Longboat Key is characterized by high-rise luxury beachfront condominiums, exclusive resorts, luxurious beachfront estates with jungle landscapes, and long, gleaming white sandy beaches. Longboat Key has an unmistakable air of exclusivity, and the beaches have limited public access. While this may be frustrating for some, it creates a very quiet beach for those wanting to escape the crowds.
Most of the beaches are enjoyed only by residents and visitors staying in the many upscale condominiums and resorts. There are plenty of rooms available in the many beachfront rental condos and beach resorts. A long quiet stroll on the beach is always waiting for anyone on the key. You are not likely to encounter loud boom box music or to need to dodge footballs and frisbees on Longboat's beaches.
Longboat Key has a number of excellent restaurants and all the attractions of Sarasota are just 15 minutes away, as is the famous beach shopping and cultural extravaganza known as St. Armand's Circle. The restaurants are typically upscale affairs and there isn't much in the way of entertainment on the island beyond some live music in a few of the restaurants.
The northern tip of Longboat Key is affectionately known as Beer Can Island. It is not actually an island, but is a hooked spit (attached, curved sand bar) bordering Longboat Pass. It is fully accessible to the public and is the quietest beach on the island. There is public parking, but no restrooms, and to get to the spot pictured requires a walk of about a third of a mile from North Shore Road where parallel parking is allowed. Beer Can Island is popular with photographers, who often bring models to pose among the fallen trees.
Of course, you don't have to come all the way to the tip of the island to enjoy this northern Longboat Key Beach. There is a beautiful beach right near the parking areas off Firehouse Road and North Shore Road. Even if you have a nice beach in front of your accommodations I highly recommend that you come and enjoy the beautiful clear water and brilliant white sand beach of the north end of Longboat Key.
You can fly right into the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport which will put you withing a half-hour's drive of Longboat Key. The island can be reached either from Sarasota by driving over the Ringling Causeway bridge through Lido Key and St. Armand's Circle, or from Bradenton via Cortez through Bradenton Beach and across the Longboat Key bridge.
Longboat Key is a large and quiet island, located immediately to the south of Anna Maria Island, and to the north of Lido Key. It's easy to find a quiet, relaxing place to stay, either right on the beach or on the east side of Gulf Drive. If easy beach access is important to you, make sure you inquire about it. Not all resorts have an easement to the beach, unless of course the resort is right on the beach.
Most, but not all, of the resort properties are on the beach side of Gulf Drive. The residential family homes are mostly on the bay side of the island, and many of them are on finger canals, which were a popular item with developers back in the 1960's and 1970's so they could give everyone a "waterfront" lot.
Comparing Longboat Key to Anna Maria Island, Longboat has more large resorts and condos. Anna Maria has smaller resorts and beach cottages. Longboat Key is much larger than Anna Maria and is geared more toward the retired, golf-playing market, though that's not to say that young people are excluded.
Resorts on Longboat Key are built on a larger scale than those on surrounding islands. The properties have more greenery, larger areas of manicured lawns and landscaping, and the beaches are generally quieter since Longboat Key does not have a public beach access with restroom facilities and food/drink concessions.
There are no lifeguards on Longboat Key beaches, however, the waters are usually calm, shallow, and relatively clear, so if you use common sense you are not likely to have any problems. These are some of the safest beaches in Florida.