Florida Travel: Discover the Beautiful Beaches of Siesta Key

In search of a classic beach vibe, the writer discovers the lovely and approachable Siesta Key sands.

BY May 16, 2018

One of my favorite features of the state of Florida is the diversity of its beach communities. Drive an hour north or south along either coast, and the entire atmosphere changes. On a recent Saturday afternoon, a friend and I had a hankering for a classic beach vibe. Not quite in the mood for Sanibel, not quite craving Fort Myers Beach, we drove an hour and a half north to Siesta Key.

Siesta Key is routinely named one of the most beautiful beaches in the United States, and it’s recently become the backdrop for a new MTV reality drama. As soon as we arrived, I could see why the producers chose this location. Siesta Key village is the quintessential Florida beach community, upscale but still the kind of place that offers fried clam strips in baskets, cold beer on tap and a parade of tourists with faces turned red by the sun.

My friend and I followed Ocean Boulevard to The Old Salty Dog, a tavern specializing in beachside pub food. We grabbed a table outside where we could watch the people pass and ordered two beers and a basket of fried grouper. The sun was setting and the light had the golden pink hue it takes on at dusk, a color that always reminds me of the inside of abalone shells. The table behind us sat a dozen bikers in their leather road gear, and the table in front of us was filled with Canadians.

“I checked the weather in Ottawa this morning,” one said. “Thirteen below.”

Everyone at the table chuckled. They sipped their beers and looked very pleased to be in Siesta Key. I was pleased, too. Even if we weren’t escaping subzero temperatures, the beach town still hit the spot.

After The Old Salty Dog, my friend and I walked along the main strip. The boulevard was packed with people out for dinner and drinks, and I noticed that the Siesta Key crowd had its own unique personality—different from the cutoffs and tattoos of Daytona Beach or the Ralph Lauren and fine breeding of Boca Grande. Siesta Key felt approachable and fun, beachy but still wholesome. We passed T-shirt shops and souvenir boutiques. A man played Jimmy Buffett in an open-air bar. The family in front of us veered off for ice cream.

We decided to veer off, too, this time to a place called The Beach Club, where a stuffed great white hung from the ceiling and rock music played on a jukebox in the corner. My friend ordered us beers while I elbowed my way through the crowd and snagged barstools on the porch. I eavesdropped on the conversation next to me as two older men reminisced about life up north.

“I tell you what,” one said to the other. “I used to live outside Annapolis. Snow would get this damn deep.” He raised his hand over his head. “I’d have to shovel it out every morning.”

His friend nodded sympathetically. “Don’t miss it at all.”

“Sure don’t,” the first man said.

My friend arrived with our drinks and squeezed in next to me. We watched people stroll by, some on holiday and some, like us, local (or nearly local). Most everyone had a vacation glow, either tan or pink or somewhere in between. A stand next door churned out fresh doughnuts, and the air smelled like cinnamon and sugar.

If I’m making Siesta Key sound idyllic, that’s because, well, in a way it is. Its beaches are lovely, and its seaside village captures exactly the kind of beach atmosphere people seek. There’s a myth that because we live in Florida, we stop appreciating its magical qualities—80 degrees in January, bright sun all year-round, beaches covered in soft sand and water the color of turquoise. But just because we call Florida home doesn’t mean we don’t admire its treasures, especially when they’re only a short drive away.


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