By Kara Chalmers

I’m not at all surprised to learn that Siesta Beach has just been named America’s Best Beach by “Dr. Beach,” Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor of environmental studies at Florida International University.

After all, this is the gorgeous stretch of shoreline that I always show off to friends who come to visit (the beach is on the barrier island of Siesta Key – about 20 minutes from where I live on the Sarasota mainland).

In fact, I recently spent a day, and night, here with my good friend Sarah, in for a visit from Gloucester, Mass.

We did what I always do at Siesta – spent the day relaxing on the famous powdery white beach sand. We also took a long walk along the beach, stopping to swim in the clear, turquoise Gulf of Mexico along the way. As always, I insisted we watch the sunset, which is really stunning here.

We next headed to nearby Siesta Key Village, which is a charming, beachy village filled with restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and shops (there are a few day spas, too – check out The Key Spa & Salon and Massage Experience).

One of my favorite Siesta Key restaurants – Aaron's Fish Camp – is in the village. I have three favorite menu items - Blu Cheese Chips as a starter, the Low Country Shrimp & Grits and the Bourbon Bread Pudding for dessert. Even though I always plan to branch out and try something new, I end up ordering these three every time because they are so good. I also love this place because of its great open-air dining area and live music.

But on this beach day, Sarah and I opted to dine at a Siesta Key institution – Siesta Key Oyster Bar (or as locals affectionately call it, SKOB). We had frozen tropical drinks, Grouper Bites, Oysters on the Half-Shell and Keith's Seafood Tacos. The Key Lime Pie is also good here.

SKOB is a great place to come at night, as there’s live music and a really fun, casual, beachy vibe. Sitting out on the deck offers great people-watching, as well. 

Other nighttime village favorites: Daiquiri Deck, which offers an awesome array of frozen drinks, and Beach Club Siesta Key, great for dancing and live music.  

There are too many Siesta Key restaurants to mention in one blog post (but I do have to note that the Broken Egg is spectacular for breakfast, especially the morning after a big night out in the village!). But you can visit the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce for more information.

Siesta Key restaurants and beaches

Siesta Key Beach

- Photos Courtesy of Visit Sarasota County

Siesta Key village

Follow the path to Siesta Key Public Beach, rated one of the top five beaches in the U.S. and one of the top 25 beaches in the world in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards.

- Contributed photo