Sarasota, Florida – Life on the Waterfront

April, 2015 – Sarasota, Florida, is a oceanfront city, and The Ringling is an exquisite spot to enjoy Sarasota’s shores. During our stay, we soon discovered that this pretty city has lots of other wonderful public places on the waterfront, too.

Beautiful colors at Venice Beach Florida

Sarasota’s waterfront is sweet.

Centennial Park is an older waterfront park, but the views across the water of the city skyline are lovely.

Couple on Sarasota Florida waterfront

Looking out on the bay from Sarasota’s Centennial Park

Boats seen from Centennial Park Sarasota Florida

Views from Centennial Park

At one end of Centennial Park, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall backs right up to the shoreline, and it has a deck where we were told theater goers can enjoy a snack with a view at intermission. How fun!

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Sarasota Florida

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is located right on the bay — a nice spot for drinks at intermission!

Sarasota is perhaps most famous for its divine sugar sand beach called Siesta Beach. I don’t know if I was more enchanted by the powdery soft sand or the vivid colors of the beach umbrellas and the turquoise water — it was all gorgeous.

We learned that Siesta Beach was rated the #1 beach in America in 2011, and there are lots of proud “#1 Beach” signs all around town. Interestingly, Siesta Beach was followed closely by Coronado Beach in San Diego…another beauty!

Beach umbrellas Siesta Beach Sarasota Florida

Siesta Beach — #1 American Beach in 2011

Marina Jack is the downtown waterfront area in Sarasota, and we were surprised to find another connection to San Diego when we saw the enormous sculpture “Unconditional Surrender.” We discovered that both sculptures were created by artist Seward Johnson and that the one in Sarasota was constructed first, back in 2005!.

Undonditional Surrender WWII sculpture Sarasota Florida

“Unconditional Surrender”
A sister-sculpture to the one in San Diego.

Marina Jack is a large marina with lots of boats of all sizes. Next to it there’s a lovely little walking path that goes around a peninsula called the Marina Jack Trail.

Marina Jack walking path Sarasota Florida

Views from the Marina Jack Trail in downtown Sarasota

A little dinghy pulled up on shore made a perfect photo op. We took turns with some other people getting portraits of each other perched on the dink with pretty Sarasota Bay in the background.

Marina Jack walking path Sarasota Florida

Pausing for a photo op on Marina Jack Trail downtown

A few streets back from the waterfront we enjoyed a wonderful farmer’s market one Saturday morning. This was a sizable market with lots of fresh and beautiful veggies and other goodies.

Farmer's Market Sarasota Florida

The Saturday Farmer’s Market is just a few streets in from the water.

On another day we drove a little south of Sarasota to Venice where we found yet another wonderful beach. Of course this whole coast is loaded with great beaches, but when we got to Venice Beach it seemed like the population of the whole coast had decided to join us there! And how funny to find another California connection in the name “Venice Beach.”

Picnic areas Venice Beach Florida

Picnic areas on the boardwalks in Venice

The beach in Venice has some unique picnic areas that are built into wooden walkways so you are slightly elevated above the vegetation. We hadn’t brought a picnic, but many of these little picnic spots were in use by knowledgeable locals who had staked them out for the day.

Venice Fishing Pier Florida

The Venice Fishing Pier

The Venice Fishing Pier extends well out into the ocean and is popular with fishermen.

Fisherman on Venice FIshing Pier Florida

Gone fishing…

It’s also a great vantage point for getting a look at this super popular beach. On one side of the pier the beach was overflowing with crowds of sun worshippers.

Sunbathers at Venice Beach Florida

The beach scene on one side of the Venice Fishing Pier…

Due to construction going on at the pier, looking over the rail at the stretch of beach on the other side, we saw crowds of another sort…

Seagulls at Venice Beach Florida

…The beach scene on the other side of the Venice Fishing Pier!

Sarasota has freshwater waterfronts too. Payne Park is a tiny downtown city park with some small man-made ponds that have lovely water lilies and a lively collection of unusual birds floating around.


Sarasota has fresh water shores too

A few miles east of there, the Celery Fields park has some wonderful fresh water birding habitats for long legged herons and egrets.

Heron flying over water

A heron flies in at the Celery Fields

Heron walking in water_

Stalking dinner in the shallows

Sandhill cranes are very common in Sarasota (as we found out when we saw some adorable hatchlings) and they are much beloved by birding enthusiasts. Someone had even built them a park bench to sit on, although we didn’t see any sandhill cranes using it.

Sandhill crane park bench

A park bench just for sandhill cranes…

The purple martin boxes were definitely getting lots of use, however, and we watched a pair of them hanging out on their front stoop.

Pair of birds on Purple Martin box_

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Nearby, a little ground squirrel had grabbed a discarded piece of bread and he’d run away with it to the safety of a tree branch.

Squirrel eating bread in yellow flowers

Sarasota has lots of wildlife…and most of them have street smarts!

There are dozens more waterfront spots and there’s lots more wildlife to be seen in and around Sarasota, but these are a few of the glimpses we got during our visit there…

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