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Why You’ll Love Longboat Key Florida Beaches

If you’re looking for an outrageous beach party lifestyle, the Longboat Key Florida beaches are probably not the spot for you.

Prefer that “long walk on the beach” vibe with plenty of natural beauty? Some of the best beaches in the world are in the town of Longboat Key. If you’re looking to chill with incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico, this needs to be on your list.

Waves washing up on sand at beach.

Longboat Key has the feel of a local’s hideaway. There are only a few resort hotels on the key, although you’ll find a lot of private homes, condos, and other smaller vacation rental properties.

And while you won’t have miles of boardwalk with tacky tourist shops and eateries, you will find plenty to do with a laid-back vibe.

Longboat Key provides a great place to get away from it all and is not as well known – or as crowded – as neighboring Siesta Key beaches or Anna Maria Island beaches to the north. 

So, if you’re looking for a place to soak up some sun, here’s what you need to know about Longboat Key beaches. 

Beach with birds.

Where is Longboat Key, Florida?

Longboat Key is located on Florida’s west coast, just off the coast of Sarasota. Even though it is a small area, the island fits within two counties: Manatee County to the north and Sarasota County to the south.

With its wide, open beaches and glistening turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it is a great location that is easily accessible from Sarasota or the Tampa-St. Pete area.

Longboat Key itself doesn’t have any direct access to the mainland. To get there, you’ll need to cross over onto the island from the Longboat Key Bridge to the north or John Ringling Causeway via St. Armands Key from the Sarasota-Bradenton airport.

From end to end, Longboat Key is less than 11 miles in length, and less than a mile wide at its largest part. This means that you’re within walking distance of Gulf Beaches to the west and Sarasota Bay to the east no matter where you are on the island. 

Beach with gentle wave on shore and building in the far distance.

Being long and narrow means that this barrier island has a ton of beachfront locations, including many public access beaches. 

Things to Know about the Beaches on Longboat Key

Unlike some other islands and regional beaches, there is one important factor to know about Longboat Key: for the most part, the beaches do not have amenities. That means no concessions, lifeguards, or restrooms. 

The exception to this is Bayfront Park at 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive. This park is actually located on Sarasota Bay, instead of the Gulf of Mexico, but has a ton of features, especially if you have little ones.

And remember how narrow the island is? This means that it is about a 5-minute walk from Bayfront Park on Sarasota Bay to several beach public access points on the Gulf of Mexico.

At Bayfront Park, you’ll find a playground, tennis and pickleball courts, shuffleboard, a basketball court, a recreation center, restrooms, picnic tables, and more. There’s also public parking there for easy access to the beach.

If you’re looking for that secluded area where you can chill with a good book, usually with very few other people on the beach, I’d suggest one of the other beaches.

Book and shoes in the sand at the beach.

In addition to the public access beach across from Bayfront Park, there are also other public access points along Gulf of Mexico Drive at 2825, 3175, 3355, 3495, 4001, 4711, 4795, and 6847. All of these have parking lots available on site, except 2825 Gulf of Mexico Drive. (Parking for that location is at Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road.)

Other public access points for the beach can be found at 6399 Gulfside Road, 100 Broadway Street, 7055 Seabreeze Avenue (but no parking at this location), and 100 North Shore Road.

To find any of these public beach access points, just look for the white beach access signs along the road.

While it doesn’t have on-site amenities, a hidden gem among the beautiful beaches at the north end of Longboat Key is Whitney Beach.

If you’re looking for unique pictures, there are a variety of uprooted trees that have been bleached over the years by the sun and salt air. This area is also great because the shallow water goes out quite a long way compared with other beaches.

For whatever reason, this beach tends to be overlooked, so it has a deserted island feel to it. Across the street, Whitney Plaza offers some dining and retail options.

Drive a little farther north and you’ll find Coquina Beach. This is a large public beach with loads of parking and amenities, including grills and picnic tables. We don’t usually visit this beach just because of the crowds and traffic, but it is a beautiful area.

What To Bring with You for a Day at the Beach

If you’re planning for a day at the beach, there are a few must-haves. You’ll absolutely want protection from the sun. Sunscreen, a sun hat, and sunglasses are very important. 

Chairs and an umbrella on the beach.

Because the beaches are not as built up as other areas, bring your own beach towels and some water in a cooler. But avoid glass bottles – they’re not safe to have on the beaches, and many locations prohibit them. After all, stepping on a broken bottle that is buried in the sand will ruin your vacation.

The sand on Longboat Key is great for building sandcastles, so bring supplies for that. If you’re traveling with a large number of people, a beach wagon is useful to get around. 

You may also want to bring binoculars, as there can be an abundance of shorebirds on land. You may even spot dolphins or manatees in the Gulf! 

Beach with sun high in the blue sky.

Want to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything? Check out this packing list for the perfect beach day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring pets on the beach?

No, pets are not allowed on the beaches at Longboat Key. There is a dog park at Bayfront Park, however.

Can I have alcohol on the beach?

Unfortunately, you’ll need to leave your alcoholic beverage behind. The public beaches on Longboat Key are an alcohol-free zone by town ordinance.

What are the hours for the beaches on Longboat Key? 

Unless otherwise noted, beaches are open daily from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. 

Top Tips

If you’re looking for large parking lots on Longboat Key, you’ll be very disappointed. Although most beach access areas have parking, the lots are incredibly small – sometimes only a handful of spaces. The good news is that all of the parking at those lots is free. 

If you see a lot of people parking on-street on the different side streets, this is because they have a resident-only parking permit. Make sure to look for those areas and avoid parking your car there, unless you want a hefty fine! 

Bridge over mangroves to beach.

Looking for things to do beyond the beach? Longboat Key offers several parks that have a variety of wildlife.

One of the best locations is Joan M. Durante Park (5500 Gulf of Mexico Drive). This park was meticulously reclaimed from development and freed from invasive plants to provide a beautiful coastal hammock forest setting. Look for native plants like mangroves, sea grapes, Sabal palms, and more.

Amenities on Longboat Key are limited, so if you’re looking for more options for lodging or dining, head north or south.

Across the Longboat Pass Bridge and up to AMI, there’s more to do. We love the Anna Maria Island restaurants so head to this area often. Another option is to head south to Lido Key.

You’ll find incredible options for dining and shopping at St. Armands on Lido Key on the south end of Longboat Key. With about a 15-minute drive from the heart of Longboat Key, it should absolutely be on your list. See our list of best restaurants in St. Armand’s Circle.

More About Area Beaches

Staying at the Longboat Key Resort

Best Anna Maria Island Beaches

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

Where to Stay on Anna Maria Island

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