I've been visiting Longboat Key, Florida every year since I was in water wings. That's because our family has a condo timeshare there and we were lucky enough to head that way during our spring breaks for many years.
Now that we're older, Longboat holds even more special meaning for us as a couple since this is where David proposed to me in 2016.
My favorite thing about Longboat Key is its peaceful ambiance and relaxing coastal feel. We have visited many other resort areas in both the U.S. and abroad and, gotta say, we've never found anything quite like Longboat. Now if you're coming to Florida to have a wild party on the beach, Longboat is not the place for you.
Evening bubbly and apéritifs while watching a picturesque sunset? That's more Longboat's scene.
But Longboat—and its surrounding area—has a lot more to offer as well.
Let's start with food. This area of Florida is home to some of my favorite eateries in the world.
Looking for authentic seafood with local charm? Look no further than the quaint little Star Fish Company in the tiny town of Cortez. This is a wonderful little fish market and walkup-style dockside restaurant with a couple dozen picnic tables, beer and wine, and a variety of freshly caught seafood.
Our family favorites include the grouper sandwich and—if you're not a seafood person—they have chicken sandwiches and even salads. Another similarly no-frills option is Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe. The name says it all. Right on the sandy beach of nearby Anna Maria Island, this walk-up café is a great place to catch lunch—and a view!
If you're looking for pizza or pasta, Longboat Key's massive Godfather-style Italianate mansions aren't the only Italianos in town. We're big fans of the intriguingly named Bayou Tavern. This delicious authentic Italian restaurant is neither a tavern nor does it offer Cajun food, but its pizzas and pasta are bayou-tiful. Sorry, couldn't resist.
If you're interested in something a bit more upscale, there are endless options. Mar Vista is a popular choice with our family due to its dockside location—great for hanging out whilst waiting for a table—delicious and imaginative dishes, and Mar-velous margaritas. It's worth the wait to sit outside in the waterside garden-style area rather than inside where the ambiance is much more bar-and-grill-y.
This restaurant is also located near a flock of wild peacocks. Although most of the peacocks have been relocated, twelve males remain—which you can see by walking or driving (slowly) through the Longbeach Village neighborhood.
In terms of experiences, it's hard to beat an afternoon spent on the white sand beaches Longboat has to offer. Grab a cooler, towel, and sunscreen and head for the surf.
Another fun and unique thing to do in LBK is to take a walk or bike ride through the Joan M. Durante Community Park. This free nature preserve offers wooden walkways through some of Longboat Key's wetlands. Nature-lovers should walk the pathways quietly in order to spot local fiddler crabs and other local wildlife.
Other options include:
- fishing from the Gulf of Mexico. My mom and grandpa fish every year when they go to Longboat Key. They cast their lines past the sandbar and catch a variety of different fish this way. Make sure to bring gloves and appropriate fishing tools with you though, they have caught more than one shark!
- going parasailing (check out YOLO Parasailing),
- or heading to nearby Anna Maria Island to wander gift shops, head to ice cream parlors, or even renting a scooter and taking it for a ride.
St. Armand's Circle is another must-see. This is a pedestrian-friendly commercial area on nearby St. Armand's Key. Home to a variety of stores—from gift shops to luxury art galleries and jewelry stores—St. Armand's is a great place to take a stroll in the evening.
Tip: As St. Armand's is a popular destination, parking can be scarce. Consider taking the (very cute) Longboat Key Trolley directly from LBK to St. Armand's to avoid the parking stress.
If you're looking for a bit of a longer drive, nearby Sarasota has a larger shopping scene with several malls as well as a local airport.
Tip: If you're flying into the area, make sure to compare ticket prices for Sarasota and Tampa—sometimes you can fly directly into Sarasota and save the hassle of the one-hour drive each way to Tampa.
Sarasota is also home to Mote Aquarium—a nonprofit marine research institution. Stop by to say hi to the sea turtles, sharks, and manatees that call it home (along with over 97 other species) and the scientists that help them—and their wild counterparts—to thrive.
Next time you're in Florida, make sure to pay a visit to our favorite little beach town—and be sure to leave a comment if you do!
Are you a fan of Longboat too? Let us know what you love about it in the comments below!