They’re both islands and great Florida beach getaways. But one is on the East Coast, the other is on the gulf, each with its own vibe. Which is right for you?
Longboat Key: Escape from the World
For the traveler hoping to get away from it all, few beaches are as enticing as the private beach at The Resort at Longboat Key Club. On a Florida Gulf barrier island covered in palms, swaying shrubs, dunes, and swaths of pristine white sand, it’s easy to imagine you’ve journeyed to your own private island. With miles of beach that stretch along the island, you won’t need to go far to find a stretch of sand free of people but full of seashells and sand dollars to collect as keepsakes.
Hutchinson Island: Bathtub Beach
Known for the warm water “bathtub effect” caused by the reef just offshore, Bathtub Beach Park and Bathtub Reef have become popular spots for families with young kids to spend a summer day. While the beach may be the destination for families, don’t overlook snorkeling the sparkling waters around the reef, which is home to a diverse variety of 500 species of marine creatures and fish, not to mention the endangered sea turtles that forage on and around the reef.
Best Reason to Get Offshore
Longboat Key: Luxury on the Water
If you’ve ever daydreamed about chartering a sailboat and cruising tropical waters, a day cruise on Catherine’s Florida Charters is baby step in that direction. Spend the day out on the water, or depart in the evening to catch a Longboat Key sunset. Arrange a private charter with catered food while you sit by, breathe in the fresh salt air, and soak up the brilliant colors of the sun as it sinks below the horizon. Relax as much as possible, but keep a sharp eye out for curious dolphins on your way.
Hutchinson Island: Sport Fishing in Prime Sailfish Waters
The area is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World,” which is reason enough to grab a reel, but sportfishing isn’t the only option. VIP Fishing Charter has a fleet of charter boats that ranges from sportfishing vessels – both regular and multi-million-dollar luxury fishing yachts – to those right for flats fishing and fly-fishing.
Best Non-Beach Activity
Longboat Key: Award-Winning Golf
Consistently ranked among the country’s finest golf courses, the Harbourside Golf Course and the Islandside Golf Course have garnered The Resort at Longboat Key Club the prestigious “Best Places to Play” award by Golf Digest. The two courses offer very different experiences: The tree-lined Harbourside course is on Sarasota Bay; the Islandside course fills out its links-style persona with sweeping Gulf of Mexico views.
Hutchinson Island: Two-Wheeled Coastal Exploration
Whether you’re a novice or an avid cyclist, whether you prefer to ride on- or off-road, there’s something for all cyclists on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Rent a bicycle, and get off the beaten path – the island’s trails guide winds through nature preserves, where you can catch sight of some of Hutchinson Island’s unique wildlife, whereas shared roadways will bring cyclists through quaint downtown areas, like Stuart. Want to smell the salt air and see the sights but conserve your energy? Pick up a rental scooter, and cruise the island at a slightly faster clip.
Best Rainy Day Museum
Longboat Key: Longboat Key Center for the Arts
A division of the Ringling College of Art and Design, the Longboat Key Center for the Arts (LBKCA) focuses on bringing the same caliber of exhibitions, programs, and events to Longboat Key as you might see in the Ringling Museum of Art in nearby Sarasota. It boasts a curated slate of exhibitions that highlight local artists and themes relevant to Florida’s art culture, the LBKCA.
Hutchinson Island: Elliot Museum
At the Elliot Museum in Stuart, the exhibits include collections of classic cars, trucks, bicycles, and boats. You’ll also find art, a tribute to actress (and area local) Frances Langford, and a Foucault pendulum, a real-time demonstration of the rotational movement of the Earth.
Best Bet to Get Close to Nature
Longboat Key: Quick Point Nature Reserve
Quick Point Nature Reserve is a true hidden gem located on Longboat Key’s southeast end, an oceanfront reserve with both man-made and natural lagoons containing hundreds of species. Spend a morning circling the park on foot, and you’ll spot white ibises in flight, small crabs scuttling by your feet, and conchs slowly plying the silty bottoms.
Hutchinson Island: Oceanographic Society Coastal Center
The center is comprised of a 57-acre parcel of wilderness between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. The Coastal Center incubates research projects, as well as providing education geared toward helping visitors appreciate and learn more about the unique habitat. Guided nature walks are available on the center’s nature trail, or just wander the one-mile loop on your own. Try your hand at feeding stingrays and gamefish, or visit with the resident sea turtles at the Sea Turtle Pavilion.
Where to Stay
Longboat Key: The Resort at Longboat Key Club
With white sand beaches, watersports, eight restaurants and lounges, 45 holes of golf, and an award-winning tennis complex, you may never step foot off The Resort at Longboat Key Club’s 410 acre-resort grounds.
Longboat Key: Zota Beach Resort
Slated to open in the spring of 2017, Longboat Key’s newest luxury beach resort promises to be a chic study in casual beach cool with modern architectural elements like richly grained live-edge wooden headboards in the guest rooms to create an aesthetic that is at once sleek and inviting.
Hutchinson Island: Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa
The first new beach resort to be built on Hutchinson Island in nearly 20 years, Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa is set to open in the spring of 2017, featuring two oceanfront restaurants, two swimming pools, and a signature spa.