Enjoy everything the island and surrounding areas have to offer, minus the crowds.
1. Get a little sandy
A Florida summer may be unbearably hot, but it’s always cooler with an ocean breeze by your side. Even if you aren’t living or staying on the gulf, there are 12 public beach access sites on the Key. With the ongoing sand renourishment project, visit the town’s website, longboatkey.org, and click on the weekly beach project update to learn what areas are affected. And don’t forget your sunscreen.
2. Have an otterly good time
Enjoy Mote Marine Aquarium’s newest exhibit, “Otters & Their Waters,” featuring three North American river otters in their watershed home. Also visit Mote’s resident manatees, sea turtles and baby animals. For more information, call 388-4441.
3. Enjoy St. Armands ... and find parking
Yes, it’s possible to find parking on St. Armands Circle, at least in the summer. Enjoy a day on the Circle while the crowds are smaller, complete with shopping and dining, and cool off with some ice cream from six ice cream shops. Call 388-1554.
4. Soar to Save Our Sebirds
Next to Mote, Save Our Seabirds is home to more than 40 species of birds. The center rescues and rehabilitates birds and returns them to the wild when possible. The 200 birds that cannot be released are permanent Save Our Seabirds residents, including the famous Gabby, who just might sing you “Happy Birthday.” Call 388-3010.
5. Find the perfect summer read
No beach day is complete without a good book. Longboat Library members can check out books to borrow, and anyone can purchase gently used books. Paperbacks are 50 cents, and hardbacks range from $1 to $5. All books are discounted 50% on Wednesdays. The library is open from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Saturday. Call 383-2011.
6. Enjoy restaurants sans the wait
Summer residents and visitors, rejoice. You can now enjoy your favorite dining spots with little to no wait, no reservation necessary.
7. Track the Key's turtles
Turtle nesting season began May 1, and the Key’s beaches are filling up with nests. Rise early Saturdays through July 30, and go on a Turtle Walk, during which a Mote-trained volunteer will take you on a walk along the gulf to search for turtle nests. Walks begin at 6:45 a.m. at the public beach access at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive. Longboat Key Turtle Watch also holds occasional public nest excavations. Visit lbkturtlewatch.com.
8. Embrace nature
Explore the great outdoors at Quick Point Nature Preserve and Overlook Park at the south end, Bicentennial Park outside of Longboat Key Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road, and Joan M. Durante Park, 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
9. Search for scallops
Citizen scientist volunteers will search for scallops during Sarasota Bay Watch’s ninth annual scallop search Aug. 20. Scallops are integral to the health of the ocean’s ecosystem. Monitoring local scallop populations helps scientists to understand the health of Sarasota Bay. For more information, call 232-2363.
10. Snap the perfect photo
Summer is full of beautiful photo opportunities, both on the Key and in faraway destinations. Submit your best nature and sunset photos from Sarasota and Manatee counties for our Weather & Nature Photo contest. Weekly winners will be entered into a monthly contest for a $25 gift card, and the grand prize winner will receive a $2,500 flooring makeover from Manasota Flooring Inc.
For those traveling, don’t forget to take a copy of the Observer with you and snap a photo with it on your journey for our “It’s Read Everywhere” contest. The winner will receive a smile makeover from Dr. Jill Morris, of World Class Dentistry. For more information on the contests, visit YourObserver.com/contests.