With summer around the corner and schools near the end of their terms, many people are beginning to ask themselves "what are we going to do for summer?" As the final day of school or work draws to a close, people become more frantic and desperate to find a well-priced vacation spot to take their families, friends or loved ones. To everyone out there who stresses about where to go, know this: look no further! One of the best vacation spots on the East Coast, or possibly in the contiguous United States is a small island off the coast of Tampa, Florida called Siesta Key.
Siesta Key is a small barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico just about 40 to 50 miles southwest of the city of Tampa. Although the island itself is not a commonly known vacation spot, the residents and previous visitors love the laid-back and relaxed lifestyle the key embraces. In fact, Siesta Key has the whitest and purest quartz sand in the world, not to mention some of the clearest water off of Florida's Gulf coast. With such pure sand and clear water, you can't go wrong with spending a day or more on the beach.
However, vacationing in Siesta Key doesn't completely revolve around its beaches. There are tens of boat, Jet Ski and kayak rental shops dotting the shorelines. Places like C B's Outfitters and Siesta Key Marina located off of Midnight Pass Road offer some incredible deals on day and half-day rentals, especially during peak summer months. On any of these watercrafts, you can explore the various islands and keys that Siesta Key borders, or even explore in the Gulf of Mexico. If you're into exploration and/or wildlife, Siesta Key has many mangrove forests which can be explored on kayak or small watercraft. These forests are home to many native birds, reptiles, and mammals which are both friendly and interesting to observe. If you love adventure, the mangrove forests have many passages which lead into alcoves and can take you on an exploratory mission of the forests. Speaking of wildlife, both manatees and dolphins make the waters around Siesta Key their homes and can be seen constantly off the shore or off a watercraft. Some dolphins and manatees even come right up to the boat to see and welcome you to their home. If you're a fisher, there are many great spots off the key to catch many great types of fish, some native to only Siesta Key. If you're a diver, again there are numerous sites in the Intercoastal Gulf or the Gulf itself to explore shipwrecks or other natural wonders below the shimmering blue water.
But if you're more of a land person, don't worry. Siesta Key's Main Street is densely populated with shops like the Beach Bazaar, and many restaurants, bars, grills and more. If you want to try some native food, a restaurant called The Hub Baja Grill is the place for you, serving Siesta Key's staple: grilled plantains and beans. If you love to party or just relax, live music at the Hub and other restaurants is common, as well as steel drummers around the beach in the afternoon and evening. Siesta Key may be small, but it can take over a week to see all that it has to offer.
If you want to spend a day or two off of the key, the cities of Sarasota and Tampa are not far away. Tampa is native to their major league baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays, which play many home games during the summer. Their stadium is filled with activities for kids and young adults, as well as adults too. However, Tampa has much more to offer than just baseball, like Tampa Bay and many great restaurants and other activities for people of all ages. As for Sarasota, its home to many shops and outlets for shopping, as well as multiple public and private golf courses, both executive and full-length for a golfer of any level. In addition, many historical sites like Spanish Point can be visited by any lover of history or culture. Tamiami Trail, the main highway through Sarasota, is loaded with stores, restaurants and more. Stores like Floribbean Flo's offer delicious pastries and desserts, while other shops like Pelican Plaza Optical can service all needs for sunglasses and other eyewear.
After a day of shopping, beach or other excursions, you're probably going to want to find a place to sleep and gear up for another exciting day. Siesta Key has many hotels, bungalows, beach houses and other rental sites like Coconut Grove or houses like 5115 Oxford Drive. Almost every single rental or hotel opportunity has beach access and is located off of the main roads of the key: Treasure Boat, Oxford Drive, or Midnight Pass. Everything on the key is within very easy walking distance, almost eliminating the need for a car if you don't leave the key. The majority of the key can be explored on boat, bicycle, foot, or even a segway, which can easily be rented.
During some summer months, the key hosts a festival known as the Siesta Fiesta, which is a gathering of many restaurants or jewelry, clothing and apparel stores, and the occasional artist and sculptor. These people accumulate and open stands along a stretch of Midnight Pass, with constant live music and bargaining for great items and foods. Many vendors are generous and can give a great deal on their items, but only if you bargain for one!
As a native to Siesta Key, I strongly encourage anyone to come on down and visit such a unique and incredible place. I've spent years there myself and still have not come close to doing everything that the key has to offer. I guarantee that if you spend a day, a week, or even more time than that here, you will never run out of opportunities and activities that you or your whole family can enjoy.