Each Island Community is very unique
Let us start our overview of the Island Communities or also called Barrier Islands. Florida's Gulf Coast is blessed with many islands that line up like crown jewels on a string. Starting to the north off the coast of Bradenton lays the barrier islands of Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key. Driving south you see Lido-, Bird- and famous Siesta Key. Further south are the islands of Casey- and Manasota Key. Don Pedro Key and the Gasparilla Islands and some tiny keys are at the tail of the chain of keys.
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Anna Maria Island - a Perfect Getaway
An Island with a perfect Beach
Anna Maria Island is the northernmost of a string of barrier islands that extends in a southerly direction. Located on the West Coast of Florida, about 35 Miles south of Tampa, Anna Maria Island is the barrier between the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Almost 8 miles of white-sand beaches are stretching along the Gulf coastline southwards to Longboat Key Pass.
Lush sub-tropical vegetation surrounds the beautiful homes on the key. Those homes are barely visible. When you hear the island birds, you feel the peace and security of times gone. It is so relaxing on Anna Maria Island that you want to stay forever.
Yes, Anna Maria has resisted changing over the years. On this laid-back island, you will still experience the "old Florida" feeling. But on Anna Maria, you need to learn to spend your days with the simple things in life again: fishing, shelling, or swimming, relaxing. Reading a good book in the shade of a palm tree while the fronds are swaying in the balmy air will also be one of your tasks. You have to restart living again.
There is an extensive canal network throughout the island which is hardly visible – but many homes have their deep water dock, and many homes offer spectacular bay views as well.
Anna Maria Island, the first in a string of beautiful island communities, is easily accessible by automobile via two bridges (Manatee and Cortez Bridge) from the mainland. Two main airports, Sarasota International and Tampa International, are also only a " stone's throw" away. So, you can live like Robinson Crusoe if you wish, but within minutes you can dive into Sarasota's nightlife.
Longboat Key - is a Town in Sarasota and Manatee Counties
Although it is known as a "private" island, Longboat Key's 12 miles of sun-drenched beach is a popular destination for visitors from all around the world. Longboat Key's span crosses actually through both Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Manatee County governs the northern part of the island; Sarasota County handles the affairs of the southern section;
If you are the athletic type, activities on Longboat Key are endless. Fishing, shelling, biking, rollerblading, and water sports are some of the activities on the island; you name it, and you can be sure that you can do it on Longboat Key. Tennis and Golf enthusiasts are welcome to take advantage of the first-class Longboat Key Country Club. There are not too many barrier islands with golf courses. However, Longboat Key is one of them.
You are still close to Sarasota
After a round of golf or a game of tennis, you can enjoy cocktails at sunset, dinner by candlelight or a performance in the city of Sarasota. The island is only one bridge away from Sarasota, and the city offers many cultural activities.The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Ringling Museum, Asolo Theater, Sarasota Ballet or the Sarasota Opera House are only a fraction of the vast selection of entertainment you can choose from.
John Ringling had a significant influx
It was the circus magnate John Ringling, a name you will hear and see everywhere in Sarasota, who in the early 1920's envisioned a beautifully landscaped Boulevard running the full length of the barrier island.
Today’s “Gulf of Mexico Drive” is the magnificently landscaped thoroughfare that John Ringling had imagined. His dream came true - just a little bit too late for himself.
Anyway, the road winds past hidden driveways and side streets, lush greenways and parks, magnificent homes and condominiums. It is a "must" to see this road.
Lido Key - known for the White Beach and St. Armand's Circle
The new John Ringling Causeway bridge connects the island with the mainland. Another bridge connects the island with Longboat Key, just a little further north
St. Armand's Circle, the beautifully landscaped roundabout in the middle of the island, is where you can find the heart and soul of the St Armands Key. Read more about Lido Key and search all homes for sale.
With the world famous shopping at St. Armand's Circle, the fascinating Mote Marine Aquarium and some of the finest restaurants in the area, Lido Key is another impressive pearl in the string of the Barrier Islands. It is embedded in lush sub-tropical scenery, has a beautiful sandy beach and looks just great.
John Ringling had a Vision - that Vision is called "St. Armand's Circle"
Visionary John Ringling could realize the island's high potential. Therefore he bought St. Armand's Key in 1917 and planned a development that was laid out in a circle. That design was quite revolutionary in 1917.
