Sarasota is nestled on Florida’s west coast about an hour south of Tampa and north of Fort Myers. The two and a half hour drive from Gainesville is worth it. This city may be infamous for old people and Amish cooking, but there is more to Sarasota than what those who perpetuate stereotypes may want you to believe.

With such an eclectic culture and diverse range of activities to partake in, it was hard to pick my top five favorite spots to visit in my hometown. Luckily, I managed to shrink down my list. The spots are listed below in no particular order.

#1 Celery Fields

Roam through the recently restored and renovated Celery Fields. If you are looking for a place to take a walk, partake in bird watching or watch the sunset far away from tourist ridden beaches this spot is for you. The Sarasota Audubon society has a nature center located next to the parking lot on Palmer Boulevard. The society has recorded over 215 different species of birds here since 2001.

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Celery Fields in Sarasota, Florida, Photo by Allison Jones

#2  Siesta Key Beach

A trip to Sarasota would not be complete without a visit to the number one beach in the world, according to Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Award 2017Siesta Key Beach is world famous for its soft, white sand and stunning sunsets. While at Siesta Key, I enjoy playing beach volleyball, building sandcastles and wading in warm Gulf of Mexico water.

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Storm approaching the yellow lifeguard stand at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida, Photo by Allison Jones

 

#3 Big Edward Island

I would consider this a place a secret spot where locals commonly flock. I enjoy kayaking out to the island and bringing a picnic lunch. Tourists usually reach the island as passengers via a Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Eco-Boat Tour. Luckily, the tour does not stay for long.

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View from Big Edward Island in the Sarasota Bay, Photo by Allison Jones

#4  John Ringling Causeway Bridge

The John Ringling Causeway Bridge serves as a beautiful spot for a morning run or an evening stroll with friends. The bridge straddles over Sarasota Bay and links Sarasota to St. Armands Key. Underneath it, there are some great places to fish and there is a kid’s play park, too.

 

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Sidewalk view from the John Ringing Causeway Bridge in Sarasota, Florida, Photo by Allison Jones

#5  St. Armands Circle

This circle is home to many of Sarasota’s top restaurants including Shore Diner, Crab and Fin and Cafe L’Europe. My personal favorite meal on St. Armands Circle is the “1905” Salad paired with the signature black bean soup from Columbia Restaurant. After an early dinner, walk less than a half mile to Lido Beach to watch the sunset. Afterward, treat yourself to a delicious scoop of ice cream from Kilwins or Ben & Jerry’s.

Top 5 Spots In Review

My top picks for an adventurer taking refuge in Sarasota for a brief stay include the Celery Fields, Siesta Key Beach, Big Edward Island, the John Ringling Causeway Bridge and St. Armands Circle.

 


Difficulty of Exploration: 6/10

Items Required: transportation to Sarasota, hat, sunscreen, bathing suit, casual clothes,  water-resistant sandals, sneakers and cash for gas, food and (optional) boat or kayak rental

Travel Time from Gainesville: Approximately a 2.5-hour drive from UF’s campus [dependent on traffic]

Contentment Level Post-Trip: 10/10

 

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