Lido Key/St Armands
Just across the scenic John Ringling Causeway from downtown Sarasota is the popular Lido Key and St Armands Key. Even the locals tend to group these two barrier islands together since they are only separated by a small canal.
When driving over from downtown Sarasota, you’ll first enter St Armands Key, known for its eclectic shopping area called St Armands Circle. Here you’ll find brand name boutiques like Lilly Pulitzer and Tommy Bahamas, as well as kitschy art galleries, swimwear, ice cream parlors and a host of Zagat-rated restaurants, many with outdoor patio dining. In the center of St Armand Circle is a park that is often home to art and jazz festivals and public events. St Armands is especially fun during the winter holidays as no other area of town is so focused on holiday décor.
Homes on St Armands are some of the most expensive in Sarasota, based on the small size of the island and the myriad of amenities that St Armands offers. The layout of the island tends to follow a circle, with Washington Drive running the entire circumference of the island.
To get to Lido Key, you drive over a small bridge that many people don’t even notice. Lido Key is home to Lido Beach, another of Sarasota’s natural treasures. Most of Lido Key’s streets are named after US Presidents and patriots, with Ben Franklin Drive running from St Armands all the way to South Lido County Park, at the southern tip of the island.
South Lido Park offers a number of picnic areas, as well as a public launching area for kayaks and canoes. Paddling through the mangroves of the park is a favorite of many nature enthusiasts as you cruise under a canopy of trees, often side by side with manatee and small fish. You’ll want to get your camera out for this unique experience.
Lido Beach runs along the Gulf of Mexico, with most of the condos in that area offering a beach front lifestyle. Single family homes range from beach cottages and mid-century modern architecture to larger waterfront homes lining the bay front. The beach itself is pretty quiet most of the year, but that all stops during the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix, a powerboat race that takes place just off the beach and attracts beachgoers from all over the country. Where most days you can find a spot on Lido Beach with no trouble, on Grand Prix weekend, you’d have to arrive well before sunrise just to claim a spot.
The Lido Key/St Armands area is not quite as laid back as Siesta Key, but not as serene as Longboat Key. This area is a nice choice if you’d like to live in a quiet neighborhood while still being within walking distance to one of the most popular shopping/dining areas in Sarasota.