Today the rotary and Italian-Style Garden is, thanks to John's vision, an enchanting shopping, restaurant and nightlife district renowned for its continental flavor and graceful synthesis of past and present. Antique statuary and contemporary architecture contribute to an international atmosphere. A new parking garage will soon help to solve the problem with the abundance of cars.
Bird Key - The ultimate Boaters Paradise
Bird Key is the first island on the left once you have crossed the new majestic Ringling Causeway Bridge. When coming from downtown Sarasota, the entrance of the gated community is right after leaving the bridge on your left - you can't miss it.
Bird Key is called a boater’s paradise, which is even an understatement. The Key, with its private yacht club, has many homes with deep water docks. If they don't have a dock, they have at least a spectacular bay view.
The owners of those magnificent homes enjoy blazing sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. At night, the expansive Sarasota Skyline glistens to life across a shimmering Sarasota Bay. Once the man in the moon is looking down on this little piece of paradise, the picture is perfect.
No Multiple Family Homes and no Commercial Buildings
There are no condos on Bird Key, only single-family homes. Architectural styles on Bird Key Florida are eclectic, ranging from "old" Florida to Spanish Mediterranean to contemporary. You will find impressive new homes mixed with spectacular renovations of Bird Key’s original homes.
The island is pretty small; there are only 510 luxury homes on the island composed of 303 waterfront properties and 207 interior residences. Who wants to live on such a tiny island? Well, Bird Key residents include a mix of professionals (doctors, lawyers etc.), retirees, and even a few celebrities.
John Ringling was the guy again who purchased the island in the early 1920’s as a part of his ambitious plans. His idea was to develop a great resort on the three barrier islands Longboat, Lido and Bird Key. He built the first one on Longboat Key than history took, unfortunately, a different course. The great depression destroyed so many dreams and turned them into ugly nightmares.
Siesta Key - and the Famous Siesta Key Beach
At first, the people completely neglected Siesta Key. Nobody saw the potential, and nobody was there who had a vision. John Ringling was occupied with his project a little further north, and there was no second man like him. Bears, wild cats, raccoons and whatever critters lived on this piece of land, and at least they had a comfortable life. Eventually, the island came to live and morphed into a beautiful subtropical oasis. However, that took a while.
Today, Siesta Key offers a getaway as you've never experienced. Famous for its white-sand beaches, clear, warm waters and tropical nature preserves, the area is a haven for vacationers from all over the world. The beach is always rated #1 or #2. We don't really know why it is ranked alternating #1 and #2, but who cares?
Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Public Beach is located mid-island off Midnight Pass and is the perfect spot to find the action. It offers some of the world’s most beautiful, whitest sand. Not only is it the most popular beach in the County, but it is also the widest. It may be a little crowded once in a while, and especially on a holiday weekend, you will find more than 10,000 people enjoying the beach. It is a crazy world out there when the crowd is invading the island, but everybody wants to be here.
Facilities are numerous and include concession stands and newly renovated restrooms. There are volleyball fields, a nicely equipped playground for the little ones, and lifeguards. Big trees provide plenty of shade. There is plenty of parking space provided, but don't expect to get a spot on public holidays. Within walking distance, just slightly further inland, Siesta Villag offers eclectic shops, fine restaurants with or without live music and plenty more to see and to do. Bring your wallet, and you will be fine.
You don't want to be where the action is?
Turtle Beach is a relaxing beach. It is located about two and a half miles south of Stickney Point Road. Turtle Beach is usually not as crowded as the public beach which makes it a lot more appealing for people who want to relax while catching some rays.
Palmer Point Beach begins at the southern tip of Siesta Key and continues until the north end of the following Casey Key. Because of its length, the beach will give you a feeling of privacy and seclusion. Palmer Point Beach is a favorite spot for boaters and those who like to walk along the shoreline. There is a little lagoon where you can launch your boat or where the kids can play in shallow water. Don't expect too much action there. If you need that - the village or the Public Beach would be your choice.
On Siesta Key you will find all kinds of properties: Gulf front condominiums, apartments, villas and seaside estates. Call us, and we can tell you what is on the market.
Casey Key - Casual and Elegant at the same time
The island was known as "Chaise's Key" when the first map was drawn in 1849. It was renamed "Casey Key" in 1856 and relabeled "Treasure Island" during the Florida land boom in the 1920's. But the name Casey Key was more sticky and made it somehow back.
