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Manasota Key: Florida’s Lesser Known Playground


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Gerianne Barfield



When it comes to visiting Florida, most people immediately think of popular destinations like Miami, Orlando, or Key West. However, nestled on the southwest coast lies a hidden gem known as Manasota Key. This lesser known playground offers visitors a chance to experience a slice of paradise away from the hustle and bustle of more crowded tourist spots.


Manasota Key is a barrier island located in Sarasota County, Florida. Known for its pristine beaches, lush natural beauty, and laid-back atmosphere, this destination is perfect for those seeking a tranquil retreat. With its close proximity to major cities like Sarasota and Fort Myers, Manasota Key provides the perfect balance between relaxation and accessibility.


Unlike other popular Florida destinations, Manasota Key has managed to maintain its serene charm. The island is not overrun with high-rise condos or commercial developments, allowing visitors to truly immerse themselves in nature and experience the unspoiled beauty of the Gulf Coast.


Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the outdoors, or indulge in delicious seafood, Manasota Key has something for everyone. This article will guide you through the highlights of this hidden gem, from its stunning beaches and outdoor activities to its diverse wildlife and dining options. So, pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to discover the beauty of Manasota Key.


Overview of Manasota Key

Manasota Key is a barrier island with a length of about seven miles, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay, offering visitors breathtaking views of both the sparkling waters and the lush vegetation that surrounds the island. With its tranquil and secluded vibe, Manasota Key is the perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful getaway.


The island is known for its pristine white sandy beaches, which stretch along its coastline. Englewood Beach, located at the north end of the island, is the most popular beach spot, known for its soft sand, crystal-clear waters, and amazing sunset views. Blind Pass Beach, located at the south end of Manasota Key, is another favorite among locals and tourists alike. It offers a more secluded and peaceful setting, perfect for those looking to escape the crowds.


Not only is Manasota Key a haven for beach lovers, but it also offers a variety of outdoor activities. The clear and warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico provide the perfect conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Adventurous visitors can rent kayaks or paddleboards to explore the calm waters of Lemon Bay, which is teeming with marine life.


For nature enthusiasts, Stump Pass Beach State Park is a must-visit. This pristine nature preserve is located at the southern tip of Manasota Key and offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and wildlife spotting opportunities. The park is home to various bird species, including ospreys and herons, as well as sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees.


Despite its secluded ambiance, Manasota Key still offers a range of amenities and services. There are several dining options on the island, ranging from casual beachfront eateries to upscale seafood restaurants. Visitors can indulge in fresh seafood dishes while enjoying stunning ocean views.


Shopping enthusiasts will enjoy browsing the unique boutiques and local shops found along the island. From art galleries and souvenir shops to clothing boutiques and antique stores, there is something for everyone to discover.


With its natural beauty, tranquil beaches, and range of activities and amenities, Manasota Key offers a true escape from the everyday. Whether you’re looking for relaxation on the beach, outdoor adventures, or simply some peace and quiet, this hidden gem is a must-visit destination in Florida.


Beaches on Manasota Key

Manasota Key is renowned for its stunning beaches, each offering its own unique charm and experiences. Whether you’re looking for a lively beach with amenities or a secluded spot to unwind, Manasota Key has the perfect sandy retreat for you.


Englewood Beach is the most popular beach on Manasota Key. Stretching along the northern end of the island, this beach offers soft white sand, clear turquoise waters, and breathtaking sunsets. It’s a family-friendly destination with ample amenities like picnic areas, grills, restrooms, and parking. Visitors can enjoy beach volleyball courts, playgrounds, and even live entertainment at the beach pavilion on certain days.


Blind Pass Beach, located at the southern tip of Manasota Key, offers a more secluded and serene beach experience. Accessible by a wooden walkway through the mangroves, this beach is a haven for nature lovers. The absence of commercial development makes it an idyllic spot for peace and quiet. With its shallow waters, it is perfect for wading, shelling, and birdwatching.


If you’re a shell collector, look no further than Manasota Beach. Known for its abundance of shells washed up by the gentle waves, this beach is a treasure trove for beachcombers. As you stroll along the shoreline, you can discover beautiful seashells, sand dollars, and even shark teeth.


