If you’re cold, it’s time to be thinking about Florida. Old Florida is a strip of Gulf coast which has not been glamorized, so the real feel of old beach towns can still be savored. Longboat Key and the neighboring strip of Florida’s Gulf coast do not deserve to be forgotten, but that’s a recognized label. Somewhat of a secret, yet visitors do find this slice of sunshine and keep it alive. Siesta Key, Anna Maria and Bradenton are small neighboring towns, and all are near enough to Sarasota to be accessible by air and an easy drive.
Beautiful quiet beach and equally beautiful food are among my top criteria for loving a beach vacation, and this forgotten coast does not disappoint! Sunsets, bird watching, easy of access and relaxation define the beaches. Low key is the true key to enjoying this destination, with Boomers and retiree Snowbirds frequenting it for their escape from cold climates.
Seafood is always my dining choice during a beach vacation, and the variety of fresh offers in a dozen or two little eateries is exactly what I crave. In Longboat, the Lazy Lobster is possibly every visitor’s favorite. Another one of these is in Sarasota. A lobster lover will not be able to bypass the lobster mac and cheese, although it’s not local lobster if anyone really cares, and the fish specials are equally creative and delicious. It’s always busy and the energy of friendly folks having fun contributes to the atmosphere which sets the tone for a nice evening. It’s tucked into a little shopping center across the street from the beach, but I prefer fine food to a view anyway.
Beachhouse on the south end of Anna Maria Island is a good choice for the view, the sunset and a big platter, possibly fried, and the crowd here is always lively. Same owners and good food at Mar Vista Dockside on Longboat Key.
Happy hour couldn’t be happier than at Bridge Tender Inn in Bradenton Beach. It looks like it might be a dive, but the food and drinks are good and the live music a nice treat.
Sunday brunch or dinner is enjoyable at Harry’s, although it’s just a tiny bit pretentious. The restaurant is white tablecloth; the deli is convenient for take-out; the store offers everything else. The hours may vary during the summer slow season.
Sandpiper Inn is one of the small lodging choices on Longboat Key, and after the warm welcome by friendly innkeepers the fabulous beach is its best selling point. It’s quaint and updated from an old motel, with lovely gardens and convenient location. Units are clean and spacious with well-supplied kitchenette if you want to stay in.
The Longboat Key Club is a popular choice for a larger resort-type lodging, although it’s somewhat expensive. None of the lodging here is as new or as upscale as the prices and the (sometimes) elite clientele would suggest. Sand Cay is a nice choice for condo rental, although it also seems somewhat pricey.
Golfing, fishing, more water sports or lazing on the beach with a book are among the top activities here. Eclectic shops, art galleries and local events also are enjoyable. If you want ritzy, glitzy action, just stay in a big city. This is the place to really get away from traffic and craziness.
Here’s a quick look at a few perfect spots on our great trip: