SARASOTA AND MANATEE: SOUTH FLORIDA’S RECREATIONAL PARADISE
The Manatee-Sarasota area is a joyful recreational delight, one of North America’s top vacation and recreational destinations. The area is perhaps most famous for the more than 60 miles of sun-drenched beaches enjoyed year-round by residents and visitors alike. The most famous is Siesta Beach, ranked in 2011 as “America’s Top Beach” and beloved for its soft, sugary-white sand. Siesta Beach, in Sarasota County on Siesta Key, offers everything; 800 parking spots, beach volleyball, a fitness trail, tennis courts, concessions, a playground, and more. If those bells and whistles aren’t for you, try Anna Maria Beach. It’s a more primitive, natural setting with no lifeguards or concessions, but that’s why the locals adore this secluded stretch of surf, sun, and white sand at Anna Maria Island’s northern tip, in Manatee County near Bradenton. At the southern end of Sarasota County, anglers appreciate the 700-foot fishing pier on sparkling Venice Beach, home of the annual Venice Shark’s Tooth Festival. Residents and visitors have almost 20 different beaches to choose from. Even your pets can run free at the area’s several “dog beaches.”
All the beach recreations are popular. Snorkeling and scuba, windsurfing and paddle-boarding, bird-watching and beach volleyball are merely the tip of the list. Kayaks and canoes can be rented at dozens of locations throughout the area’s charming beach communities. Fishing enthusiasts can be found angling from the area’s many bridges, on small boats throughout the Intracoastal Waterway and its many channels and coves, or in luxurious chartered fishing boats heading into the Gulf. The variety of fishing challenges is almost unlimited. Hundreds of waterfront estates in the two counties feature deepwater docks for boat owners, and plenty of marinas also serve the boating public. For all their differences, the many beaches of the Manatee-Sarasota area have one element in common; they’re all perfect spots for watching spectacular sunsets in the Gulf of Mexico.
If golf is your game, dozens of superlative golf courses and prestigious country clubs are located in and around Sarasota and Bradenton, including legendary courses like those at TPC Prestancia, the Legacy Golf Club, and the Concession. Manatee and Sarasota Counties are the heart of “Southwest Florida Golf Country,” and many homebuyers opt to live in the area’s lovely, exclusive country club communities, where the golf courses are only brief steps away. Tennis, anyone? No problem. Hundreds of tennis courts are spread across the region in parks, resorts, condominium communities, and exclusive tennis clubs. Horse owners will find nearby equestrian communities with multi-acre lots, and they’ll also discover a number of trails and riding clubs throughout the area.
Bicyclists enjoy dozens of bike trails, most notably the popular Legacy Trail that runs from Sarasota to Venice. Bird-watchers take advantage of the area’s beaches and the more than 200 parks and nature preserves spread across Manatee and Sarasota counties. Wildlife lovers can also spot dolphins, tortoises, manatees, otters, and other fascinating Florida wildlife. Many of the parks and preserves feature campgrounds, picnic facilities, fishing piers, and boat launches. The area’s average annual temperature is 73 degrees, so outdoor recreations are feasible almost 365 days a year. Unless your favorite outdoor activity requires snow, you can pursue it with passion and plenty of sunshine in Manatee and Sarasota counties, south Florida’s recreational paradise.