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16 ABSOLUTE Best Things To Do In Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota is an incredible place to visit in Florida.

It’s known, in particular, for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

Perched along the Gulf of Mexico just an hour south of Tampa, it’s a city that’s got something for every type of traveler.

There is just so much to see and do!

So, to help you make the most of your time in the city, I’m sharing the best things to do in Sarasota that you shouldn’t miss.

1. Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key Beach is famous for its stunningly white, powdery sand that somehow still feels cool underfoot, even on the hottest of days. 

This beach stretches along the Gulf of Mexico and offers breathtaking views of the ocean.

It’s the perfect place for a beach day!

It features crystal-clear waters that are just as clear as the Caribbean and has an extremely wide shoreline meaning there’s lots of space for everyone.

You could easily spend an entire day here sunbathing, swimming, beachcombing and building sandcastles. 

Other activities available at Siesta Key Beach include volleyball, parasailing and kayaking. You can also come in the evening to enjoy the spectacular sunsets. 

This kayaking tour is great if you want to see the manatees and dolphins that reside in this area up close!

The guides even take you to a secret beach that few people know about.

You can also join this electric bike sunset tour.

It features small group sizes and the bikes can be ridden on the sand itself!

The electric bike means you don’t have to put in any effort to get around so you can spend more time just enjoying the views.

This is one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches which does mean that it can get pretty busy at times but the beach itself is pretty big so there’s usually enough space for everyone.

Another plus is that the Siesta Village is located right beside the beach.

This is a great place to visit after a long day at the beach as it’s filled with restaurants, boutiques, cafes and shops.

The beach is open 24 hours a day but lifeguards are only on duty from 10am to 6:45pm. 

2. Kayak Through Mangroves

Kayaking through the mangrove forests in Sarasota is an unforgettable adventure. 

You’ll be able to glide through the tranquil waters surrounded by lush greenery and you might even meet a manatee or dolphin (they’re known to live in the waters surrounding Sarasota).

This unique ecosystem features dense mangrove tunnels, which provide a natural habitat for a variety of wildlife including birds, fish and even manatees. 

As you paddle through these serene waterways, you can enjoy the peacefulness of the environment and the shade provided by the overhead mangrove canopies.

It’s super refreshing.

I’d recommend joining this guided tour which is available throughout the year. 

Your guide will take you through the best routes giving you the highest possible chance of spotting manatees or dolphins.

This kayaking tour is suitable for all skill levels including complete beginners so it’s a perfect activity for everyone.

Related Reading: Where To See Manatees In Sarasota

3. The Ringling

The Ringling is a sprawling museum complex that was once the winter home of John and Mable Ringling, the famous circus entrepreneur and his wife.

Fact: John Ringling, one of the Ringling Brothers, is famous for merging the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their own Ringling Bros. It became the most famous traveling circus in the world and helped shape the modern circus.

The Ringling is famous for its impressive collection of art, beautiful gardens and the historic Ca’ d’Zan Mansion which is a stunning example of Venetian Gothic architecture. 

There’s even a dock for a gondola at the back!

I’d recommend joining this Sarasota sightseeing tour that includes a stop at The Ringling as well as many other famous spots in Sarasota. 

You’ll be driven between sites in an air-conditioned van which, let me tell you, is very welcome in the strong Sarasota heat.

The Ringling is one of the most Instagrammable spots in Sarasota so is definitely worth a visit if you like taking photos. 

My favorite spot is the pink courtyard in front of the art museum.

Not only is it pink, it’s also filled with beautiful flowers and fountains.

Visitors to the complex can explore the Museum of Art, which houses an extensive collection of European, American and Asian art.

The Circus Museum, another highlight, offers a glimpse into the history of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, with fascinating exhibits like vintage posters, costumes and even a miniature circus. 

The Ringling is open daily from 10am until 5pm.

They do close on certain holidays.

Ticket prices vary depending on which parts of the complex you want access to, I’d recommend checking their website for the latest information. Tickets start at $5.

Visiting in the early morning or late afternoon is best if you want to avoid the crowds.

4. Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is a charming barrier island known for its stunning white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and a relaxed old-Florida atmosphere. 

You could easily spend a morning or an afternoon exploring this island paradise!

There’s tons of different ways to explore the island either by foot, by kayak or by renting a golf cart.

I’d recommend joining this clear bottom kayaking tour around the island. It’s the perfect way to spot sea life including manatees, dolphins, starfish and more.

This picturesque island is well known for its laid-back vibe and offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Anna Maria Island offers so many different activities including swimming, sunbathing, fishing and exploring the local shops and restaurants that dot the island. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take part in this parasailing adventure.

