Life is a beach for those lucky enough to spend time on the beautiful island of Longboat Key. Located 12.1 miles from Sarasota, the island is a tropical oasis surrounded by tranquil blue waters. While the island itself is ancient, the community of Longboat Key is relatively modern. Incorporated in the mid-1950s, the town has steadily grown into a desirable resort destination for vacationers seeking refuge from the stresses of everyday life. Upkeep of the gleaming white sands, lush greenery, and local wildlife is taken seriously by the community. Longboat Key vacation rentals are luxuriously upscale and close to the beach and sea. Keep reading to find out more about this amazing island and surrounding areas.

1. Longboat Key, Florida

Source: Flickr/Jared

Longboat Key easily answers that age-old question of what to do when on a tropical island. Choose a luxury bungalow or home near beautifully preserved white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and restaurants. The balmy weather, the sunshine, and slower pace make it easy to kick back and relax. Spend languid days lounging on the beach, only taking a break to eat, and enjoy pampering at Longboat Massage. Two fine golf courses are available if you’re in the mood to play. Coquina Beach is the place to make your beach dreams come true. For scenic walks, birding, and bayside views check out Joan M. Durante Community Park and Quick Point Nature Reserve.

2. Sarasota, Florida

Source: Flickr/Walter

Find out what it’s like to live near the Gulf of Mexico by escaping to Sarasota. This cosmopolitan town by the bay has a thriving cultural scene. Find your ideal condo or luxury home near numerous fun activities, restaurants, and shops. The world-famous Ringling Brothers Circus made Sarasota its base, and the entire family should get a kick out of visiting The Ringling, a collection of art museums and circus exhibits. Other must-see cultural sites are the Ca d’Zan Mansion and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Adults and kids have a blast watching manatees, dolphins, and other sea animals at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

3. Bradenton, Florida

Source: Flickr/Lenny DiFranza

Bradenton is a mainland city near the Manatee River. The city is known for orange juice manufacturing, and you may get a whiff of fresh oranges as you pass by production facilities. Select a comfortable home in a family-friendly neighborhood close to parks, golfing, shopping, and water activities. This area has gorgeous nature spots to visit. Stroll the magnificent winding bridge at the Robinson Nature Preserve. The River Walk is a nice way to see local activities, restaurants, a playground, and a free skatepark.

4. St. Petersburg, Florida

Source: Flickr/Andrew E. Larsen

St. Petersburg is a large city located in Pinellas County. Locals call it St. Pete, and this is your kind of town if you enjoy endless days of sunshine. The local arts scene is big here, and you can live in a cozy home close to museums, theaters, and various forms of live entertainment. During your stay, be sure to check out the Museum of Fine Arts and the amazing Dali Museum, featuring the works of Salvador Dali. Tour the city on foot, by boat, on horseback, or while riding a Segway. Scenic natural places to see include Sawgrass Lake Park and the Weedon Island Preserve.

5. Tampa, Florida

Source: Flickr/Michel Curi

Tampa is a populous city nestled near the waters of Tampa Bay, which is in the Gulf of Mexico. Come to this city by the bay if you yearn for the sun in the fun excitement. Choose from a wide assortment of luxurious condos, bed and breakfast lodgings, and homes centrally located near entertainment activities, the waterfront, restaurants, and shops. Dolphin and whale watching cruises and tours are among the many fun outdoor activities available. Take the kids to Busch Gardens Tampa for amusement park rides, treats, and wild animal gazing. During the day, stroll Bayshore Boulevard for exquisite views of Tampa Bay.

6. Pinellas Park, Florida

Source: Flickr/Michel Curi

Located just a few miles from Tampa Bay, this island city is a great place to find a cozy vacation home on a tree-lined street. Pinellas has a friendly, down-to-earth vibe, and each year hundreds flock to Pinellas Park to enjoy the Country in the Park festival. Popular family activities include walking or biking the Pinellas Trail, moseying down a country trail on a horse, and scoring team points at Mission Quest Adventures Laser Tag. Check out vintage cars at the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, or join in on the line dancing fun at the Waterin’ Trough Dance and Saloon.

7. Palmetto, Florida

Source: Flickr/G Talan

Palmetto is named after the beautiful Palmetto trees scattered about town. Life is easy-going in this small town, and, you’ll find cozy bungalows and homes near lush greenery and Gulf waters. Commune with nature at serene spots such as Emerson Point Preserve and Palmetto Historical Park. The whole family can learn about the county’s agricultural heritage at the Manatee County Agricultural Museum. Coral Reef Park is a nice place to enjoy a family picnic.

8. Gulfport, Florida

Source: Flickr/Kathy Sturr

The charming city of Gulfport is a wonderful representation of old Florida. It’s laid-back beach town vibe make it a great place to relax and unwind. Choose a cozy bungalow or home close to a variety of fun activities, restaurants, shops, and downtown clubs. Its easy to just hang out and be yourself here. Indulge your bohemian side while strolling along Beach Boulevard, checking out cool shops, art galleries, and outdoor cafes. Work on your tan, hunt for seashells, and watch birds at Clam Bayou Nature Park.

9. Venice, Florida

Source: Flickr/rickpilot_2000

Venice has a reputation for being a happy seaside town, and, you’ll be smiling a lot when vacationing in a luxury home here. Share pristine beachfront and stunning views with flocks of snowbirds, and other local animals. While at the beach, head on over to Sharky’s On the Pier for tasty seafood dishes. Luna Ristorante is the place to enjoy savory Italian meals. Bringing the dog? Dogs love the sandy beach and lapping waves at Brohard Paw Park. Hop on a river boat tour and keep an eye out for Florida wildlife.

10. St. Pete Beach, Florida

Source: Flickr/Matt Wade

St. Pete Beach stretches for miles along the turquoise waters of the Gulf Coast region. This gorgeous city is sometimes confused with St. Petersburg, but, this community clearly has its own beach culture vibe. Stay in a luxury bungalow or home close to picturesque beaches, restaurants, and specialty shops. Boats and paddleboards are readily available for self-guided tours. Want a truly memorable experience? Enjoy great food, learn about live tropical fish, and get inside the tank at Swim with the Fishes.

11. Cortez, Florida

Source: Flickr/Florida Fish and Wildlife

Fishing is the life blood of Cortez, and if you love the water, this idyllic town in Manatee County is a water lover’s dream. Stay at a cottage, bungalow, or a home close to fun water activities, specialty shops, and the local museum. Boat tours are readily available for deep sea fishing, sailing, and dolphin watching. If you’re adventurous, go snorkeling in the turquoise waters, or stay above water for jet skiing or water skiing. Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are other ways to enjoy the crystal-clear waters.