Bring at least a 3/2 wetsuit in February... better yet, go from June - September when the waters are warmer.
Offshore about 100 yards from Bradenton Beach is a 90 foot sunken freighter called SS Regina. It was a molassas hauler that sank in 1940. Regina is protected by Florida laws forbidding unauthorized disturbance, excavation, or removal of artifacts. Remember to display a "diver down" flag.
Crane Barge Sarasota
Sugar Barge Bradenton
Whitney Beach A handful of public accesses on the north end of Longboat Key. Secluded and quiet with blindingly white sand. Very limited parking and no amenities.
Lido Beach 400 Ben Franklin Drive, just off St. Armands Circle. Where many locals go to flee from seasonal crowds. The concession is home to one of the best hamburgers in town and, best of all, serves beer. Lifeguards, beach wheelchairs, gift shop, playground, cabana rentals.
North Lido Beach At the north end of Lido Key. Surprisingly remote, thanks to a small forest of Australian pines. Great for shelling and strolls, with a nature trail through the trees. If the tide is low, you can walk far enough north to see some of Sarasota’s most spectacular Gulf-front homes.
South Lido Beach 2201 Ben Franklin Drive. Big with boaters and personal watercraft enthusiasts (both of whom must stay out of designated swimming areas, of course). The shady picnic area hosts many a gathering throughout the year. Playground, volleyball court, fitness trail, grills and fishing. Lifeguards are only present on weekends from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Beware the dangerous currents and don’t feed the raccoons!
Bird Key Park 200 John Ringling Blvd. Not technically a beach for swimmers, it is one of the few places where dogs can splash to their hearts’ content. Also a lunchtime favorite for downtown workers, and on weekends the spot comes alive with windsurfers, kayakers and fishermen.
Siesta Key Public Beach Midnight Pass Road. The area’s most popular beach. Siesta’s 800 parking spaces fill up quickly during seasonal months, but the internationally renowned quartz sand is well worth rising early to find a spot. If the lot is full, try one of the 13 beach accesses located between the beach and Siesta Village. The main site offers beach wheelchairs, lifeguards, grills, playground, volleyball and tennis courts, gift shop, fitness trail, ball field and occasional live music.
Turtle Beach South end of Siesta Key. Narrow beach that becomes narrower at high tide. Two boat ramps provide access to Little Sarasota Bay. Two horseshoe courts, playground, volleyball court and dune walkovers; no lifeguards.
Palmer Point Beach 9399 Midnight Pass Road; south end of Siesta and north end of Casey Key. Popular with boaters; very secluded. No lifeguards or amenities.
Nokomis Beach 901 Casey Key Road. Sarasota’s oldest public beach; boat ramps and a boardwalk.
North Jetty Park On the southern tip of Casey Key, adjacent to Nokomis Beach. Popular picnicking area. The jetty juts out into the Gulf for some of the finest fishing around and lots of dolphin activity, and the surfing draws people from across the state. Concession sells beer. Bait shop, boat ramp, horseshoe and volleyball courts.
Venice Beach 101 The Esplanade. Famous for its petrified sharks’ teeth; also popular for scuba diving and snorkeling along its coral reef. Near the shops and restaurants of downtown Venice. Concessions, showers, beach wheelchairs and volleyball courts.
Brohard Dog Beach and Paw Park 1600 Harbor Drive S. The area’s only beach where dogs can roam free of leashes. Watering hole, “penalty box” for frisky critters and a waste-disposal area. Home to Sharky’s Restaurant, the City of Venice municipal pier, and a wetland area ideal for fishing and bird watching. Snack bar and bait shop.
Caspersen Beach 4100 Harbor Drive S., south of Venice Airport. The southern two-thirds of the beachfront have been left in a natural state. Excellent shelling, boardwalk, nature trail, fishing pier. Picnic area and restrooms; no lifeguards.
Service Club Park 1190 Harbor Drive S. Boardwalks, fishing, playground and restrooms; no lifeguards.
Blind Pass Beach 6725 Manasota Key Road. Canoe launch, fishing, nature trail and restrooms; no lifeguards.
Manasota Beach At the west end of the Manasota Bridge. Scenic boardwalk on the Intracoastal that winds through the mangroves, two boat ramps, docks, volleyball court and fishing.
Gasparilla Island South of Englewood and across the bridge to Boca Grande. Includes the following beaches: Range Light, Sea Grape, Sea Wall, Dune and Light House. Gift shop at Light House Beach. Excellent fishing; one of the state’s top locations for tarpon.