Anna Maria Island is also home to several nature parks where guests can go bird watching or take a leisurely bike ride. 

The island is accessible by car or public transport with several bridges connecting it to the mainland and as it’s located just 20 miles north of Sarasota, it’s an easy day trip.

5. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a tropical oasis that specializes in the conservation and display of orchids.

In fact, they have over 5,000 orchids on display here. 

The flowers and plants here are so vibrant and very beautiful due to Florida’s hot climate.

You’ll find it situated on the shores of Sarasota Bay which offers a stunning backdrop. As you wander around, you’ll be able to admire the gorgeous views of the bay.

The gardens are famous for their living collection of more than 20,000 plants including many rare and exotic species. 

It’s another one of Sarasota’s most Instagrammable spots so is ideal if you love taking photos. 

It’s also worth knowing that they do change up their exhibits every now and again so even if you’ve visited before, it’s worth going again as there’s always something new to see.

Visitors can wander through the scenic paths, enjoy the tranquil koi ponds and discover the butterfly garden and the children’s rainforest garden.

The gardens are open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Admission costs $26 for an adult with discounts available for seniors and children. 

6. Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s largest and most diverse natural areas.

This park is famous for its scenic landscapes which include wetlands, prairies covered in wildflowers and pinelands, all centered around the wild and beautiful Myakka River. 

Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities here such as hiking, biking, bird watching and wildlife photography. 

You’ll get the chance to see deer, alligators and a variety of bird species up close and in the flesh.

There’s so many different ways to explore this park.

You can hire a kayak, a canoe, a bike or explore the trails on foot.

You can even take a boat tour on one of the park’s airboats!

My favorite way to explore the park is by joining this electric bike tour.

It’s ideal for everyone as you don’t need to put in much effort with the electric bike so you won’t get super sweaty.

One of my favorite things to do at Myakka is head up to the Canopy Walkway which features a 25-ft high suspension bridge that extends through the park as well as a 74-ft high treehouse that offers a spectacular birds-eye-view of the park.

The park is open 365 days a year from 8am until sunset.

It costs $6 per vehicle or $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

7. Lido Key Beach

Lido Key Beach is a beautiful and serene beach known for its soft white sand, clear waters and peaceful atmosphere. 

This beach is a favorite among visitors who are looking to relax, sunbathe and swim in the Gulf of Mexico’s gentle waves. 

It’s also a great spot for beachcombing as you’ll be able to find a variety of shells including those elusive sand dollars.

The beach has a range of amazing amenities including a pavilion, restrooms and a concession stand where you can buy snacks and rent beach equipment. 

For those who love nature, the nearby nature trails and kayak rentals provide an opportunity to explore the area and wildlife. 

I’d recommend joining this kayaking tour at Lido Key if you want to spot dolphins and manatees. 

The guides are super knowledgeable and know where to find the animals without fail.

8. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is a leading marine research facility and aquarium that offers visitors a deep dive into the underwater world. 

The center features interactive exhibits showcasing a variety of sea creatures including sharks, manatees, sea turtles and over 100 other species of marine life. 

At Mote Aquarium, you can experience up-close encounters with marine animals, watch feedings and learn about the ongoing research efforts to conserve marine habitats. 

The facility also offers educational programs and boat tours which allow visitors to engage with marine science in a hands-on way. 

Mote Marine is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm.

Tickets cost $29 for an adult and $21 for children aged between 3 – 12.

Children 2 or under go free.

Tickets often sell out so it’s recommended that you book your ticket on their website prior to visiting.

9. St. Armands Circle

St. Armands Circle is an upscale shopping and dining destination that is filled with a variety of shops, boutiques, spas, art galleries and restaurants. 

You’ll find St. Armands Circle on Lido Key which is just a short drive from downtown Sarasota. 

I love that this area is surrounded by tropical plants, it kinda feels like you’re in the middle of the jungle. 

St. Armands is also famous for its interesting outdoor statues and its central park that hosts numerous art festivals and events throughout the year. 

Even if you don’t care much for shopping, you’ll still enjoy just strolling around this area.

You can find everything here from high-end fashion and jewelry to local souvenirs and gourmet treats. 

10. Historic Spanish Point

The Historic Spanish Point is a 33-acre museum and gardens that offers visitors a journey through 5,000 years of Florida history. 

It’s known for its beautiful natural landscapes, archaeological sites and historic buildings which tell the story of the area’s early inhabitants, pioneer settlers and the development of Sarasota. 

