If you’re aiming for a relaxing getaway filled with sun and fun, look no further than the city of Sarasota on the southwestern coast of Florida. A prominent destination to unwind and enjoy incredible beaches, there are few places as exciting as Sarasota. Browse through plenty of unique vacation rentals in Sarasota ranging from trendy condos and historic cottages, to cozy houses and lofts in the downtown area. Moreover, situated up and down the coast are breathtaking barrier islands, Florida Keys, and coastal communities. Without further ado, here are several noteworthy places to check out in and around Sarasota.

1. Sarasota

downtown sarasota
Source: Flickr/Roger W

Spend your vacation in the same city that the Ringling Brothers Circus used as their winter home each year. Explore the city with its diverse shopping and selection of restaurants or take in some art and devote at least an afternoon with a visit to The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art with its extensive collection of art from antiquities to the modern day.

2. Lido Key

lido beach
Source: Flickr/Bradley Buhro

Just off the coast of Sarasota is the barrier island of Lido Key that sits on the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Sarasota Bay on the other. While away, enjoy your days on Siesta Beach with white sand that stays cool due to the quartz mixture. Take the kids to visit Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to see the manatees and take part in the sting ray hands-on experience.

3. Long Boat Key

long boat key
Source: Flickr/rosscrawford1

Drive onto to a new key to the north of Lido Key by crossing a bridge with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Sarasota Bay to reach Long Boat Key. Fill your days on Beer Can Beach with its white sand, kayaking in the bay, or biking around the community. Challenge your family to a game of tennis at the Bay Front Recreational Center, where locals and tourists alike can play.

4. Longboat Key

seabird
Source: Flickr/Andrew Kalat

Enjoy the view as you drive north up the key to the area known as Longboat Key with its views of the ocean and the sound. Rent jet skis or paddle boats to bask in the local water sports or spend time reconnecting with your family as you discover the natural beauty at the Joan M. Durante Park, where you can wander along the raised wooden walkways and get a look at a natural wetland ecosystem.

5. Bradenton Beach

bradenton beach
Source: Flickr/Mr. Usaji

Use Highway 74 to cross the water over a drawbridge to access Anna Maria Island and the beach community of Bradenton Beach. This barrier island offers vacation rentals with views of the Atlantic Ocean or Sarasota Bay. Spend your days at Coquina Gulfside Park, where you can play in the water, take an outdoor shower before getting back in the car, enjoy a picnic lunch, and get needed supplies from the gift shop.

6. Holmes Beach

holmes beach
Source: Flickr/Travis Isaacs

Located in the middle of Anna Maria Island, the Holmes Beach community provides your family with a relaxed beach vacation. Stop by the Artists Guild Gallery to check out their upcoming classes to try your hand at oil painting or watercolors or just to check out their offerings from local artists. Get dressed up and take your sweetie out to the Beach Bistro for an upscale dining experience, and select the outside seating area for stunning views as the sun goes down.

7. Anna Marie

beach
Source: Flickr/Carol VanHook

On the northern tip of the island is the town that shares the name of the island. When you choose a vacation rental here, you and your family can spend your days at the Anna Marie Bay Front Park with its view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key. Kayak or paddle board in the bay, grill out hamburgers and let the kids play on the playground in this popular city park.

8. Siesta Key

siesta key
Source: Flickr/Robert Bieber

Leaving Sarasota and driving south, cross the sound on 758 to arrive on Siesta Key with miles of sandy beaches on the bay and ocean side to work on your tan or lay on a beach chair reading a novel. Put on non-slip shoes and head over to Point of Rocks, where a unique geological rock formation juts out into the ocean.

9. Vamo

Source: Pixabay/rcltechnology

Drive down Highway 41 south from Sarasota to reach Vamo on Sarasota Bay. Slow down and enjoy the view in this kick backed coastal town, where you leave your car at the vacation rental and make your way around town on rented bikes. Enjoy days spent on the beach, paddle boarding, fishing, and playing golf at one of the local courses.

10. Osprey

Source: Pixabay/banclinicitzeer

Choose a vacation rental in the coastal community of Osprey and enjoy spending time visiting with the locals on the beach. Learn more about Florida’s Spanish roots at Historic Spanish Point. At this 30-acre outdoor museum, you can explore the Mrs. Potter Palmer’s Jungle Walk and the Butterfly Garden. Don’t forget the camera to remember the experience of a butterfly landing on your child’s shoulder forever.

11. Nokomis

canoe
Source: Flickr/rachaelvoorhees

Heading a little further south, you arrive in the Nokomis community with its fun vibe. Choose a vacation rental along the shores of Lyons Bay for easy access to boating and fishing in this small bay. If you arrive at the right time, go out for the Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash with its tasty eats and foot-tapping live music.

12. Venice

Source: Pixabay/EstudioWebDoce

A little further south, settle into the hustle and bustle of Venice. Spend time on Venice Beach enjoying water activities and soaking up the rays, and take an afternoon to cast your line off the popular Venice Fishing Pier. Afterward, stop by Detwiler’s Farm Market to pick up fresh fruits and veggies to prepare your seafood dinner back at your vacation rental.