Highlights from Sunny Southwest Florida
There is nothing better for the body, mind and soul than spending a week relaxing on the beach. I have visited my family, who transplanted an hour south of Tampa about 8 years ago, several times and feel a comforting sense of familiarity when I return. There are always new places to explore and memories to make, but my goal was not sight-seeing this time. Instead, my days were structured around beach reading, studying, and hanging out with my grandparents! The best part about the beaches in the Sarasota area is that they all have their own character. You can pick the feel of your beach depending on your mood that day, all without ever having to go to far!
Lucky for us, the #1 rated beach in the US is located less than a half hour’s drive from where my family lives. Siesta Key is known for its white sand and crystalline blue water. The quartz sand is powder soft and never gets hot, which makes for great beach strolls. The beach front is also huge, so the crowds that the recent publicity has drawn can be handled quite well. The downside of Siesta Key is the parking. The lot fills up before noon, leaving cars circling for emptying spots like hawks. My grandparents have learned, and so now we always head to this beach early. We arrived by 9am, with newspaper and book in hand, and enjoyed the less crowded views of the Gulf, the warm morning sun, and the soft stretches of sand.
While Siesta Key may get the fame, the local beaches are an equally good option. The beach along the Venice fishing pier is the best local beach for swimming. The sand shelf drops off quickly, but the Gulf waters are warm and usually calm, which makes swimming pleasant. The beach grass and fishing pier also add some nice scenery, and there is great bird watching as the pelicans flock to see what share they can catch.
If you like nature and solitude, Caspersen’s is the place to find it. Along the side of the peninsula, the beach is narrow and the water edge is lined with huge rocks. Only one or two rows of chairs and towels can fit, which keeps the private beach feeling. The rocks also make excellent nets for shark tooth hunting, which is this beach’s claim to fame.
After a hot day at the beach, nothing beats a soft serve ice cream cone. My favorite Florida treat is the orange soft serve ice cream at Nokomis Groves. They also have flavors like lime, pineapple, vanilla, and chocolate, but the orange is the biggest draw. While my favorite combination is orange and vanilla, I branched out to try the pineapple swirl. While it was tasty, I didn’t like that the pineapple overpowered the orange. I will stick to my favorite on my next visit! There is always a line, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait. You can also get fresh Florida citrus, citrus-inspired foodie treats, and fresh squeezed juices in the attached market.
The best part of visiting Southwestern Florida is getting to see the sunset over the ocean. As an East Coast girl, this is something that I always love, seeing the flaming sun plunge into the cool ocean. The Venice Beach is an excellent spot to watch the sunset, but the Nokomis Inlet is another great option if you don’t want to sit in the sand.
Writing this post and looking through my vacation pictures makes me long to be at the beach instead of facing a long week of school and studying! Good thing the weather has been unseasonably warm, or I might face true sunshine withdrawal!