For diehard Longboaters who don’t wilt with the plants under the summer sun, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Many of the heat-fragile snowbirds have left the shore, but there are still plenty of vacationers bopping around the island, visiting friends and family or scoping out potential longer-term digs for the future.
So, while we love you permanent residents, and we adore our snowbird pals, we're talking today to you guys from up north who are just passing through.
With few crowds or lines to get in the way, we're wondering what kind of tourist are you? because we have some great ideas to get out of Grandma's hair for a while.
Go shell hunting. Sheila Loccisano has nearly 95,000 followers on Instagram because of the pristine shells that wash ashore on Longboat Key. She wouldn’t recommend an exact location because “Mother Nature decides daily,” she said, but searching on the north end usually yields better results.
No matter where you hunt, go early in the morning. Loccisano starts at about 5 a.m.
If shells aren't your thing, or you traveled with a carry-on only you wise and seasoned voyager, then take a walk through the mangrove forest at Joan Durante Park. The boardwalk twists and turns through a tunnel of red and black mangroves that provide shade on even the sunniest days.
Surrounded by mangrove roots on either side, fiddler crabs are often skittering up trees and along the boardwalk. In several spots, the mangroves open up to offer spectacular views of Sarasota Bay. And pay attention to what the locals call The Tourist Trees (just ask someone who lives here and understands sun-screen. They'll know.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is located at 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Take an early morning walk on the beach. Sea turtle nesting season is from May through October. The most common thing to see are turtle tracks. It’s hard to mistake those clear flipper lines in the sand. But if you get lucky, you could see a mother laying eggs or a hatchling “boil.” It’s called a boil because so many hatchlings emerge from the sand, it’s akin to a pot boiling over. Oh, and keep your distance and don't blast away with a camera flash. Take it in without feeling the need to take a selfie.
Over on the south end of the island, check out the jellyfish are a sure bet in the man-made tidal lagoon of Quick Point Preserve. When you first see the lagoon sign, keep walking. The best viewing area is up ahead. Take a sharp left and follow the boardwalk out to a deck. The floor of the lagoon is dotted with upside-down jellyfish, called Cassiopea. Marine life abounds just offshore, but you’ll have to get your feet wet to see the rest. Sea urchins are the most common, but leopard crabs and seahorses have been spotted in the water too. The park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is located at 100 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Unwind with sunset yoga on the beach. Angela Mali offers a yoga class every Thursday night. Right now, the classes run from 7:15-8:15 p.m. “When the light changes on us, we’ll have to adjust,” Mali said. The class is free, but donations are accepted. Park at Bayfront Park, 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive, then walk across the street to the public beach access at 4001 G.M.D.
Or paddleboard to your next yoga class. SUP Yoga SRQ offers a Saturday morning paddleboard yoga class out of Ski-a-Rees or Overlook Park, depending on the wind. If you’re not a yogi but would like to be, no experience in either yoga or paddleboarding is necessary. It’s a quick paddle to the “yoga studio” and the instructor offers options for different poses, ranging from beginner to advanced. Falling off the board is called swimming and highly recommended on a hot morning. Classes are held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The cost is $65; pre-registration is required. Visit SUPYogaSRQ.com or email [email protected].
Eat a four-course meal prepared by a Michelin Star chef. Summer is the time to try Chef Jose Martinez’s Longboat Key restaurant, Maison Blanche. The popular second-coming of Martinez’s Maison Blanche in Paris books out four to five weeks in advance during snowbird season. But these days? Not so much. From amuse bouche to dessert, everything is made from scratch, even the lemons are squeezed by hand. The $75 prix fixe menu is curated by Chef Martinez himself. Don’t wait, they’ve already booked reservations for New Year’s Eve. Maison Blanche is located in the Four Winds Beach Resort, 2605 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Take a tour of desserts. If you’re the kind of foodie that enjoys death by chocolate, Euphemia Haye’s dessert bar is to die for. Upstairs from the main dining room in the Haye Loft lies your sweet tooth’s dream. A drool-worthy display of cakes, pies and pastries stretch across the bar. Because everything is made in-house from scratch, selections vary from night to night. Euphemia Haye is located at 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.