Sunday, August 23, 2009

Top beaches in the Sarasota Area from a locals opinion

This is a brief list of some of my favorite Beaches the Sarasota area. I will provide a brief description of what you can expect to see and experience at the following beaches. I am still amazed at how each beach is almost completely different from another beach that is only 5 - 10 miles away. There are certain beaches good for finding shark's teeth and shells, others that are great because of the seclusion and lack of crowds and some that are great because of their proximity to great dining and shopping. You can also follow me on Twitter @justinedmonds to stay informed on places to eat, things to see and which beaches to visit.

(Be sure to scroll down to view my top 5 beachy places to dine)

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is my #1 choice because it is a beach that has it all. Anna Maria has beautiful white sand, a little restaurant called the "Rod & Reel" for a quick lunch or a couple of beers, very secluded and a great spot to snorkel when the water is clear. There is one catch, in order to enjoy all that I described you must park at the Rod and Reel and walk about 1/4 - 1/2 mile north then watch for a FL parks trail cut-in on the right hand side, follow the trail to the beach and head north to the tip of the island. The only downside to this beach is the lack of facilities on site.

Nokomis Beach/ Casey key, Nokomis FL

Nokomis beach is located on Beautiful Casey Key. Casey Key is known to have some of the most prestigious homes in the state of FL, a long day at the beach is easily followed by a slow drive north on Casey Key Road where one is able to see homes owned by such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Victoria Gotti and Stephen King. Nokomis beach is typically a pretty quiet beach, there are a few restaurants located within walking distance, great fishing and a "drum party", which is celebrated every Saturday night (shown on left). The Saturday night drum party is attended by all ages and has become a fun family event, it includes several people playing bongo drums in harmony and belly dancers who encourage the audience to join the festivities. Nokomis is a great walking beach; the south side is a location known as the "Jetty" as is about a 1/4 mile walk south from the public beach. The Jetty has a fish camp, which sells snacks, bait and beer, they also have facilities on site. A typical walk on this beach will reveal several shark's teeth, especially during a low tide or just after a storm. The public beach has facilities on site as well.

Siesta key, Sarasota, FL

Siesta Key is probably the most well-known beach in Sarasota, thus the busiest also. The beach sand is 99% pure quartz and is said to be the whitest sand in the world, it was recently rated the 3rd best walking beach in the entire U.S. The sand is always cool to the touch and is as soft as flour. Siesta Key is known to host more events such as Professional Volleyball Tournaments and live music. There is a concessions and restrooms on site. I would recommend arriving early to ensure you are able to secure a parking spot.

Casperson Beach, Venice, FL

Casperson beach is known as the bet beach in the area to find large shark's teeth. It is not completely unlikely to find an ancient Megalodon tooth while walking the beach. There are large rocks that line the entire beach, there are 3 or 4 points where the rocks have been placed out into the water and provide a great place to snorkel with various coral and breeds of fish. A long walk north on this beach will lead to Sharky's restaurant and Pier. Please scroll down to see a review of Sharky's Restaurant. This beach has facilities on site.

Holmes Beach and Coquina beach, Bradenton, FL

Holmes Beach and Coquina Beach are both located within a 10 mile proximity to my #1 rated beach Anna Maria. Both of these beaches offer phenomenal views and are within a short walk to the quiet fishing village of Cortez. Please scroll down to see a detailed review of the BeachHouse, a restaurant located near these beaches. This beach has facilities on site.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Great Places to eat in the Sarasota Area (local hot spots)

This is a brief list of some of my favorite places to eat in the Sarasota area (Be sure to look for my top 5 recommended beaches to visit, coming soon). The following restaurants range greatly in style, type of food and cost. I will do my best to provide a description of each restaurant, free of any bias and from a local, not a tourist expecting an oftentimes unrealistic experience because they're on vacation. Don't get me wrong, I myself often use sites such as to read reviews but I have realized as of late that many of the reviews are written from the business's themselves in an attempt to better their ranking. I have also realized that those who are on vacation vs. those who call the local area home, usually have very different views on local establishments. You can also follow me on Twitter @justinedmonds to stay informed on places to eat, things to see and which beaches to visit.