Middle Beach, situated between Englewood Beach and Manasota Beach, offers the best of both worlds. It has a more secluded and tranquil ambiance compared to the lively Englewood Beach, but with more amenities than the remote Blind Pass Beach. It provides a serene setting for sunbathing, swimming, and picnicking.


No matter which beach you choose to visit on Manasota Key, you can expect pristine sandy shores, warm waters, and the soothing sound of the waves. These beaches are the perfect spots to relax, soak up the sun, and rejuvenate your soul.


Outdoor Activities on Manasota Key

Manasota Key is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities to satisfy any adventurer. From water sports to nature exploration, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this pristine barrier island.


One of the most popular activities on Manasota Key is swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The calm and clear waters provide the perfect environment for a refreshing dip. The beaches are typically uncrowded, allowing visitors to enjoy a peaceful swim while soaking up the sun.


Snorkeling is another favorite activity for those looking to explore the underwater world. Put on your mask and snorkel and dive into the clear waters, where you’ll discover vibrant coral reefs, colorful tropical fish, and even the occasional sea turtle or friendly dolphin.


Fishing enthusiasts will also find plenty of opportunities on Manasota Key. Cast your line from the shore or rent a boat and head out into the Gulf of Mexico for a day of deep-sea fishing. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, the waters surrounding Manasota Key are teeming with a variety of fish species, including snook, redfish, grouper, and tarpon.


For those who prefer a more exhilarating experience, kayaking and paddleboarding are excellent options. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the serene waters of Lemon Bay, a peaceful and shallow bay adjacent to the island. Glide along the mangrove-lined shores, spot tropical birds, and perhaps encounter a friendly manatee or playful dolphin.


Manasota Key is also home to several nature preserves and parks that offer hiking and biking trails. One such gem is Stump Pass Beach State Park, located at the southern tip of the island. Explore the park’s trails, witness breathtaking views from the observation deck, and keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife that call the area home.


If you’re a bird lover, be sure to bring your binoculars and visit the Lemon Bay Park and Environmental Center. This peaceful sanctuary is home to numerous bird species, including herons, egrets, ospreys, and eagles. Take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalks and trails, and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.


With its pristine beaches and diverse natural surroundings, Manasota Key is an outdoor playground just waiting to be explored. Whether you prefer a leisurely activity like swimming or a more thrilling adventure like kayaking, this hidden gem offers endless possibilities for outdoor fun.


Wildlife on Manasota Key

Manasota Key is not only a paradise for beachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts but also a haven for wildlife. The island’s diverse ecosystems support a wide range of plant and animal species, making it a fascinating destination for nature lovers.


One of the most famous inhabitants of Manasota Key is the Loggerhead sea turtle. From May to October, these magnificent creatures come ashore to nest and lay their eggs in the warm sand. Visitors can witness this incredible natural phenomenon by joining a guided turtle walk or volunteering with local conservation organizations.


In addition to sea turtles, Manasota Key is home to a variety of bird species. The island’s beaches, mangroves, and wetlands provide an ideal habitat for various shorebirds, including herons, egrets, pelicans, and ospreys. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the opportunity to observe these beautiful creatures in their natural environment.


Manasota Key is also a prime location for spotting dolphins and manatees. These gentle marine mammals can often be seen swimming and playing in the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay. Take a boat tour or rent a kayak to increase your chances of encountering these fascinating creatures up close.


If you venture into the unspoiled wilderness of Stump Pass Beach State Park, you may come across gopher tortoises, which are a protected species in Florida. These land-dwelling turtles are known for their burrows, which provide shelter for numerous other small animals, adding to the park’s rich biodiversity.


For those interested in reptiles, the waters surrounding Manasota Key are home to various species of fish, including snook, redfish, and tarpon, which attract anglers from around the world. Keep an eye out for alligators that occasionally make appearances in the area’s freshwater habitats.


Conservation efforts on Manasota Key are strong, with the goal of preserving the island’s natural habitats and protecting its diverse wildlife. Visitors are encouraged to explore the island’s wildlife responsibly by observing animals from a distance and adhering to any regulations or guidelines put forth by local organizations.


Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a birdwatcher, or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, Manasota Key offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a thriving ecosystem and witness the wonders of Florida’s wildlife up close.