Each of the Barrier Islands has its amazing ambiance, with Casey Key being one of the breathtaking tropical seclusions amid an atmosphere of unmistakable affluence. It is impossible to travel its eight-mile length without uttering the word “wow” at some point.
Residents enjoy an unspoiled, tropical island with private beach accesses. How can one describe Casey Key in a nutshell? Casey Key is just an "extraordinary and unique island." Yes, that's it.
The island is strictly residential with only a few small motels near the southern end. There is only one long and winding road cutting through the center of the island. Here and there you can catch a glimpse of the beach or of the Gulf of Mexico. In certain spots, the island is so narrow that you can see the water of the Gulf on one side and the water of the Intracoastal Waterway on the other side. At some places along the key, you could easily lob a seashell across the entire width of the island. A big section of the island is less than 800’ wide.
Where is the Beach?
At the south end of the island, before you reach the jetty, you will see Nokomis Beach. This beach is the only public beach on Casey Key. There are several restrooms, and there are also lifeguards on duty, but bring your food and drinks. No commercial activity means that there are no restaurants, shops or concession stands. That does not mean that you cannot use the full length of the island's beach, which is running all along the side of the Gulf of Mexico. There is just no access from the road because there are private residences lined up along the beach. And those people are allergic to people who want to cut through their backyard.
Real Estate on Casey Key
The exclusive Island of Casey Key is home to some of Florida's most extravagant residences. The Casey Key real estate market is known for having some of the most beautiful and most expensive waterfront homes in Sarasota. In fact, you'll often see people passing through the island to catch a glimpse of Casey Key's large waterfront estates–many of which extend from the Gulf to the bay. They are just beautiful and for many people out of reach.
By the way, the majority of the island is a conservation district, established in the early 1970's by the Florida State Legislature, and that’s the reason why this island looks so unspoiled.
Casey Key has only room for 400 properties while enforcing minimal commercial activity and a ban on high-rise structures. Because the eight-mile strand of properties can never go longer, sprawl inland or soar upward, demand for Casey Key properties has itself soared upward in recent years compared with Sarasota County’s other barrier islands.
Manasota Key - Get off the beaten path
This island is another pearl in the string of the Sun Coast's island communities, is an enchanting barrier island off the coast of Englewood. The northern and central parts of the island, located in Sarasota County, are entirely residential. A narrow road snakes its way along the Key past island homes on one-acre lots. Many of which have their back yard on the bay and their front yard facing the Gulf of Mexico. They are tucked behind lush tropical foliage and barely visible.
The southern part of the island is already located in Charlotte County and has more development, with a few low-rise condos, restaurants, and shops. But it is still not too bad.
There are four Beaches on Manasota Key a Barrier Island off the Coast of Englewood
When you cross the northbridge, you will inevitably run into the first beach. Manasota Beach offers newly renovated restrooms, gazebos outdoor showers and lifeguard on duty. There is also plenty of free parking space. If you want to bring your boat, you can launch your baby on the opposite side of the road.
About four miles further south you will hit the Middle Beach. There are also new restrooms, outdoor showers, and several parking areas. Parking is free. There are no lifeguards on duty. Knowing how to stay afloat in the water helps tremendously.
Across from the beach, you can enjoy a short stroll through the mangroves. Of course, they installed a beautiful boardwalk to make the walk easier. Therefore, you do not have to cut your way through the mangroves with a machete. By following that little dirt road, you will reach another boat launch again. The boat launch is only suitable for small boats, like kayaks, canoes, and small fishing boats.
Another 4 miles further south you will reach Englewood Beach. All new restrooms, playground, basketball field, gazebos with grills and boardwalks through the dunes. There are restaurants, bars, and little stores nearby. Englewood Beach offers plenty of space for parking, but you have to pay a hefty $.75 /24/7. And they enforce it! Don't beg for a ticket. So be aware of that. Of all the beaches, Englewood Beach is the most popular among visitors. On public holidays you can quickly run out of luck because there is no place to park your car.
