Holle Abee and her family love going on beach vacations in Florida.
Longboat Key: The Perfect Beach Vacation
My family members and I are all lovers of the beach. As often as we can, we enjoy wonderful beach vacations. Over the years, we’ve searched high and low for the perfect beach, and our travels have taken us to the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and all over Florida. In fact, my hubby and I have even checked out a few beaches on islands in the Bahamas.
What were we looking for, exactly? We wanted a beach that would suit all of us—one with that perfect combination of sand, surf, weather, restaurants, available activities, and friendly natives. In 2017, we finally found our saltwater nirvana (conveniently located only five hours away from our hometown): Longboat Key, Florida!
Longboat Key: A Secret Paradise
You’ve never heard of Longboat Key? I’m not surprised. I think the Longboat Key fans want to keep this paradise a secret. You see, the pristine, uncrowded atmosphere is a big part of the island’s charm. The only time we've ever seen it crowded was on July 4th. This small isle is located in southwest Florida, south of Tampa. It’s just off the coast of Sarasota, and obviously, it’s surrounded by water. At the north end is Longboat Pass, on the east is Sarasota Bay, at the south end is New Pass, and on the west lies the glorious Gulf of Mexico. Since the island is narrow, you can stay in a house on the bay and simply walk across the street to the Gulf beach.
The sand at Longboat is soft and warm. It’s also wide even at high tide, so you never have to worry about not having enough room to spread out all your beach gear. At the edge of the sand are palm trees and flowering shrubs.
Now for the best part: this place is beautiful! The water is the prettiest I’ve ever seen. It’s literally as clear as tap water. The colors are amazing, too. In the shallows are pale shades of glowing emerald, and where the water is deeper, it ranges from teal green to deep turquoise. Also, we’ve never seen any floating bits of grass or seaweed in the water at Longboat Key. In fact, we rarely even see any fish, crabs, or other critters in the Gulf waters at the island beaches.
I have ten grandchildren, and at least some of them usually go on vacation with us. Some of the grands are small, so a child-safe beach is important to us. Longboat Key fits that bill, as well. There’s barely any surf, and really no undertow to speak of. The water gets deeper gradually. We’ve never found any steep drop-offs or holes. Even the toddlers can play safely in the water without having to battle waves or strong undertow.
Things to Do on Longboat Key
Longboat Key is super laid back, without chain restaurants or shopping malls. There are still plenty of things to do, however. Believe me, once you experience this beach, you’ll want to plant yourself on it and never leave! You’ll spend a lot of time swimming, sunning, boogie boarding, searching for seashells, building sandcastles, and just relaxing. Rent a boat and do some island hopping on your own. Cross the northern bridge to Anna Maria Island, and you'll find more to do. There, you can go horseback riding on the beach, take an eco-tour, see the island aboard a Segway, rent a paddle board, or go parasailing.
Sooner or later, of course, you’ll have to eat. You’ll find some wonderful restaurants right on the island. Fresh seafood is the star of the restaurant scene, including popular dishes like shrimp, crab, local fish, scallops, lobster, octopus, and conch. You’ll also find eateries that serve steaks, burgers, sandwiches, Italian food, French cuisine, and Southern food. If you want a larger repertoire of eateries, all you have to do is cross the bridge to Sarasota.
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We’re a family of anglers, so we do a lot of saltwater fishing while we’re on Longboat Key. All in all, it’s our favorite place to fish. The bay, the passes, and the canals are loaded with snook, redfish, trout, black drum, grouper, mangrove snapper, flounder, sheepshead, sharks, pompano, and sand trout. Blue crabs and stone crabs are easy to catch in the bay, and if you can toss a cast net, you’ll catch your fill of huge mullet. Nothing beats a super fresh seafood dinner you caught yourself!
Like I said, you won’t find any shopping malls here, but you will find a few charming shops with unique items. There’s also a great Publix grocery store, so you don’t have to leave the island to buy necessities. For a wonderful shopping adventure, however, famous St. Armand's Circle is just a few short miles away.
The Best of Both Worlds
With a Longboat Key vacation, you get the best of both worlds. Kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet of the island, while soaking in the charm and nature's beauty. For more excitement and entertainment, simply cross the bridge into Sarasota, a bustling city that offers practically anything you want: opera, live theater, symphony, museums, botanical gardens, circuses, an aquarium, historic sites, a planetarium, amazing restaurants, and world-class shopping.
Longboat Key is a great place to call your temporary home while you enjoy more of Florida, too. A short drive will take you to Disney World, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Legoland, Universal Studios, and more. Once you've had a hectic day at a theme park, you'll be more than ready to chill on Longboat Key!
Why Longboat Key Is America's Best Beach
Yes, I proclaim Longboat Key to be the best beach in the U.S. Why? Because it has everything we want in the way of a beach vacation. There are several different types of vacation rentals with a wide range of prices. The island is uncrowded, and the sand and water are both beautiful and unspoiled. The vibe is laid back and friendly, and the pace is slow and serene. We enjoy seeing all the birds, fish, and marine mammals, too, along with the abundant vegetation.
Also, should we get the urge to visit a much larger city, Sarasota is just minutes away. Longboat Key is a very safe place, which gives us a good feeling about our family beach vacations. This place really is “old Florida,” in every sense. Book a trip and see for yourself!
© 2018 Holle Abee