For all of its arts and sophistication, you're never far from a bit of adventure and wildlife encounters in Sarasota county.
There are eight islands and 13 public beaches.
Posh - Longboat Key and Lido Key.
Shark's tooth capital of the world - Venice Beach.
Whitest and silkiest sand (some say in the world) - Siesta Key Beach, Dr. Beach's No. 1 best in 2011.
Shelling - Turtle Beach at the south end of Siesta Key, Englewood Beach.
Highest dunes - Turtle Beach,
Most amenities - Lido Key Beach.
Celebrities like resident Stephen King - Casey Key (King owns the northern end).
|Venice Beach's pavilion.|
|Casting for bait on Longboat Key.|
Fishing - fresh and saltwater - is excellent. Cast from shore, drop a line in a lake or river but watch for the alligators or go out on a Gulf fishing charter.
|Wait, wait, wait for the green flash.|
Sunset cruises go from Sarasota Bay through and by the other islands; don't forget to look for the famous green flash. Rent a Duffy boat, simple to operate small party-style boats, for a do it yourself tour. They are electric, hold eight and run about $80 an hour.
Tip: Access to and from charter boats is as easy as it's possible to get, often just an easy step from the dock.
|Paddle past the area's mangroves and costly homes.|
Kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding through Sarasota's calm inland waterways are must-do's, especially through the mangrove tunnels. You'll feel as if you're gliding through a chapel although it's more like a nursery, for this eco-system is the breeding ground for birds, shrimp, fish and a host of other critters.
|Canoeing at Myakka State Park.|
|Selby Botanical Gardens|
Selby Botanical Gardens are right in Sarasota proper. Of the 200-plus botanical gardens in the U. S., Selby is the only one that specializes in epiphytes - plants, like orchids, bromeliads and some cacti, that grow on other plants without taking sustenance from them.
Botanists seek out Selby's collection of 90,000 dried plants, but most of us will be happy wandering through the orchid house and seven acres of garden. There's a very nice gift shop.
Tip: It's all flat, no stairs. You'll have to walk but it's not that tiring.
|Paths at Myakka are easy and smooth.|
|The canopy walk I didn't make; too short for number of steps up.|
Tip: There are 34 steps up and down with four platforms so I didn't. From reports, don't think I missed much.
|The airboat that takes you on a slow, smooth ride around Myakka Lake.|
|Stand off between alligator and storks observed on way out of Myakka State Park.|
|Shark habitat, Mote Aquarium|
Since 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory has explored the marine environment. Today it includes a 200-acre state-of-the-art Aquaculture Park including an excellent aquarium. Lots of interactive and touch opportunities and a shark habitat. You can buy Mote's sustainably harvested sturgeon caviar, too.
Tip: There are steps but most are accompanied by ramps. Take your time.
|Warm Mineral Springs, the only one of its kind.|
Warm Mineral Springs is a freak of nature: the only warm mineral spring in the state and the largest one in the world. Its many proponents insist the 87-degree water is good for whatever ails you and the natural spring pumps out enough water to refresh the huge "swimming hole" every two hours. There's Cafe Evergreen, a good organic restaurant, and a pretty basic spa.
|View from the first white settlers' home, Spanish Point.|
|See inside a prehistoric shell midden at Spanish Point.|
|Mrs. Potter Palmer's sunken garden at Spanish Point.|
|Mary's Chapel at Spanish Point.|
Tip: It will take you 2 hours to see everything along the 1.25 miles of trails but the walking is easy. There also are tour trams.
Walking, driving, paddling or swimming, you can easily access a bit of nature's wild side in Sarasota county.
|Fish, swim and camp along Sarasota county's many inland beaches.|