Prices are defined as :
* $5-10
** $10-15
*** $15-20
**** $20-25
***** $25-30
(Prices are per plate and do not include drinks)

Top 5 Beachy places to dine while in the Sarasota, FL area:

Sharky's on the Pier
1600 Harbor Dr S

Venice, FL 34285
(941) 488-1456

Price **

Sharky's offers patrons the option of both indoor dining (with a bit pricier menu) and outdoor dining located at the base of a very large fishing pier. Personally, I have never eaten inside, the outdoor dining has great accommodations including: Live Entertainment weekly (Entertainment calendar is always listed on the website), Tiki Bar, Ceiling fans to provide a little more of a breeze for those extra hot days and ceiling heaters when the nights get a bit chilly on the water in winter. The tiki bar offers a wide selection of frozen drinks and drafts. Sharky's is very family oriented, after dinner you are able to take a stroll down to the end of the pier (free but no alcohol) and maybe get a glimpse of some local fishers pulling in a shark.

Pop's Sunset Grill
112 Circuit Road
Nokomis, FL 34275
(941) 488-3177
Price **

Pop's Sunset Grill is a great place to hang with locals due to its slightly secluded location. Pop's offers both indoor and outdoor seating, waterfront and barside. Pop's is unique because of the ability to pull up in your boat and park dockside, accessible via the Intracoastal Waterway. Pop's menu is the same whether you choose to dine inside or out and is full of several basket type selections. There is always a good selection of fresh catches to choose from. Though its not always on the menu, I would recommend requesting the Grouper fingers or the Bahama Mama Burger, both choices are delicious. Try Pop's for dinner on a Saturday night and then walk across the bridge over to Casey Key to enjoy a famous local gather at the beach known as "The Drum Party".

Daiquiri Deck
5250 Ocean Blvd
Sarasota, FL 34242-3309
(941) 349-8697
Price **

The Daiquiri Deck is located in the heart of the Village of Siesta Key. Siesta Key is known to have the whitest sand and some of the best nightlife in the area. I've eaten at the Daiquiri Deck several times and have always been completely satisfied with the selection, service, ambiance and most importantly for this location, a huge selection of various different Daiquiris. After dinner and drinks, it's just a short stroll to ice cream shops, souvenir's, and plenty more bars and dance clubs. Walking the opposite way about a mile will lead to the world famous Siesta Key Beach.

The BeachHouse Restaurant
200 Gulf Drive
Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
(941) 779-2222
Price ***

The BeachHouse Restaurant is located slightly
north of Sarasota but is well worth the drive to enjoy the experience that is offered by this restaurant. GPS may instruct you to follow 41 to Cortez road but there is a much more scenic route available by following Gulf of Mexico drive North from St. Armands Circle. Along the way you will see: Beautiful homes, Golf Courses, Banyan Trees and views of the Gulf that are unbeatable. The BeachHouse is located at the south end of Anna Maria Island just outside the quiet fishing village of Cortez. The menu offers several different options from beachy basket food to Filet and Lobster. As for location I would rate the views and ambiance #2 only to Sharky's and only because of the pier walk one can enjoy at Sharky's.

Tommy Bahamas Tropical Cafe
300 John Ringling Blvd
Sarasota, FL 34236
(941) 388-2888
Price ****

Tommy Bahama's is exactly what you would expect, Superb Quality, Service and Ambiance. This Tropical Cafe is located on a busy corner on Sarasota's famous St. Armands Circle. Though this restaurant is not located directly on the beach or waterway like the other 4 listed, it's location is actually my favorite of all because of its proximity to everything one would want to see in Florida. A short walk can lead you to dozens of bars, ice cream shops, souvenir shops, the beach and art galleries. The menu includes several dishes that are unlike anything I have ever had before. The restaurant is located above the Tommy Bahama store, there is a patio on the 2nd floor that is great for an after dinner drink. I would highly recommend reservations.

Here are a couple other sites offering information on what to do and see in the Sarasota Area:,FL/