While Siesta Key has gained some notoriety lately from the television show that bears its name on MTV, life is not always like what you see on television. Although Sarasota does have beautiful beaches, an active nightlife, and plenty of watersports, with a median age of 62.8, it's not entirely the 20-something playground it's made out to be. However, with over 6,000 residents and over 2.2 million visitors a year, it's still a really wonderful place to live and visit.
Of course, it wasn't always so. Up until the 20th century, the barrier island was mostly inhabited by wildlife and the occasional fisherman, and went by a variety of names, like Sarasota Key, Little Sarasota Island, and Clam Island.
After the Siesta Inn opened in 1906, guests, including the Hollywood elite and renown artists, took a 20 minute ferry ride to the island from Downtown Sarasota. The following year, the owner of the inn and his partner formed the Siesta Land Company and platted Siesta Village, an endeavor that was aided when the first bridge was built in 1917, making it much easier to get to Downtown Sarasota, and the second bridge at Stickney Point was built in 1927. Three canals were originally dredged to give more residents access to waterfront property.
The Great Depression stilted growth, as it did across the rest of the country, but Siesta Key continued to draw creative types. By 1955, among the population of only a few hundred, 75 were established artists drawing inspiration by living on the Key. With the boom the artists inspired, the area was replatted, and more interior canals were dredged. Due to the peculiar sand on beach, Sarasota County first purchased property in 1954 to preserve it as a public beach. The pavilion was dedicated in 1960, and Siesta Key Beach has since become one of the most famous beaches in the world.
While most beaches have sand made of crushed shells, rocks, or lava, Siesta's sands are 99% quartz, reportedly delivered to this particular beach from the Appalachians through the gulf stream. Due to its purity and fine texture, Siesta's sand is always cool under foot, and was first named “the whitest and finest sand in the world” in The Great International Beach Challenge in 1987. The Travel Channel called it “the Best Sand Beach in America” in 2004, TripAdvisor called it the #1 Beach in 2015, and has been named “The Best Beach in America” by Dr. Beach in 2011 and 2017.
Yet, while it is certainly something to be proud of, Siesta Beach is not all that Siesta Key has to offer. Where Siesta offers fine sand, Turtle Beach offers seashells and privacy. Located at the southern part of the island, Turtle Beach is a favorite for locals due to its boat launch ramps, great access to kayaking, and the ability to walk on the beach for miles due to the connection to Casey Key at Midnight Pass.
Although it stretches roughly 8 miles from north to south, Siesta Key is only 2.29 square miles, and only a little over 3 miles to Downtown Sarasota. While a glorious amount of that is beachfront, Siesta Key offers a variety of homes from condos and modern homes to the original Old Florida homes that were built when the land was first platted. And of course, as they have grown over the years, both Siesta Key Village and Stickney Point have blossomed with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues, making Siesta Key one of Sarasota's best places to live.
Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist