It's that time of year again--time for family vacations, reunions and weddings. And there's no better place to host a family getaway than the beach. It has something for everyone: natural playgrounds of water and sand, miles of seashells, seafood restaurants galore, surf shops and souvenirs, tiki bars and live music. Thing is, which beach is best?
Well, if you want top-of-the-line, more-bang-for-your-buck, you may as well go with No. 1. And in 2011, according to world renowned expert Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, that was Siesta Beach on Siesta Key.
Dr. Leatherman rates his beaches on 50 criteria ranging from sand consistency to beachfront scenery, wave size and water color to beachcomber amenities. And Siesta Key's beach boasts broad yards of quartz crystal sand that looks and feels like sparkly powdered sugar, kid-friendly sand bars that slope slowly and gently into the Gulf, miles of unobstructed views and scenic paths and underwater rock and coral perfect for snorkeling beneath incandescent water and modest breaking waves.
And while the key's No. 1 beach has plenty of places to shower, grill and snooze under a canopy of shady trees after a day in the sun, Siesta Key is worth a longer stay for a closer look at the other amenities that make Siesta Key a natural winner.
Vacationers have their choice of places to hang their straw hats, from Key West cottages at Beach Palms (153 Beach Rd., 941-349-9900) to boutique digs at Siesta Key Bungalows (8212 Midnight Pass Rd., 941-349-9025); and community condos like Siesta Dunes (6200 Midnight Pass Rd., 941-346-0210) to high-rise luxury found through Beckmann Properties (941-346-3500) or 55-plus accommodations available through Argus Property Management (941-927-6464).
If you want room to spread out, the Hyatt Siesta Key Beach (915 Seaside Dr., 941-346-5900 ) offers 13 floor plans that range anywhere from 1,800 to 3,000 square feet. For circus freaks, look no further than the Siesta Key Suites' Ringling Beach House (523 Beach Rd., 941-349-1236 ), with its pink, blue and green décor and rooms with names like the Flying Trapeze, the Ringmaster, and its roomiest room, the Elephant.
Once the clothes are unpacked, grab some snacks from the Crescent Beach Grocery (1211 Old Stickney Point Rd., 941-312-0472), hit the waves on a Jetski from CB's Saltwater Outfitters (1249 Stickney Point Rd., 941-349-4400), or take a kayak tour with Siesta Key Bike & Kayak (1224 Old Stickney Point Rd., 941-346-0891). Explore the key on a Segway from Robin Hood Rentals (5129 Ocean Blvd., 941-554-4242) or motor around on a two seater "scootcoupe" from Siesta Sport Rentals (6551 Midnight Pass Rd., 941-346-1797. When you want to let someone else do the driving, hop aboard the Siesta Trolley (5254 Ocean Blvd., 941-915-3232) for a private tour or party.
Enjoy the sunset over a succulent dinner in one of Ophelia's on the Bay (9105 Midnight Pass Rd., 941-349-2212) glass dining rooms or smokin' good meat cooked over a hardwood grill and live music at the upscale Blu Que Island Grill (149 Avenida Messina, 941-346-0738).
Early risers will enjoy an egg-stravagant dish at the Siesta Key Village Café (5133 Ocean Blvd., 941-349-2822).
In between, enjoy strolling the quaint sidewalks of Siesta Key Village, where you can grab some fresh or baked oysters at Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB: 5238 Ocean Blvd., 941-346-5443), a drink at the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar (5250 Ocean Blvd., 941-349-8697) or sample an assortment of loose teas at Local Coffee & Tea (5138 Ocean Blvd., 941-870-2671), in between perusing the boutiques and shops along the way.
With so many champion choices in one place, is it any wonder Siesta Key is No. 1?