Dining and Shopping Options on Manasota Key

Manasota Key may be a peaceful and secluded destination, but that doesn’t mean it lacks dining and shopping opportunities. While the island may not have a plethora of options, what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality and charm.


When it comes to dining, Manasota Key offers a diverse range of culinary experiences to suit every palate. From casual beachfront eateries to upscale seafood restaurants, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


Seafood lovers will be in for a treat on Manasota Key, as fresh catches are a highlight of the local culinary scene. Indulge in delectable dishes like locally sourced grouper, succulent shrimp, and mouth-watering lobster. Many restaurants also offer waterfront dining, allowing you to savor your meal with picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico.


If you’re in the mood for a laid-back dining experience, head to one of the beachside tiki bars or local cafes. Enjoy a refreshing drink and tasty dishes while feeling the sand between your toes and soaking up the island vibes.


While dining options may be a highlight, Manasota Key also offers charming shopping experiences. Explore the unique boutiques and local shops scattered throughout the island. From art galleries showcasing local artists’ work to quaint souvenir shops where you can find treasures to remember your visit, there is something for everyone.


In addition to local artwork and souvenirs, you’ll find clothing boutiques, beachwear stores, and even antique shops. Browse through a variety of items, from coastal home decor to vintage finds, and take a piece of Manasota Key home with you.


If you’re in the mood for a more extensive shopping experience, venture off the island to nearby areas like Englewood or Venice. These towns offer larger shopping centers and malls where you can find a wider range of retail options.


Whether you’re looking for a memorable dining experience or a unique memento to commemorate your visit, Manasota Key delivers. Immerse yourself in the local cuisine and explore the island’s boutique shops to discover the hidden treasures of this charming destination.


Accommodation Choices on Manasota Key

When it comes to accommodations, Manasota Key offers a variety of options to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious beachfront resort or a cozy vacation rental, you’ll find the perfect place to rest and unwind during your stay on this idyllic island.


For those who prefer the convenience of a full-service resort, there are several options available. These resorts typically offer a range of amenities, including swimming pools, on-site restaurants, fitness centers, and easy access to the beach. Enjoy the luxury of waking up to stunning ocean views and the convenience of having all your needs taken care of.


For a more intimate and personalized experience, vacation rentals are a popular choice on Manasota Key. These can range from cozy beach cottages to spacious waterfront homes, providing the comfort and privacy of a home-away-from-home. Many vacation rentals feature fully equipped kitchens, allowing you to prepare your own meals and enjoy a leisurely stay.


If you’re traveling with a group or seeking a more communal atmosphere, consider staying at one of the island’s boutique hotels or inns. These charming accommodations provide a cozy and welcoming ambiance, often with personalized service and unique touches that make your stay truly memorable.


Camping enthusiasts will be pleased to know that there are also camping options on Manasota Key. The nearby Stump Pass Beach State Park offers primitive campsites where you can truly immerse yourself in nature. Wake up to the sound of the waves and spend your days exploring the park’s trails and pristine beaches.


No matter where you choose to stay on Manasota Key, you can expect a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere that perfectly complements the island’s natural beauty. Wake up to the gentle sound of the waves, enjoy stunning sunsets, and fall asleep to the soothing sea breeze.


It’s worth noting that Manasota Key is a popular destination, especially during peak seasons, so it’s advisable to make your reservations well in advance to secure your desired accommodation. With a wide range of options available, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay that matches your preferences and enhances your Manasota Key experience.


Exploring Nearby Attractions

While Manasota Key offers a tranquil and secluded escape, there are also plenty of nearby attractions worth exploring during your visit. Take a break from the beach and discover the diverse range of experiences available just a short drive away.


Englewood is a charming coastal town located near Manasota Key. Explore Dearborn Street, the downtown area, which is lined with unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Every Thursday evening, Englewood hosts the popular Englewood Farmers Market, where you can sample local produce, browse handmade crafts, and enjoy live music.


A short drive north of Manasota Key will bring you to Sarasota, a vibrant city known for its cultural offerings. Visit the Ringling Museum of Art, which houses an impressive collection of European paintings, circus memorabilia, and beautiful gardens. Explore the vibrant arts district of downtown Sarasota, home to theaters, galleries, and the popular Sarasota Farmers Market.


