There’s a reason Siesta Key beach was ranked #1 beach in the U.S. and #11 in the world in by 2020 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice™ awards. We love it here and my husband actually grew up on the key! You can’t find a beach, sunset or the very lively village anywhere else. We’ll share with you our tips and recommendations on things to do in Siesta Key, where to stay, and where to eat!
This round-up of the best things to do in Siesta Key Beach contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you!
Where is Siesta Key?
Siesta Key is a complete slice of paradise just a short drive from Sarasota. This 8 mile-long white sand island is on the Gulf of Mexico. Siesta Key is actually not part of the Florida Keys which most people assume. We’re lucky its only a 3 hour drive and visit as much as we can.
Things to Do in Siesta Key
1. Siesta Key Beach
This is why you come! You won’t find sand like this anywhere else. There a a few main beaches on the key but Siesta Key Beach is most popular. It has life guards, a large parking lot, concessions stands and volleyball courts. This is also where the big firework show happens on the 4th of July.
2. Kayak the Mangrove Tunnel
If you like kayaking, check out the Gulf Coast mangrove kayak tour on little Sarasota bay. This guided kayak tour, you’ll have a high chance of seeing a manatee, dolphin, stingrays and many birds.
3. Moat Marine Aquarium
Sarasota’s Moat Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a great day trip to see manatees, sharks, sea turtles and otters. Lots of touch pools, including sting rays and small sharks. It’s only a 25 minute drive from the key and worth it. Especially with kids!
4. Turtle Beach
Turtle beach is another quiet escape on the south end of the key. It’s a great location for shelling and calmest in the morning. It’s also a perfect spot to kayak and paddle-board. Turtle Beach has a campground and is one of the few places on the island where you can safely and legally set up camp and sleep under the stars.
5. Sarasota Food Tour
Explore Sarasota’s Downtown food scene with a guided tour! A 3.5-hour walking tour with 5 stops and 8-10 diverse menu items creating an amazing night of good food, drinks, and local history.
6. Siesta Key Sunsets
Our favorite thing to do in Siesta Key is see the sunsets. West coast of Florida has the best sunsets. Anywhere on the beach you’ll be able to see the sunset however the best location is Sunset Point at Beach Access 2. Every evening there’s a flag ceremony too. After dinner we like to grab our beach chairs and a bottle of wine and head back to the beach to watch the sky glow. Its magical.
Check out the Siesta Key Electric Bike Sunset Tour
7. Siesta Key Trolley
Is the Siesta Key Trolley free? Yes! There’s actually multiple free options to get around the key – The Siesta Key Breeze Trolley, Johnny’s Original Free Ride, Siesta Key Frog Hop, and Siesta Key Free Ride. The trolley is our kids kids favorite. With these free options you won’t have to worry about driving, parking, or getting to your spot!
8. Drum Circle
Every Sunday at sunset people gather to jam on the beach as the sky turns hues of pink and orange. Join the fun or enjoy ultimate people watching – dancing, drumming, living life. The Siesta Key drum circle has being happening for 20 years.
9. Beach Activities
Snorkeling, skim boarding, wake boarding, paddling boarding, even sand-castling! We spend most of our time at the beach and that’s because the activities are endless. Our kids could spend hours digging with a shovel and net finding shells and sand crabs. Bring the beach gear, its worth it!
Our Beach Essentials 2023
Our list of favorite beach day essentials when hitting the beach especially with kids.
9. Water Activities
Siesta Key is a perfect spot for boating, fishing, and jet skiing. You can rent boats for half or full days. There are sandbars nearby where you can anchor up and float or choose to watch the Sunset in the gulf. Parasailing is also a fun option.
10. Meaney’s Mini Donuts
This tiny donut stand is in the middle of the village in front Morton’s grocery store. The line that forms out front is worth the wait! Fresh fried sugary mini donuts made to order. Grab a box of fresh sugar bombs and an iced coffee, your day is made!
11. Siesta Key Big Pass Sandbar
Big Pass sand bars is one of the most popular places for boaters. It’s only accessible by water, located north of Siesta Key and just south of Lido Key. You can find great shells and live sand dollars.
12. Beer Can Island
An Instagram-favorite, on the north end of Longboat Key is picturesque with white sand beaches and fallen trees. You can get to this secluded island by boat or a 40 minute drive from Siesta key. It’s also known by Greer Island.
