This is my Siesta Key.
Life has this funny way of surprising us with things we never expected. For as long as I can remember I dreamed of visiting Key West, Florida. I obsessed over it. I researched moving there. I watched movies that took place in Key West and saved pictures of that beautiful aqua water. I started a blog and named it "This is my Key West" if that tells you anything about where my heart and mind were.
Funny thing. When I planned my ultimate cross country road trip, OF COURSE Key West was on the map. Not only did I want to check off the southern most tip of the US but I wanted to spend a little time vacationing there. So I chose a hotel right in the middle of the keys and booked and prepaid for the better part of the week there. The whole first half of that cross country trip was full of anticipation, I just wanted to GET THERE. We passed through all of the Florida beaches and destinations on the way hurriedly because I was just ready for my beach vacay.
When I tell people that I did not like the Florida Keys they are totally shocked. Especially after how obsessed I was over that place for so long. If there's anything I learned on that first 10,500 mile cross country road trip it's that you gotta leave your expectations behind - the places you think are going to be the most amazing can sometimes disappoint. And the most incredible places end up being the ones we never expected.
This post isn't meant to be about Key West so I'll get on with it. I do have lots of pictures and stories from my short time in KW (we left three days early and got back on the road because we just weren't having fun there!) What I'm going to talk about today is Siesta Key!
In my researches I kept coming across Siesta Key as the #1 beach in Florida and one of the top beaches in the world. We wanted to stop there on the first trip but just couldn't fit it in because the rush to get to Key West lol. So as trip #2 started to take shape, Siesta Key was the ultimate destination for us. I did more research this time and spent some serious hours pouring over travel guides, blog posts, photos, maps, and everything I could get my hands on. So here is MY guide to Siesta Key, for all those who have asked me to tell them more about this magical little island that has completely stolen my heart.
First of all, to clear up any confusion, Siesta Key is NOT in the Florida Keys. The Keys are at the southernmost point of Florida and Siesta Key is actually near the Panhandle, off the coast of Sarasota. With the photos and stories I have from my stay there this past August I hope to give you a good idea of why I consider Siesta Key to have the feel and perks of Hawaii but with a bridge to the mainland!
The most unique thing about Siesta Key is the sand - the sand there is made of quartz and it's nothing short of BRILLIANT. Because it's made of quartz it is bright white and it never gets hot - never. No matter how hot it is or how long you've been in the sun the sand beneath your feet stays cool. Perfect for barefoot walks on the beach or laying around and relaxing!
These photos of the brilliant white sand are taken from Siesta Key Beach - one of three beaches that stretch along the expanse of the island. Siesta Key Beach is the northernmost beach followed by Crescent Beach below it and Turtle Beach at the southern point of the island. Crescent Beach is a pita to find parking so we skipped that one and visited Turtle Beach on day 2 when we were looking for an adventure. If you catch the timing right you can see some of the sea turtle nesting as this is an active nesting habitat. But year round this is the place to be for shell collecting! I just played in the water while I was there but I witnessed some folks ramping up some pretty epic shell collections with very little trouble. In fact the beach here consists mostly of crushed shells!
And of course I have to mention the water - seems obvious to me but to those who have never visited Florida - the water is 85 degrees! And a gorgeous aqua green. Be still my heart!
Siesta Key Village
This was one of my favorite parts of the island! The cottage we rented was a very short distance from the village - the meeting place for food, drinks, live music, and shopping! We drove but our cottage provided bicycles and it would be a fairly short walk as well. But - and this is the coolest thing ever - the village has one of those ultra long golf carts that does free pickups to and from the village at night. Your happy beach bum butt can drink the island out of their famous Siesta Key Rum and still make it back to the room safely! Too too cool.
The restaurants and bars reminded me so much of Hawaii - all open air and featuring live music all of the time. It has such a laid back island feel to it and I only wish I could have stayed longer.
Where to Stay
Figuring out where to stay on the island can be a bit daunting. First of all there are no hotels on Siesta Key - only cottages, condos, and house rentals. This actually lends itself to a very intimate and more relaxed vacation feel in my opinion. If you are going with a family or group there are lots of great options of places to stay - The Chamber of Commerce has some great resources which is where I began my search - however if you are going as a couple you MUST stay in the little gem I found! The Beach Place is the most charming and convenient little group of cottages nestled right across the street from Siesta Key Beach. PERFECT location, perfect little cottages with all of the amenities including a full kitchen and a pool with a tiki bar and BBQ facilities. They even provide bicycles, beach chairs, towels, and umbrellas, and maybe they still have the boogie board I left behind? The owners are the COOLEST people and were a total blast to hang out and party into the late night with. Because there are only three cottages we got to know the other guests a little as well.
I wish I would have gotten photos of this place in the daylight but we arrived pretty late at night and I wanted pictures before we unpacked and got to cooking. We stayed in the Sea Horse unit, so these photos are from that particular cottage.
The pool area is one of my favorite parts - sometimes you wanna relax or swim but not go to the beach, especially at night. Swimming in this heated pool during one of Florida's typical evening thunderstorms was one of the funnest parts of the trip for me. We hung out at the tiki bar with one of the owners (who has an ultra cool Hollywood job working on movie and TV sets by the way, kinda star struck!) and her friend and listening to Sting drinking wine and cocktails late into the night. So much fun! If you want to BBQ they have all the facilities there as well.
So that's the island! I cannot recommend the Beach Place and the island as a whole enough. For me it was a perfect island vacation that required no airplanes and fit easily into our travel schedule. The only regret I have is not staying longer! Oh, and if you're into boogie boarding this is one of the better places on the mainland to do it!
I hope you consider Siesta Key for a future vacation. Other AMAZING Florida destinations include Destin (future blog post coming on this incredible place!), Cocoa Beach (think Santa Cruz but with 85 degree water!), Miami (oh my GOD), and many, may more. Florida really is one of those places that you can throw a dart at a map and end up somewhere magical, just don't get too hung up on those Florida Keys ;)