Last Updated on May 3, 2023
For years, I had the pleasure of vacationing on the stunning island of Siesta Key just off the Florida mainland from Sarasota where my family had a vacation home. We have so many fond memories of my parents, brothers, and their families enjoying beach picnics, building sandcastles, swimming and gathering to watch a magnificent West Coast (Florida) sunset – wondering what to do at Siesta Key? All that and more.
Siesta Key is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico known for its white sand beaches, warm, clear waters, and myriad of outdoor activities. This slice of paradise is all about the outdoors; water adventure abounds, but rest assured, beyond the beach, there’s plenty to see and explore.
What to do on Siesta Key
Siesta Key Beaches in Florida
Any consideration of what to do at Siesta Key must start at the beach – the number one draw to the area. Siesta Key is synonymous with its magnificent stretches of sand, including Siesta Beach, which has been named the #1 beach in the U.S. multiple times, including by the renowned expert, Dr. Beach himself.
The beaches of Siesta Key are known for their powdery, white quartz sand, soft underfoot and cool to the touch. There’s no worry about burning the soles of your feet here!
The sand’s texture, made up of 99% pure quartz, gives it a bright, almost glowing appearance in the sunshine. Our favorites aside from Siesta Beach are Crescent Beach, quieter and popular for shelling, and Turtle Beach, distinguished by its incredible natural scenery, mangroves trees and calm waters.
It’s easy to spend a full day lounging on the sand, but if you’re idea of what to do at Siesta Key involves a little more action, water sports like paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing can be enjoyed here as well. Plus, with its southern Florida location along the Gulf, these experiences can be undertaken comfortably year-round.
Snorkeling Siesta Key
If you’re into snorkeling (and Siesta Key waters are ideal for this), Point of Rocks, located on the southern end of Crescent Beach, is a stunning rock formation home to an array of marine life. Morning to early afternoon is the best time to snorkel when water clarity is the best.
The water here is calm and relatively shallow up to 100-yards offshore and this high visibility allows snorkelers to see approximately 20-feet into the deeper waters and up to six-feet away from the rocks.
We’ve seen some amazing sights here –crabs, red sponge, and so many colorful fish. It’s not unusual to see dolphins and manatees in the area as well as sea turtles.
Fishing Siesta Key
With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Sarasota Bay on the other, topping many visitors’ what to do at Siesta Key list is fishing. Offshore and inshore, saltwater and fresh, whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice, you can try your luck at landing snapper, tarpon, and grouper.
My brothers and I (and some of our wives) love to fish, so it was great taking a boat out and bringing back catches that we cooked up for dinner. If you don’t have your own boat, no problem. Siesta Key offers a wide selection of fishing charters and adventures for the novice to the more experienced fisherman.
Siesta Key Kayaking
Siesta Key is home to several parks and nature preserves providing opportunities for hiking, birdwatching and wildlife spotting.
Robinson Nature Preserve is a massive 600 acres of untapped wetlands where visitors can watch leaping fish and see wading birds feed along the marshy shore. It’s an ideal location for eco-travel as kayakers scour waterways, but leave behind no human footprint. Kayak and canoe rentals are available here by reservation only.
An often-overlooked gem is the Neville Wildlife Preserve located in 34 acres of uninhabited lowland. This is where kayakers can truly get off the beaten path. If you’re quiet and focused, paddling your way through the preserve, you’ll spot manatees peacefully floating through the marsh waters.
The park can only be accessed by the water via kayak, canoe or other non-motorized vessel. Though there are no kayak rentals on site, there are many nearby such as Ultimate Kayak or Ride & Paddle.
Myakka River State Park, the largest of Florida’s award-winning state parks, encompasses 37,000 acres. The dense wetland jungle includes intricate trails, navigable waterways and long sandy stretches. While large portions of the park are inaccessible by foot, visitors can still reach the trails through parts of the hammocks and prairies.
Village Siesta Key
Wondering what to do at Siesta Key once the sun goes down? Here you go.
This charming area situated on Ocean Boulevard is considered Siesta Key’s ‘Main Street’ and is lined with hundreds of boutique shops, restaurants, bars and other attractions. This is where you’ll find souvenirs, beachwear, eateries, cafes and ice cream shops.
It’s fun strolling the palm-lined promenade, or visitors can hop on the free Siesta Key Breeze Trolley running every day from 8AM to 10PM. Be sure to pop in to the Siesta Key Visitors Center to pick up area maps and attraction brochures. The friendly staff will also be more than willing to provide helpful information and advice on what to do and see around Siesta Key and Sarasota.
Siesta Key Farmers Market is a weekly Sunday event with a wide selection of fresh produce, seafood, baked goods, and other local products. It’s a great opportunity to sample the flavors of the area and mingle with locals.
The monthly Siesta Key Village Art Walk takes place on the first Friday of every month featuring local artists showcasing their work in the shops and galleries in Siesta Key Village. Visitors can browse the art and meet the artists while enjoying food and drink specials at participating businesses.
Each Sunday evening, locals and visitors gather on the beach to participate in the Siesta Key Drum Circle creating rhythms and dancing together. It’s a unique and vibrant cultural experience open to everyone.
If you’re here in November, the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival features some of the world’s most talented sand sculptors creating incredibly intricate works of art on the beach that are simply amazing. The festival also includes live music, food and drink vendors, and other entertainment.
Siesta Key Village Christmas Open House is an annual event taking place in early December with holiday-themed activities, live music, and special sales at the shops and restaurants in Siesta Key Village. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit while enjoying the fabulous beach town’s festive atmosphere.
An unknown author once said “Paradise is found in moments, not in places.” Siesta Key is definitely its own special paradise and you don’t even need a passport to enjoy it.
Where to Stay on Siesta Key?
TravelbyVacationRental.com’s favorite place to stay on Siesta Key is the Siesta Key Palms Resort which we’ve previously reviewed.