It’s time to use those vacation days, so follow the smiles to Siesta Key and the barrier islands of Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast to relax your jangled nerves. You can choose a vacation rental on the beach where the sound of the surf lulls you to sleep. Or, you can go inland to stay in a secluded vacation rental among the trees where the sound of silence is all you hear. A few days of basking in the sun, surf, and southern hospitality are sure to get you back on track and help you reconnect with your family over the things that really matter. Within easy driving distance, you can find wildlife, nightlife, museums, opera, and ballet. The list goes on to encompass botanical gardens, golf courses, water sports, symphonies, and sand castles. If you can imagine it, Siesta Key and the surrounding towns can supply it. While you take that in, here is a list of the top 11 Siesta Key vacation rental locations.

1. Siesta Key, Florida

white sand

From the moment you wiggle your toes in Siesta Key’s soft, white sand, you will fall in love with this barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Sarasota. Siesta Beach is close to the shops and cafes of the village, and it features warm, shallow waters and a playground for the kids. Crescent Beach provides access to limestone outcroppings that surround tidal pools where you can look for interesting marine life during low tides, including starfish, jellyfish, and crabs. Any day is a good day on Siesta Key.

2. South Sarasota, Florida

south sarasota

Sarasota County Government maintains the Legacy Trail, which is a 15-mile paved bike trail established over the area’s historic railroad corridor. It runs from Sarasota to Venice along the Venetian Waterway Park and includes overpasses where the trains once crossed roadways overhead. This section of town also gives you easy access to the hiking trails, picnic shelters, fishing area, and playground of the Red Bug Slough Preserve.

3. North Sarasota, Florida

flamingo

North Sarasota is home to the North Water Tower Park, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and Sarasota Jungle Gardens. The kids will enjoy the petting zoo where they can interact with mini pigs, turkeys, chickens, and goats. Over 200 animals in all include primates, reptiles, tortoises, amphibians, and a wide variety of birds such as parrots, macaws, flamingos, and cockatoos.

4. Osprey, Florida

beach

Osprey is small-town where you can slow down and take it easy. The beach is at hand for sunbathing, swimming, fishing, and shelling. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards for playing in Little Sarasota Bay or travel just minutes to Sarasota for major attractions there, including the symphony orchestra, theater, and art galleries.

5. Venice, Florida

dogs

Who let the dogs out? When you stay in Venice, you can take them to Brohard Beach and turn them loose to kick up their paws and have a blast swimming and splashing in the surf. The Paw Park features an enclosed play yard and a watering station where they can play off-leash. For your comfort, the 740-foot fishing pier includes a snack bar, bait shop, and restrooms.

6. Long Boat Key, Florida

long boat key

Tees for two await you on Long Boat Key at the Longboat Key Club-Islandside Course facility. The 18-hold course features 6,972 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. Shoppers enjoy umbrella-draped cafes and festive European restaurants followed by a stroll around St. Armand’s Circle to browse shops for leather, jewelry, vacation wear, and art collectibles.

7. Bradenton Beach, Florida

bradenton beach

You can enjoy a peaceful vacation rental close enough to hear the waves breaking on Bradenton Beach, and feel as if you’ve left the humdrum of daily living on the other side of the world. Paradise Boat Tours feature 90-minute narrated tours to look for dolphins and manatees along the intracostal waterways. You can spend leisurely mornings beachcombing to search for special seashells, sea glass, gems, or starfish.

8. Holmes Beach, Florida

holmes beach

Do you like thinking outside the box? Holmes Beach is a good place to do that when you visit Zegway to either sign up for a guided tour of the island or rent Segway for self-guided tours. Either way, the staff provides training and safety instructions to maximize your two-wheeled fun on the beach and in town.

9. Anna Maria, Florida

anna maria
Source: Flickr/ABBones

Anna Maria is a beautiful island getaway, glistening in the sun, surrounded by the crystal aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You’re sure to capture many memorable photographs as your children frolic in the sugar-white sand and enjoy building sandcastles. If you seek a unique horseback riding adventures, try horseback riding in the ocean with Beach Horses. Handlers guide the horses out into the water where they swim, carrying delighted riders to a new level of adventure.

10. Sarasota, Florida

sting ray fish

Sarasota is alive with attractions, restaurants, arts, entertainment, and educational opportunities for amazing family vacations. Some of the best sights include Sarasota Jungle Gardens, the Big Cat Habitat, the Ringling Museum, and the Sarasota Opera House. The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on City Island features a stingray touch tank, a shark tank, and manatees in the nearby mammal center.

11. Bird Key, Florida

dolphin

Since you’re vacationing at the beach, you might as well pamper yourself with an upscale waterfront rental on Bird Key Island. Just imagine winding down your days by relaxing in your hot tub, taking a dip in the pool, or hitting the gym for a workout. Bird Key Park offers excellent opportunities for helping the kid’s spot dolphins when you aren’t on the beach surfing or boogie boarding.