On the east side of this eight-mile long barrier island is Sarasota Bay and Florida's intracoastal waterway. It's a scenic trail for boaters interested in exploring the mangrove forests that dot the area, dropping a line for snook or pompano, or cruising to Sarasota's dockside restaurants and pubs. On the island's west side are Siesta Key's glorious white sand beaches -- ranked number one in America in 2011 by Dr. Beach -- and the calm waters of the Gulf. Take an early morning walk while dipping your toes in the surf; build sand castles, search for shells and soak up the warm sunshine in the afternoon; then find a comfortable spot in to view the postcard-perfect moment when the sun dips below the horizon and paints the sky in strokes of red and orange.
There's more to Siesta Key than just beaches and water. This island is a destination for all who stay or live in the Sarasota area thanks to the wide variety of entertainment and dining options that stretch its length. On the north end, a short walk from one of Siesta's large expanses of public beach, lies Siesta Key Village. In the village's quaint few blocks you'll find dozens of shops that cater to the island lifestyle, offering necessities like groceries and hardware alongside souvenirs and bathing suits. Siesta Key Village restaurants -- most with large, open-air dining -- range from pancake and egg joints to award-winning fine dining spots. No matter how fancy, though, dress codes are always casual: Sandals are not only allowed, they're expected.
Down at the south end of Siesta Key you'll find more restaurants, shops and public beaches, as well as marina and boat rental facilities. Within minutes, you can putter in a pontoon boat or slice through waves in a high-powered jet ski. Try parasailing for more high-flying adventure, where you'll experience a unique view of Siesta Key while suspended from a parachute over 100 feet in the air. Or exercise more than just your sense of wonder by renting a bike or a kayak to explore the island on your own.