios and cafes. In neighborly fashion, these artists live, work and feed off the enthusiasm of their counterparts,
while in pursuit of their own unique expression.
Towles Court features an art walk on the third Friday of every month while the first Friday and Saturday of each
month is assigned to the Village of the Arts. Check their sites for evening studio tours.
Oh... I did get carried away with the art category... Yet, we don’t want you to miss a thing!
Take a look at more offerings in the
Sarasota’s downtown is just minutes away offering a vast array of arts and cultural attractions.
The acclaimed "Sarasota Ballet" features a repertoire of classical and modern dance throughout the year
while the "Asolo Theatre" is home to a leading regional theatrical company with performances November
Within walking distance is the "John and Mable Ringling Museum" where an
International Arts Festival is held every fall. This six-day cultural celebration of music, dance, theater and
visual arts is presented in collaboration with New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center.
Meanwhile, Sarasota’s "Film Festival", "Van Wezel" and "St. Petersburg Times Forum"
attract top rated actors, concerts and international acts.
Shopping is a world-class experience at "St. Armands Circle" with over 100 distinctive shops, boutiques,
galleries and sidewalk eateries while Sarasota’s "Southgate Mall" features Saks, Macy’s and Dillards.
International Mall is only 40 minutes away where Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom’s hold anchor with Louis Vuitton,
Tiffany’s and over 200 other shops and restaurants housed under one roof!!!
Who wouldn’t fall in love with Longboat’s exquisite lifestyle. So, while you’re shopping, take a look at some of our
Real Estate opportunities.
Every day closes with a profusion of pastels lighting the sky; when folks head out for a
gourmet delight and where
evenings come to life with an assortment of musical vibes.
Welcome to Longboat Key, a first-class setting of soul-soothing beauty.
We look forward to assisting you with
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