Harry and I went on a two week Florida vacation in May – one of our first holidays together. Florida is actually quite a good place for a couple holiday. We went on a little road trip through Southern Florida although we did spend most of our time in Longboat Key. Harry’s family has a vacation home over there so it made sense for us to mostly stay there. From chilling on the beach, to eating delicious seafood and paddling out into Sarasota Bay, we had so much fun! Read our top tips on what to do around Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island in this mini Florida Travel Guide.
If you’re wondering where to go for your next beach vacation, look no further than Florida’s Gulf Coast. The beaches are absolutely stunning and you’re in for some amazing sunset views. Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key are popular beach holiday spots especially among couples and families. I certainly felt like Harry and I lowered the average age in most places we went to – pensioners really do love it there… But we still saw a bunch of younger people and the overall vibe was relaxed and fun.
So what are the top things to do in and around Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island? Here’s a list with our top tips.
1) Rent a SUP or kayak
I had always wanted to do standup paddle boarding and it was probably my favourite activity on our holiday. Due to strong winds and currents, we had to wait until our last day to do this but this made it an amazing last day. It’s an awesome workout and you get to see manatees and if you’re lucky also dolphins.
We rented our boards with Happy Paddler who are awesome! Have a look at photos from our paddle boarding trip and some tips for your SUP/kayaking adventure.
2) Relax on the beach
Well yes, this is an obvious one… You’re here for a beach holiday so of course you’ll want to spend time relaxing on a beach. The best beaches around Longboat Key?
To be honest, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the beaches between Anna Maria Island and St. Armands and you may want to spend a day exploring a few beaches before settling on your personal favourite Florida Gulf Coast beach. Just hop in your convertible and cruise along until you find a spot that catches your fancy. It can also be a smart idea to rent bicycles as finding a parking spot can be hard on the weekends on some beaches.
This seemed to be the liveliest and most crowded beach – potentially due to the big parking lot in front. There are also a bunch of amenities and BBQ spots within the parking lot which lots of families seemed to be using. It’s got lots of tall trees as well just in case you need a break from the sun. The beach quieted down just before sunset which means you can find a cozy spot in the dunes for a romantic sunset picnic.
During the day we went to the Southern most point of Coquina Beach just where the beach makes a bend to the left and you see the bridge. You’re not allowed to swim there so we had that strip of beach to ourselves while a few metres further down it was super crowded.
Don’t you just love a beautiful sunset? It’s amazing how the sky changes colour from moment to moment, day to day.
Public Beach – 100 Broadway
Our house was just a few minutes walk away from the beach along the Gulf of Mexico Drive (100 Broadway) and was one of the quieter ones. There is a turtle nesting ground close by – if you go at the right time of the year, you may spot some baby turtles. The beach is also great for jogging which we did twice – I definitely recommend going barefoot. We went one day when the wind was a bit stronger which made it quite unbearable. The sand is so fine and you’ll feel your every inch of your body covered in it after a while (try and get that sand out of your ears!). I saw a few surfers further down the beach so this may be a good spot for it!?
We went here almost every evening for drinks in one of the beach bars. It also seems to be a popular wedding party spot – I swear there was one on 4 out of the 5 nights we went. We didn’t go during the day but with limited parking in the area, I can’t see it being as busy as Coquina Beach.
Lido Key Beach
This is very conveniently located by St. Armands Circle so if you’re here for a bite to eat, you may pop down for a bit of beach time. The South Lido Mangrove looks cool and you could explore it with a kayak. There are a bunch of resorts on Lido Key so the beaches may get busy.
3) Enjoy a Gulf of Mexico sunset
I think that’s everyone’s favourite evening activity from Anna Maria Island to Longboat Key: Sitting on the beach and watching the sky put on a different show every evening. Plan a picnic in a cozy spot in the dunes or enjoy a delicious Bloody Mary at one of the beach bars. Our favourite bar was the Gulf Drive Cafe but The Beach House was quite nice as well. As these places can get crowded, you’ll be in for the best views on a less crowded strip of beach.
We loved Coquina Beach where we went twice for a little picnic.
4) Taste your way through seafood restaurants
There are so many good restaurants and cafes in the area and many of them serve seafood caught in the area. You really can’t get much closer to the source. Our favourite spots include:
Check out our full list of best places to eat in Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key and St. Armands Circle.
5) Chill on a pier and watch out for dolphins
As I mentioned earlier, when it’s windy, going to the beach can be annoying as you’ll get sand stuck everywhere. But it’s still super hot so hanging out on a pier where you can jump into the water is a great idea. Many places on facing Bay of Sarasota side will have one. Otherwise make sure to look for a place with a pool.
Apparently, Dolphin sightings in the Bay are common and we did actually see dolphins swim past on two days. So amazing – I’d never seen wild-living Dolphins before!
6) Go for brunch on St. Armands Circle
If you’re looking to get a bite to eat, you have plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from on St. Armands Circle. There are also lots of boutiques and shops if you’re looking to go shopping. We found this really cool American cafe that’s only open for breakfast and lunch called The Blue Dolphin Cafe. I highly recommend the blueberry pancakes or the French Toast!
7) Other ideas
Need more inspiration? You can go golfing on one of the courses. Rent a boat to go around the Bay and Gulf. Cycle the loop from Anna Maria Island to Lido Key. Go surfing. Try your luck with SUP Yoga. Catch some fish.
Let me know your favourite things to do around Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island in the comments!