Siesta Key is literally split down the middle by an outcrop locals call Point of Rocks. See, North of this split, the sand is powdery, white, and nearly 100 percent pure quartz. But to the south, the sand is that shellier material. Siesta Key claims some of the finest sand beaches in the state of Florida. Maybe the world!
Eight miles in length, this key extends from what used to be Midnight Pass up to Big Pass, which separates it from Lido Key to the north. Whatever the case, let’s get out of our sandals and make our way down to the water to check out the sand, slope and wave action here on this jewel.
What’s cool about Siesta Key Beach is that it won the Great International White Sand Beach Challenge held in 1987. The folks at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution conducted it and Siesta Key Beach won out of 29 entries because of the floury, undefiled composition of its sand. Locals have taken this to heart as you’ll find a unique spirit here; a village character of sorts.
With all the great sand we would be amiss without telling you one problem Siesta Key faces. Midnight Pass Road, the main artery into the beach, can get heavy – we mean bumper to bumper at times in high season (winter) and bad the rest of the year. We told ya. And yet we sometimes find the “season” stigma bunk as people find out that this beach rocks year-round. Traffic is heavy all the time.
Snowbirds and Europeans are the mainstay here. Native Floridians make vacation getaways here the rest of the year. That’s another way of saying it’s always busy. With award-winning beaches, 50 miles of canals and waterways, and prime fishing opportunities, bridge fishing, surf casting, deep-sea trolling, no wonder Siesta Key is popular all year round.
To get here, go either State Route 72 (Stickney Point Road) at its midsection and State Route 758 (Higel Avenue/Siesta Drive) at the northern village end of the island. Siesta and the other keys are within easy reach of Sarasota – Casey, Lido, St Armands, and Longboat – the celebrity studded places. The rich and famous do have homes here – both part time and full time. Some of the names we heard, like Michael Jordan, Tom Selleck, Jerry Wexler, Brian Johnston, and Paul Reubens, and his parents.
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman made a home here in happier times. No doubt other celebrities are here behind tropical privacy hedges. Siesta Key is the kind of place that draws them like a magnet, because of its beautiful setting far from the stampeding paparazzi and nosy public. And you won’t find a more beautiful sunset this side of Malibu.
The beaches of Siesta Key can’t be missed. They are markedly different in character, from one to the next, but all winners. Main beach accesses come into Turtle Beach and Siesta Key Public Beach. Between them is a not so accessible Crescent Beach. There are a string of beach accesses north of Siesta Key Public Beach, off Beach Road and Ocean Boulevard.
Turtle Beach is a generous marvel of preservation by the public here. A road runs along the beach for a quarter of a mile providing some great public parking. Turtle Beach is more narrow and sloping than Siesta, and the sand is coarser, browner, and shellier. This is why turtles come here to nest, because they can actually dig into it. That’s where the beach got its name.
Turtle Beach is less crowded than Siesta Key Public Beach and from here you can walk to Palmer Point Beach, where Midnight Pass binds Siesta and Casey Keys. Look for abundant bird life. Many heron and other wildlife call this home.
Above an outcrop called Point of Rocks, the beach simply changes in sand composition from shell-based to quartz. At this point, the coastline curves and so we get Crescent Beach. Located at Siesta Key’s midsection, this 2.5 mile beach can be reached from two public access points – Point of Rocks at the west end of Point of Rocks Road, and Stickney Point, at the west end of Stickney Point Road, off Midnight Pass Road which runs the length of the island. Parking is a problem, but we saw people park at Crescent Market near Surfrider Motel and walk over to the beach. Hands down the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the Sarasota area is at Point of Rocks, with the near shore reef formation.
Siesta Key Public Beach is a three-quarter mile swath of sand on the north half of the island. They don’t come much nicer than this. It’s made up of mainly quartz crystals, fine grained, white, and highly reflective. Meaning… your feet won’t burn walking on it on a hot day. Feels kind of cool even on a hot summer day. But remember reflective means it will cause sunburn faster. Bring the suntan lotion. And the fine grain means it’s hard packed, so pack a beach chair and a nice book.
Full facilities here with showers, a shaded picnic area, and a nice beachside cafe. Well, it is sort of a greasy spoon, but it will hit the spot when hungry. When they hand you your order you’ll hear them warn to be careful around the birds. And it’s true; they’re perched everywhere waiting for you to be careless.
Don’t miss these beaches, with benches, green space, volleyball nets, and lifeguard stands that are staffed year-round. What a nice vibe here. The only thing Turtle Beach and Siesta Key Public Beach share is the lovely Gulf of Mexico. Other than that it is very interesting to see two totally different beaches on the same island.