13. Siesta Key Oyster Bar
Siesta Key Oyster Bar also known as SKOB by the locals. I can’t count how many times we’ve been here. Causal beachy spot with great vibes. Their known for their seafood, cold drinks & live music. Bring dollar bills to decorate and staple to the walls. The interior is basically wallpapered with visitors dollar bills. Kids love it.
14. Look For Sea Life
There are so much wildlife in to see. We’ve been lucky enough to swim with Manatees twice. We’ve caught crabs, seen fish & sting rays. Even saw a baby shark over a sand bar. Your likely to see dolphins as well, usually early AM or evening or boating.
15. Big Olaf Ice Cream
After dinner, Big Olaf homemade ice cream is a must. It’s been on the key since 1982. The ice cream is made at a local creamery near Sarasota’s Amish village. The line can get long but it’s worth it! My husband has been going here since he was a little kid growing up on the key!
16. St. Armand’s Circle
Just a short drive off the key, St. Armand’s Circle is a fantastic place to shop and dine. There’s over 130 shops in the circular outdoor plaza and great restaurants. We love to eat at Columbia, get the famous “1905” salad.
17. Crescent Beach
Crescent Beach is more private and low key than Siesta Key Beach. Still boasts the beautiful white sand and turquoise waters just a lot less crowded. Its just south of the public beach and only has 2 public access points and a small parking lot.
18. Downtown Sarasota
Only 15 minute drive from Siesta key, downtown Sarasota sits right on Sarasota Bay. Beautiful views with more places to shop and dine. Right at the bay there’s a park with a splash pad for the kids. For those looking for more price conscious options to stay near the key this is your spot.
19. Dinner at The Cottage
The Cottage focus’ on seasonal and local ingredients. Get the Wonton Tuna Tacos & the bronzed black grouper. They have a great outdoor space with live music. Reservations are required. After dinner & drinks we recommend the short walk back to the beach to catch the sunset.
20. Daiquiri Deck
With over a dozen different frozen daiquiri options, the Daiquiri Deck is the place to cool off with a frozen cocktail. Every weekend this restaurant and bar has live music and it’s open until midnight. There are 2 spots on the key, one is right in the village and the other is on the south end of the key by the bridge. Come during happy hour for 1/2 price drinks!
21. Point of Rocks Snorkeling
Point of Rocks is where to snorkel in Siesta Key. It’s on the south end of crescent beach. Here you can see snook, crabs, and coral. Keep your eyes out above water too for dolphins and manatees. Tip: with limited parking so get there early or Uber.
22. Shopping in the Village
The Village is in the heart of the key and has a wide array of shops and restaurants -something to fit all needs. For chic bohemian clothes checkout Island Trader Boutique. The Sea Shanty which is right next to Morton’s grocery store has a little bit of everything – from jewelry, sunglasses and seashells. Make sure you stop off at the Beach Bazaar for silly souvenirs, beach wear, and kid toys. Every Sunday from 8am-noon is the Siesta Key Farmers market with over 20 local vendors.
Where to stay
The prime locations are on the beach and close to the village – see our map! The Village is where a lot of the restaurants and nightlife is. Over the years we’ve stayed at a whole array of places! Some make me laugh just writing this. It’s full of rentals. You won’t find a large resort here and that adds to the character of the island. We almost always find a rental on Airbnb or VRBO. However, a lot of rental properties also have their own sites too. You can find a small one bedroom on the beach to a 4 story condo with a pool a rooftop patio. Its also the perfect vacation to do multiple family trips as there are places for large groups.
- How large is Siesta Key Island? It’s an 8 mile long barrier island just off the Sarasota on the gulf of Mexico.
- What is the best time to visit Siesta Key? March – June are ideal. Before Hurricane season and temperatures are great. You can go year round. Being Floridians, we tend to like the warmer waters so August water temperatures are at the highest 86 degrees.
- Is Siesta Key worth visiting? If you love the beach, beautiful sunsets and many amazing food and drink options, yes it’s worth visiting! Its a great spot for everyone, especially families.
- What is Siesta Key known for? It’s award winning white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and colorful sunsets. It’s so beautiful, MTV even made a show about it.