This is part four of the Sarasota Wiki Vacation series. This trip to the Sarasota barrier islands yielded a large number of pictures which I’ve added to various Wikipedia articles. The unusually-long post I wrote became too long and unfocused. It is about 90 pages long. I am now breaking it up into specific posts by location and theme.
This one is about Siesta Key. We visited three beaches on this barrier island: Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach and Turtle Beach.
Sunset at Siesta Beach
We decided on a whim to show up at Siesta Beach after a dinner. We arrived just in time to catch the sun setting on the western horizon.
The enormity of this beach is difficult to describe in words. It is not only extremely long, but also unusually wide – so wide that the city had to install walking mats to help beachgoers get to the shore, where they could then walk on firmer wet sand.
Perhaps a few panoramic images will help illustrate the enormity. Control click on each to see it in a new web browser tab.
Just about everyone was looking at the setting sun.
I am also a sucker for sunset. You probably figured that out already by now. Here are a few more pictures of this bigly sunset. These have been uploaded to Wikimedia as well.
We lingered a bit longer after sunset.
Unnamed public beach by Siesta Drive
On a different day we drove from downtown Sarasota to Siesta Key again. On our way to the Key, we passed by an unnamed public beach, just before the Siesta Drive took us onto the bridge connecting the main land to the Key. We imagined this place to be a popular lunch-in-your-car beach for nearby office workers. There were even newspaper racks under the trees.
All travel brochures tell you that you could snorkel everywhere around the Keys. That is completely true, but is also like saying, “you could do your fishnet casting anywhere around this swimming pool.” Apparently there is no colorful fish to be seen anywhere in the Sarasota Keys without diving, or taking a boat trip, with one exception. I was told there was a stretch of rocks at Point of Rocks on Siesta Key that was accessible from the beach, with just snorkeling equipment.
I wasn’t going to bring my snorkeling gear all the way to Sarasota, only to leave without seeing at least one colorful fish. So I dragged my gear to the beach, but realized belatedly that the wind had picked up, causing choppy waves that churned the water into a soup with zero visibility.
Paddleboarding at Crescent Beach
So, this trip to the beach turned into a paddleboarding (stand up paddle surfing) trip at the Crescent Beach which borders the Point of Rocks from the North.
The Crescent Beach is another under-appreciated beach. It is physically the southern part of the world-renowned Siesta Beach mentioned earlier. Crescent Beach sports the same silky Quartz-based white sand, and feels cools underfoot even on the hottest days. But unlike Siesta Beach which is accessible from almost everywhere along the beach, Crescent Beach appears to be almost completely blocked off from the road, by hotels, resorts and time-sharing condos, with one exception. There is a narrow road called “Beach Access 12” just south of the Stickney Point Bridge which leads to the Crescent Beach. This road comes complete with 20 precious parking spaces, as a bonus. But driving out of this dead-end, narrow road from one of the 20 parking lots requires skills, or a car with both front and rear parking cameras.
I rented a standup paddleboard from a store only a block away from the beach, across the Midnight Pass Road. Why? Because I saw a few chaps standing tall and looking cool paddling on what looked like a big surfboard. I figured that it couldn’t be too hard. After all, I had kayaked for years. And I had been ice skating lately so I probably had good balance.
Looking a the picture below, after the trip, I can’t help but realize that I certainly didn’t look cool to other beachgoers the way I imagined I had.
I was already having second thoughts, seeing how the board wasn’t really as wide and therefore as stable as I thought. But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Paddleboarding turned out to be quite difficult, with the waves coming in one after another. Pointing the board perpendicular to the waves made it possible to stay on the board for more than a minute without falling. But one couldn’t keep paddling out to the ocean. Signs everywhere warned of rip currents.
So, yeah, I had to learn to balance well on the board, rocking it left to right as I paddled in parallel to wave fronts. It took about 15 cycles of falling and climbing back before I got in harmony with the ocean.
Now was time I terrorized these merrymakers in the water, by zigzagging among them with my newfound paddleboarding skills.
We also visited Turtle Beach on the Siesta Key, known for being an active sea turtles nesting place. As locals informed us, we found this beach to be much less crowded. And there was a reason for it. The quality of the sand on this beach was subpar, when compared to the rest of Sarasota beaches. Even though this was still a great beach, compared to those around the US, clearly its sand grains were much coarser, relative to Siesta Beach, for instance.