Experience central Florida’s scenic side.
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The Resort at Longboat Key Club in Sarasota, FL
Enjoy the beachfront at The Resort at Longboat Key Club
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

When The Beach Boys sang about summer, it wasn't the heat or humidity or the mosquitoes or sunburns that the bushy-haired bards were celebrating. They were tapping into fond memories of hitting the sand, feeling dried salt water on your skin, and forgetting real life for a few glorious months. The where wasn't nearly as important as the who, and good vibrations were the goal.

For a nostalgia-stirring vacation with friends, Sarasota—a fanciful town on Florida's scenic Suncoast—has easy appeal for everyone. The Suncoast encompasses about 150 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, and this stretch of shore offers unmatched terrain, with crystal waters as aqua blue and bright as a chlorinated pool, sand as soft as powdered sugar, and almost constant sunshine.

No matter where you take in the pastel-hued sunsets, Sarasota delivers summer with a view.

Bayfront Park in Sarasota, FL
Sail along Sarasota's Bayfront Park
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

What To Do in Sarasota

This town of around 55,000 is positioned at the prime place for active outdoor enjoyment, whether you're interested in beachcombing, kayaking, boating, or sipping a frozen cocktail at a sand-floored tiki bar. In the summer, you can enjoy unlimited alfresco activities—until the sun's rays take midday hostage and the shade calls.

Enjoy a morning bike ride or stroll along Bayfront Park, which is on the water and borders a marina of yachts and powerboats. Thanks to pleasant weather year-round (apart from the summer heat, of course), some choose to live on board part-time or even full-time. To see the best of Sarasota, boating is definitely the way to go.

"When I was a kid, if you had a sore throat, the doctor would write you a prescription to go to the beach," says Jan Solomon of Key Sailing with a laugh. The Sarasota native runs a local charter business with her husband, Tim. The couple first met in high school when they were both in sailing classes. Now they offer their own sailing lessons, along with private charters.

Aboard their 41-foot Morgan yacht, they have hosted marriage proposals, weddings, anniversaries, and many birthday celebrations. "People are really looking to be with friends and family, especially those they haven't seen in a while," Solomon says. Choose a morning sail to look for dolphins and other wildlife, or book an evening cruise to catch sunset at its peak with glittering water.

Sunset Point at Siesta Beach on Siesta Key
Head to Sunset Point at Siesta Beach and enjoy the view.
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

For land dwellers, Sarasota has plenty of shoreline to go around—35 miles of it, to be exact—spread across the mainland and its six barrier islands. Lido Beach is just a quick jaunt from the popular shopping district St. Armands Circle, South Lido Beach is a quiet stretch best known for manatee spotting on kayaks (you can check with Paradise Adventures Sarasota for tours and rentals), and famed Siesta Beach on nearby Siesta Key has been named best beach in America by Tripadvisor.

Where To Stay in Sarasota

The Resort at Longboat Key Club has its own private tract of pristine sand and surf, where it offers visitors a more full-service experience that includes chairs, umbrellas, and striped cabanas. The Art Ovation Hotel provides lounge chairs and bicycles for guests who want to explore the public beaches. Take a car to Siesta Key for shopping, and see its unique sand composed of almost 100% pure quartz crystal, a rarity even among the world's most beautiful beaches—making it worth the short drive.

Where To Eat and Drink in Sarasota

A tasty perk that comes with Sarasota's location near world-class deep-sea fishing is that you're never far from fresh seafood. No need to gussy up for old-school joints like Walt's Fish Market Restaurant & Tiki Bar and Owen's Fish Camp, where you can mingle like a local and hear live music.

Indigenous in Sarasota, FL
Indulge in imaginative dishes, such as the bright cobia nigiri, at Indigenous.
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

In downtown Sarasota, explore a distinct and locally sourced scene. The owner and chef of Indigenous, Steve Phelps, uses his own fine-dining restaurant to help advocate for more sustainably minded aquaculture and makes his case with seasonally focused dishes like Lemon Pickled Shrimp and Thai Red Curry Fish Dip. Nearby, Selva serves up coastal Peruvian cuisine, while farm-to-table staple Boca always features a lively atmosphere.

Blue Lagoon cocktail at Boca in Sarasota, FL
The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime in Sarasota, FL
Left: Blue Lagoon cocktail at Boca | Credit: Robbie Caponetto
Right: The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime, an indie indoor market that showcases the wares of over 40 local artisans. | Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Sarasota also happens to have quite the appreciation for breezy rooftops that let you drink in every last drop of the salt air and sunset vistas. At the Art Ovation Hotel, the rooftop pool and bar offer easy access to scenery, but Sage, with its 360-degree views, is hands down the best spot in town for a proper dusk happy hour. The revolving door of craft drink concoctions, including zero-proof options for guests who do not wish to partake, showcases creative ingredients such as house-made poppy limoncello, hibiscus spheres, and smoked cinnamon.

Perspective Rooftop Pool Bar at the Art Ovation Hotel
Perspective Rooftop Pool Bar at the Art Ovation Hotel
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Photos of the colorful sunset cocktail party will later appear in text chains among friends who are once again separated by miles but still make time for reminiscing—as will the dolphin sightings, sailboat cruises, and fancy crystal sand. It's the moments that make the trip, and the good vibrations always follow.