At Spanish Point, you can explore prehistoric shell mounds, walk through a pioneer homestead, visit a charming chapel and stroll through lush gardens and nature trails. 

The site also offers guided tours which provide fascinating insights into the local history and ecology. 

Spanish Point is open to the public daily from 10am to 5pm.

Tickets cost $18 for an adult and $11 for children aged between 5 – 17. Children 4 years old or under go free.

It’s a great place to visit for those interested in history, nature or simply looking for something different to do in Sarasota.

11. Bayfront Park

Bayfront Park is a picturesque waterfront park that offers stunning views of Sarasota Bay and the city’s skyline. 

Known for its scenic beauty and recreational facilities, the park is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. 

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk along the winding pathways, relax in the grassy areas or have a picnic under the shade of the palm trees. 

The park also features a playground for children, a splash pad to cool off on hot days and several statues and sculptures that add to its charm. 

If you want to get out onto the water then why not join a boat tour or sightseeing cruise.

Kayak and paddleboard rentals are also available.

These provide a unique way to explore the bay and its wildlife. 

Bayfront Park is open from 7am until 11pm every day and is completely free to visit!

12. Celery Fields

Celery Fields is a vast natural area known for its lush landscapes and rich birdlife, making it a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. 

Originally used for celery farming, this 400-acre site has since been transformed into an ecological gem.

It features wetlands, ponds and marshes that attract a wide variety of birds, from majestic herons to colorful songbirds. 

Visitors can explore the area through its extensive network of trails and boardwalks that are perfect for hiking, jogging or simply enjoying a peaceful walk amidst nature. 

The site also features a large hill which offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside which is actually super rare in the generally flat landscape of Florida. 

Celery Fields is open to the public from 6am until 9pm with no admission fee making it a super affordable outdoor activity. 

13. Marina Jack

Marina Jack is a marina and dining destination located right on the waterfront itself. It offers spectacular views of Sarasota Bay. 

It’s known for its full-service marina, upscale restaurant and a variety of boat tours including sunset cruises, dolphin-watching excursions and deep-sea fishing trips. 

Visitors can enjoy dining at the Marina Jack restaurant which serves a wide range of seafood and American cuisine, all whilst overlooking the beautiful bay. 

The marina also features a casual patio bar where you can relax with a drink in hand. 

The best time to visit is during sunset when you can enjoy breathtaking views of the sun setting below the horizon.

14. Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a unique attraction that allows you to explore a tropical paradise filled with lush vegetation and exotic animals. 

Known for its interactive animal shows and beautiful botanical displays, this family-friendly garden allows guests to get up close and personal with birds, reptiles and other wildlife. 

It’s most famous for its resident population of pink flamingos that just wander around the park.

You can feed flamingos right from your hand, watch entertaining bird shows and learn about various different species from the knowledgeable staff. 

The gardens are home to more than 200 animals including parrots, snakes, alligators and even a few endangered species. 

Sarasota Jungle Gardens is open every day from 10am to 4pm.

Tickets cost $24.99 for adults and $14.99 for children aged between 4 – 12. Children aged 3 or under go free.

15. Sarasota Farmers Market

The Sarasota Farmers Market, located in the heart of downtown Sarasota, is an exciting community event that brings together the city every Saturday morning. 

Known for its wide variety of fresh produce, handmade goods and gourmet foods, this market is a bustling hub of activity where you can explore the best of what the local area has to offer. 

From organic vegetables and fruits to freshly baked breads, artisanal cheeses and unique crafts, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

The market also features live music and food trucks making it a perfect spot for breakfast or lunch. 

It operates year-round, rain or shine, every Saturday from 7am to 1pm.

I’d recommend visiting early in the morning if you can to beat the Florida heat. 

16. Beer Can Island

Beer Can Island, located in the nearby Longboat Key, is an intriguing hidden gem that’s only really known by the locals.

This island is known for its natural beauty, driftwood trees and secluded beaches, making it the perfect spot for photography, exploration and relaxation away from crowded tourist beaches. 

It’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for more natural beaches that haven’t been commercialized.

It kinda feels like you’re on a deserted paradise island. 

The name “Beer Can Island” comes from its popularity as a casual hangout spot where people often left behind beer cans, though its official name is Greer Island. 

The island is only accessible by either boat or by walking along the shore from Longboat Key at low tide.

There are no official opening times as it is an unmanaged, natural area but visiting during daylight hours is recommended. 

The best time to visit is during the low tide when more of the beach is exposed and is easier to navigate. 

And that’s it!

Those are all of the very best things to do in Sarasota. From glistening beaches to hidden islands, this list has something for everyone.


Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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