While you and the family might be perfectly happy cooling off in the Gracewater Community Center’s resort-style pool, it’s good to know you are literally surrounded by a plethora of fun things to see and do that involve water. Some of it’s salty while some of it sprays from elaborate fountains, but it’s all refreshing and the perfect way to cool off during the dog days of summer. In this post, we look at all the water-borne fun that awaits within minutes of your door.
Head for the beach.
Since you’re living just 10 minutes from downtown Sarasota, some of the area’s best beaches are within easy reach. All feature dazzling fine quartz sand and azure waters, and all attract beach-goers from around the globe. These are a few that are highly recommended for a family day on the water.
Regarded as one of the best beaches in the world, Siesta Key offers three beach choices – Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach, and Turtle Beach. The Key is a favorite stop for sunbathers and families by day and party-goers at night.
Lido Key also has three beaches, North Lido, Lido Beach, and South Lido. The Key was named by John Ringling, who was a big fan of all things Italian. Lido is the Italian word for beach. Between 1940 and 1969, there was a casino on Lido Beach, but today’s its better known as the perfect beach for families. It offers gentle waves and lifeguards are on duty all day, every day.
Like to go shelling? Caspersen Beach stretches for 1.5 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and it a prime location for spotting wildlife. At low tide, you can wade out in ankle-deep water and find lots of shells and sharks’ teeth. Hiking paths and boardwalks are great spots for bird watching, and there are pavilions with shaded tables, a café, lots of parking, and public restrooms.
Between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota bay lies Longboat Key’s beaches. On this key, 12 miles of coastline feels uncrowded and untouched. In summer, turtles love to lay their eggs on Longboat Key. The vibe here is laid back, but there are no concessions. Be sure to bring whatever you might need for your day of fun in the sun.
Manasota Key has four beaches: Manasota, Blind Pass, Englewood, and Stump Pass. Manasota Beach sand dunes and mangroves attract nature lovers; Blind Pass Beach is 60 acres wide between the Gulf and the bay and offers nearly 3,000 feet of sand; Englewood Beach offers grills, picnic tables, pavilions and a range of outdoor sports facilities; and Stump Pass Beach is a state park perfect for hiking and exploring Florida’s natural flora and fauna.
Get up close and personal with our watery world.
Every kayaked through a mangrove tunnel? You can at Ted Sperling Nature Park. Want to snag a creature from the deep? There are lots of deep-sea fishing charters available throughout the area, and many depart from nearby Marina Jack downtown. On many of the beaches, you can book a parasail adventure or rent jets skis or power boats. Fishing on the 700-foot Venice Pier is an angler’s dream come true, and better yet, no fishing license is required. There’s even yoga classes suitable for all ages on Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, Lido Beach, Venice Beach, and Nokomis Beach.
But water fun doesn’t just mean salt water. At Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, the water maintains a temperature of 85 degrees year-round. The springs are believed to date back to the Ice Age and contain an estimated 51 minerals—one of the highest mineral counts of any natural spring in the country—that are said to be good for your health and well-being. Warm Mineral Springs also offers spa services, like facials, body wraps, and hot-stone massages.
How about some man-made water attractions?
A favorite family destination in Sarasota is the Sarasota YMCA Water Park. Located at the YMCA’s Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch, this park is tons of fun. Kids (and kids at heart) can climb the tower to shoot down two curving waterslides. A smaller slide and climbing structure at the pool’s shallow end is ideal for the preschool set. Beyond the pool is a splash zone where kids can choose between getting sprayed or getting soaked if on the receiving end.
The Sarasota Children’s Fountain, located in Bayfront Park offers beautiful Sarasota Bay views and a relaxing place for Mom and Dad watch the kids dart in and out of watery sprays and among playful animal structures. There’s even a well-equipped playground to tucker them out even further and O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill where the whole family can wind down at day’s end.
Located adjacent to an elementary school, the 25-acre Atwater Community Park in North Port is home to a recently opened splash pad where kids can escape the heat. Water bubbles up and arcs over the free fenced-in site, which has benches for mom and dad to relax on if they’re not looking to get wet themselves.
Thinking about a move to Gracewater? Bring plenty of beach towels.
Homesite reservations are now available, and the first homes are expected to start construction this fall.