There’s no reason for the summertime blues on Longboat Key.
Sure, the weather is hotter than hot, but the Key and its beaches, shops, restaurants and roads are yours to explore without the crowds.
If you’re looking for a way to spend those summer days and nights, consider the following:
On the waterfront
The Key currently has six waterfront restaurants that are open to the public for diners who want to savor the sun along with their food and drink:
Bayou Tavern, 6850 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Chart House Restaurant, 201 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, 410 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub, 760 Broadway
Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant, 800 Broadway
Pattigeorge’s, 4120 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Count your turtles after they hatch
Longboat Key’s first turtle nest was found April 30, which means that nests will begin to hatch in late June, after a 55- to 60-day incubation period.
Two or three days after a nest hatches, volunteers excavate the nest to check for straggling hatchlings, then count the number of eggs that hatch. It’s part of the extensive documentation that goes into protecting the endangered species.
Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which patrols the island’s Manatee County beach, is one of the few turtle-watch groups that invites the public to watch many of its nest excavations. Check back at YourObserver.com and read our “Turtle Tracks” column and we’ll let you know as nests hatch and excavations are scheduled.
Excavations usually take place rain or shine and are canceled only when there’s lightening.
Here’s the secret spot for great fishing on Longboat Key: There really is none.
“The secret is, fish move around,” said avid fisherman and outdoorsman Rusty Chinnis.
Still, he offers these tips: A stronger tide usually means better fishing. Trout tend to be plentiful in areas where sandbars drop off. Snook season is currently closed, but when it’s open, your best bet for finding them is right along the beach. Get redfish on the hook near grass flats.
Chinnis offers this final tip: “Want to know the best time to go fishing? Any time you can.”
Show your stars and stripes at Freedom Fest
It’s been called “the shortest Fourth of July parade in America” — and the most charming.
Patriotic people and pups of all ages are invited to show their stars and stripes at this year’s Freedom Fest at 9 a.m. Thursday, July 4, beginning on Bay Isles Road in front of Longboat Key Town Hall.
Parade participants are invited to walk the walk around Bay Isles Road or make the rounds via bike, trike or wagon. Then, enjoy breakfast, games and good, old-fashioned fun in Bicentennial Park.
Capture the sunset
The best thing about photographing sunsets on Longboat Key: Even a camera novice will probably capture a stunning scene.
“I’ve never seen a bad place to take a sunset picture on Longboat Key,” photographer Mary Lou Johnson said.
Here are a few of her pro tips: Don’t face south; face toward the west or northwest. Clouds are good, because they make color flash all over the scene.
One exercise Johnson suggests for sunset photographers: Take photos of five to 10 different sunsets on the Key and compare them. Many people are surprised by how different every sunset is when they compare their photos.
Savor the dog days of summer ... with your dog
Dogs are prohibited from Longboat Key beaches, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun in the sun.
If you and your four-legged friend are going for a walk, head to Joan Durante Park, 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive, where leashed dogs are welcome to join their owners for a shady stroll during which they’ll see plenty of beautiful flowers in bloom. There are even pet-friendly water fountains so dogs can stay hydrated.
If your dog really wants to make a splash, take him or her to Ken Thompson Park on City Island or Bird Key Park, near the Ringling Bridge, both of which have bay access and allow leashed dogs.
Finally, if you’re a boater, bring your dog along for the ride. Many boaters head to sandbars near Jewfish Key or New Pass Bridge. There, Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission rules are in effect, and dogs are allowed.
“If they go up on the beach, our ordinances go into effect, but wading in the water, they can actually do that,” said Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming.
Stroll St. Armands
If you’ve got money to spend, head to St. Armands Circle.
You’ll find the luxury boutiques and salons, along with high-end restaurants for which the shopping destination is famous.
On a budget? Not a problem.
Enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the Circle’s many restaurants with outdoor seating, then stroll the Circle, including St. Armands Circle Park, at its center.
Check the St. Armands Circle Association’s website, starmandscircleassoc.com, click on “events,” then check out the store happenings information, where you’ll find information about specials and savings at many businesses.
Plus, don’t miss the St. Armands Circle Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale and 12th annual Craft Festival Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9, during which you’ll find sales at participating businesses, along with crafts and artwork from more than 175 artisans and craftspeople in the park.
Swing into sumner on the tennis courts
Brush up on your tennis game at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center, 590 Bay Isles Road, which opens at 7:30 a.m. daily. Tennis clinics take place at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.
This summer, you can enjoy an ice-cold beer or wine after matches from the viewing area, thanks to a new policy that allows the facility to sell alcoholic beverages. There’s also currently lots of discounted merchandise at the store in the facility.
Explore Marine and Bird Life
Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, and Save Our Seabirds, 1708 Gulf of Mexico Drive, are both destinations you don’t want to miss.
At 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Mote aquarium visitors can watch shark-training sessions while now listening to narration from the shark trainers. At the aquarium’s new Fossil Creek attraction, visitors can play marine paleontologist by buying a bucket of sand for $5.99 and sifting out hidden fossils from a mini waterway using a sieve. You might find sharks’ teeth, stingray tails or ancient gar scales. All discoveries are yours to keep.
Save Our Seabirds is home to approximately 250 birds of more than 30 species. The Wild Bird Learning Center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and offers a chance to learn more about bird life.
Get a history lesson
There’s more to Longboat’s history than condominiums.
If you want the shortened version, consider walking or biking the Historic Village of Longbeach walking tour, which a group of residents developed last summer. The tour begins on Broadway near Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant and Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub and is less than one mile. For the route, visit the Longboat Key Historical Society’s website, longboatkeyhistory.com.
If you want a longer lesson, consider biking the Key and stopping at each of the seven historic markers. The southern-most marker is at Overlook Park; the two markers furthest north are on Broadway.
The seven markers will take you from the days of Calusa Indians and Spanish explorers in the 1500s to the World War II years, when the military used the Key as a bombing range. For historic marker information, visit the town’s website, longboatkey.org.
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