Stump Pass Beach State Park
The most southern tip of Manasota Key is occupied by Stump Pass Beach State Park, a beautiful State Park where you can swim and launch your kayaks, or whatever small boat you have. The setting of the park is just gorgeous. They have restrooms, outdoor showers, gazebos and picnic tables. Oh, yes, and they have a soda machine. They charge $3 for park entrance, and they strictly enforce it, too!
Each of these beaches has something to offer for everyone. From premium fishing and boating to diving, swimming, jet skiing, parasailing, shelling, snorkeling, canoeing, sunning, picnicking, and volleyball playing.
Don Pedro-, Palm-, Knight-, and Little Gasparilla Island
So far all island communities are connected to the mainland by bridges. The next four islands are not so easy to reach. There is a ferry connecting Don Pedro Island but it is quite costly to get your car over to the other side, and it is pretty useless. If you want to go there to spend a few hours on the beach, you might be better off leaving the car on the mainland. Everything is within walking distance on the island.
The islands of Don Pedro, Palm, Knight, and Little Gasparilla can all be put together in one big group because they are essentially a cluster of islands off the coast of the Cape Haze peninsular.
Once Separated - the Islands come now in one Piece
The islands were once separated by two passes that have since filled to make one whole island.
There is not much in the way of shopping here with only a general store for the necessities. The Islanders need to purchase everything else in Englewood or someplace else on the mainland. There are about 300 homes on Little Gasparilla Island and not too many lots to build on are left.
If you want to feel what Robinson Crusoe experienced on his island, this might get as close as it can get. Although, you have power, you have water, you have everything - and there are, hopefully, no cannibals on the island. There is also no "Friday" preparing the drink for you, though. Or maybe there is? Well, we don't know.
Gasparilla Island and the "Capital" of Boca Grande
According to folklore, Gasparilla Island got its name from Jose Gaspar, a famous local pirate, who reportedly settled on the island in the 1700s with his band of men. According to legend, Gaspar and his men used the island as a hiding place between forays until the United States carried out a campaign to rid the waters of their presence. Whether true or not, the legend adds to the colorful history of the island. And the story is interesting and beautiful, isn't it?
Gasparilla Island is another one of those incredible places. It's a place where you can get lost while wandering on the seven pristine miles of sugar-white beach or exploring the Back Bay during low tide. Tourism and fishing are the economic basis on this tranquil seven-mile long island. Fishing, sailing, swimming, hiking, and shelling are just a small sampling of the leisure activities that make Gasparilla Island. It is an island where wealthy winter residents rub shoulders with local fishers and other longtime permanent residents. How cozy can that be?
The Tarpon Tournament changes everything
This island is a seasonal host for many of the nation's most prominent fishers, as well as some of the most prominent families in the country. They come to fish for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass, which separates Gasparilla and Cayo Costa islands.
Each spring these giant fish, also known as "silver kings" migrate into the deep water pass. From the southern tip of the island, where the State Park and the Lighthouse and Lighthouse Museum sit, you will see the hundreds of fishing boats fighting against the strong current of the pass, trying to get the biggest fish on board.
Yes, Bocca Grande deserves its name “the Tarpon Capital of the World.” Do the fish like that game? We don't know. At least they are not ending up on the grill but will be released into the water after the fight. Does a mackerel get that chance? Not very often.
So much about the fish. Now, what about the famous people? For many years the Bush Family came to Boca. Is it worth mentioning? We don't know.
Residential opportunities on Gasparilla Island are numerous. They include maintenance-free condominiums, villas, town homes, single-family residences and large beach estates.
Useppa Island - where you can walk a few Miles in Robinson Crusoe's Shoos
Useppa is a bridge-less island, 4 miles west of Pine Island and 3 miles south of Boca Grande Pass. Clearly, a well-kept secret, Useppa Island is a different place within 500 yards off the Intracoastal Waterway. The area around the island is the best fishing spot in Southwest Florida.
There are only golf carts on the island; no cars and traffic lights, how beautiful can that be? Just imagine a private island only accessible by boat in the midst of water. Only beaches, bays, and a blue sky - a place of tropical peace and privacy. Useppa is the last pearl of the island communities we want to introduce you to.
However, the world does not end with Useppa Island. Beyond the deep water pass, the string of islands will continue. Cayo Costa, Captiva, Sanibel, Estero, Lovers Key, Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands are running parallel to the coastline, followed by the string of the keys. Each island is different, and each island is a unique part of the island communities on Florida's Sun Coast.