If you’re seeking more outdoor adventures, head to Myakka River State Park, located east of Manasota Key. This expansive park offers hiking trails, boat tours, and an iconic treetop canopy walkway, providing a unique perspective of the lush Florida wilderness. Keep an eye out for alligators, deer, and a variety of bird species.


For those interested in history, a visit to the Venice Historic District is a must. Stroll along Venice Avenue, lined with Mediterranean Revival architecture, boutique shops, and delightful cafes. Explore the Venice Museum and Archives to learn about the city’s fascinating past or enjoy a leisurely walk on the Venice Fishing Pier.


If you’re a golf enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that Manasota Key is surrounded by several golf courses. Enjoy a round of golf on pristine greens while taking in beautiful coastal views.


For a unique experience, take a short drive to Punta Gorda and explore Fisherman’s Village. This waterfront entertainment complex offers restaurants, shops, and scenic views of Charlotte Harbor. Take a boat tour, rent a kayak, or simply savor a delicious meal with waterfront views.


Whether you’re seeking cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, or a taste of local history, there is something for everyone near Manasota Key. Take the time to explore these nearby attractions to enhance your stay and make the most of your visit to this hidden gem on Florida’s Gulf Coast.


Best Time to Visit Manasota Key

The best time to visit Manasota Key largely depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience during your stay. However, there are some general considerations to keep in mind when planning your trip to this beautiful barrier island.


Winter months, from December to February, are typically the most popular time to visit Manasota Key. During this time, the weather is pleasant with average temperatures ranging from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius). This makes it a perfect escape from colder northern climates. However, be aware that this is peak tourist season, and the island may be more crowded during this time.


Spring, from March to May, is another great time to visit Manasota Key. The weather is mild and comfortable, with temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit (20 to 30 degrees Celsius). The island is less crowded during this season compared to winter, allowing for a more relaxed and peaceful experience. It’s also a good time to spot wildlife, as it coincides with sea turtle nesting season.


Summer months, from June to August, bring warmer temperatures and increased humidity to Manasota Key. Average highs can reach the 90s Fahrenheit (30s degrees Celsius). This is the low season for tourists, meaning thinner crowds and potentially better deals on accommodations. Despite the heat, you can still enjoy the beach and water activities, as the Gulf of Mexico offers a refreshing respite.


Fall, from September to November, experiences a mix of warm weather and occasional rain showers. Temperatures gradually become cooler, ranging from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit (20 to 30 degrees Celsius). Fall is a quieter time on the island, providing a more serene and peaceful atmosphere.


It’s important to keep in mind that Manasota Key is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which is susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, from June to November. While the chances of a direct hit are relatively low, it’s wise to stay updated on weather forecasts and have a contingency plan if necessary.


Ultimately, the best time to visit Manasota Key is subjective and depends on your preferences for weather, crowd levels, and desired activities. Consider the factors mentioned above and choose a time that aligns with what you hope to experience during your visit to this hidden gem on Florida’s Gulf Coast.



Manasota Key is a hidden gem on Florida’s Gulf Coast, offering a serene and unspoiled escape for those seeking a quieter and more laid-back vacation. From its pristine beaches and diverse outdoor activities to its abundant wildlife and charming dining and shopping options, this lesser-known playground has something to offer every visitor.


Whether you’re looking to relax on the soft sandy beaches, explore the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty, Manasota Key provides the ideal setting. With its range of accommodation choices, from luxurious resorts to cozy vacation rentals, you can find the perfect place to stay and make the most of your time on the island.


Beyond the borders of Manasota Key, nearby attractions and towns offer cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, and opportunities to delve into the history and art of the region. Englewood, Sarasota, and Punta Gorda are all within easy reach, adding even more depth to your itinerary.


To truly appreciate the tranquility of Manasota Key, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring or fall when the island experiences milder temperatures and fewer crowds. However, no matter when you choose to visit, you can expect the warm hospitality and natural wonders that Florida’s Gulf Coast is renowned for.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, outdoor adventures, or a chance to reconnect with nature, Manasota Key is the perfect destination. So pack your sunscreen, bring your sense of adventure, and prepare to discover a hidden paradise on Florida’s southwest coast.