Sarasota and her Islands

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Florida Guide > Other Florida

Sarasota and her Islands

Apart from the mainland part of Sarasota on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico the community has several islands.

Lido Key and St. Armands – just over the Ringling Bridge from downtown Sarasota will take you across Bird Key to Lido Key and St. Armands a shopping area around a circle. Here you will find shops to every taste and pocket. Yes, there are some very expensive picture galleries, clothes shops but they are interspersed with ice-cream shops and restaurants to suit all palates. My favourite restaurant on the circle is Cha-Cha’s – open fronted onto the pavement, wonderful food all day long served by attentive staff, but fine dining is obtainable Hemingway’s and Columbia Restaurant.

The main Circle in the centre of St. Armands is the home of many exhibitions, mainly but not entirely in the winter season. Arts and Crafts, motor shows – I saw something in the region of 35 Ferrari’s there one weekend on show. The area can become very congested but the Sarasota Police seem to keep everyone and their vehicles under control!

There is plenty of free parking around St. Armands plus a couple of large car parks tucked away behind the stores.

Continue west to the shoreline, turn left and after a couple of miles the road will come to a dead end at South Lido Park. This is a large nature area on the shoreline with picnic tables and the beach butts onto the inlet from the Gulf to Sarasota Bay. Take great heed of the notice regarding the currents at this point, the movement of the water is visible from the beach and is most dangerous. Watch the racoons playing and climbing trees along with the herons that stalk the fishermen and the squirrels that are just happy to be there. Large parking area and rest rooms available.

From St. Armand’s Circle take the road north signposted to Mote Marine around two miles to the north. The road will curve right and then left and just before the bridge take a right-hand turn (Ken Thompson Parkway) at the traffic lights. The world-famous Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is on the right-hand side of the road. This aquarium is well worth a visit and the volunteers who conduct tours are most informative. Apart from being a tourist attraction the Laboratory conducts investigations into may sea life matters notably Red Tide. Red Tide is caused by blooms of a dinoflagellate that produce toxins that kill fish and create quite severe respiratory irritation to humans along the shore. Red Tide blooms can begin up to 80 miles offshore and move with the currents. The toxins enter the fish through the gills and they die very quickly but it can leave a very unsightly line along the beach.

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