Sarasota’s North Trail is a popular subject in the news, however, it is the residential neighborhood of Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores that steals the hearts of visitors and residents.
Tucked away under canopy trees, Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores has a rich history dating back to when Florida’s earliest inhabitants made seasonal trips to the area to fish in its freshwater springs and the bay.
The neighborhood, made up of nearly 30 subdivisions, is a piece of history well preserved by its residents.
Neighborhood historian and resident David Jennings says Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores’ mix of history and charm makes it magical.
“There’s something about that dirt,” says Jennings. “I call it magic dirt. You get smitten.”
The dirt Jennings speaks of is the foundation of the neighborhood’s history, made up of Native American ceremonial mounds that have been covered and filled over the years.
But, if you know where to look, today’s visitors can still catch a glimpse of history.
Did you know?
â— Indian Beach was home to one of Sarasota’s first post offices in 1906, which served fewer than 100 residents. The old post office’s exact location is unknown.
â— To attract people from the North, settlers sold the neighborhood at one point in the 1890s as the “Connecticut Colony.” This resulted in a few homes being built with a Northeastern aesthetic.
â— Sapphire Shores Park (also known as Sun Circle Park) is a dog-friendly park located on the water.
â— Bay Shore Road is two words, not one. Many street signs are incorrectly labeled “Bayshore Road.”
LOOK OUT FOR ...
While exploring the neighborhood, be sure to check out some of these homes and unique spots.
1. The Overlook (2701 Bay Shore Road) — This spot on Bay Shore Road is “part of (the neighborhood’s) entire historical fabric,” according to Jennings. The spot is perfect for sunset viewing, with an open view of the bay and visible remnants of history. Look to the left and you can see the remains of Native American ceremonial mounds. To your right are remnants of the docks Cuban fishermen used in the 1700s.
2. Nature Walk — The Charles Hegener Nature Walk is easy to miss with its small entrance located at Bay Shore Road and 40th Street. Hegener was a native to the area and an environmental and historic preservationist.
3. Florida Flora — Residents call the large trees that create a canopy over many of the homes “legacy trees” because of their grand stature. Alameda Avenue and its neighboring streets are home to large oak trees dating back hundreds of years. The largest acacia tree on private property in Florida is located at 940 Caloosa Drive. Look out for a painted tree in the front lawn of a home on Brywill Circle in Sapphire Shores.
4. Cool Cacti: On Sapphire Drive, there is a night-blooming cereus, a tree-like cactus that blooms once a year for a single night. The cacti look like palm trees covered with green vines.
Homes — Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores is full of homes with an eclectic mix of styles from different decades dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
During the Florida Land Boom in the 1920s, contactors were only allowed build three styles in Sapphire Shores due to a deed restriction: Spanish, Mediterranean and Moroccan. Thirteen homes were built before the real estate crash in 1926, all of which are still standing. The homes are located on six streets: S. Shore Drive, Woodland Drive, Acacia Drive, Sapphire Drive, N. Shore Drive and Brywill Circle.
View Indian Beach map in a larger map
Why we love our neighborhood …
“I think it’s very important that we take care of these homes and preserve them for the neighborhood and the city of Sarasota.”
— Louise Minges, who lives in the pink Mediterranean home on Woodland Drive and Bay Shore Road
“We love the fact that the home was built almost 100 years ago and has a lot of history.”
— Donna Koffman. Koffman’s home at 451 Woodland Drive was built for John Ringling’s doctor, Dr. George Day, in the ’20s.
“We loved the diversity of the neighborhood. The house just spoke to us as something that could have come out of Italy or Spain. It’s a very romantic house.”
— Claudia Barnett, who lives in a nationally registered home at 5050 Bay Shore Road.
“When I’m describing the neighborhood to people, I tell them of the magic of this place that has been desirable for centuries.”
— David Jennings, neighborhood historian and resident of Sapphire Shores since 1992.