Treasure Island is known for its lively beach bars; Longboat Key has its tranquil sandbars. Here’s our guide to two Florida gulf beach destinations an hour apart with very different vibes.
Best Beach Bets
Longboat Key: Escape from the World
For the traveler hoping to get away from it all, few beaches are as enticing as Longboat Key Beach, where the town is shielded from view by palms and swaying shrubs. With miles of beach stretching along the island, you won’t need to go far to find clean sands free of people and dunes full of waving red seagrapes.
Treasure Island: Bustle and the Beach
Six acres of white sands, swaying palms, and easy access to Treasure Island’s famed beach bars make this an enticing first stop on any visit to the island. The main drag along the center of the island is lively and fun, while Sunshine and Sunset Beach on the north and south tips of the island offer solitude amid quiet residential neighborhoods.
Best On-the-Water Tour
Longboat Key: Luxury on the Water
A Catherine’s Florida Charters day cruise is the perfect way to catch a Longboat Key sunset, and when the sun goes down and the ship lights up, the boat’s strings of blue and white lights cast an ethereal glow nearly as beautiful as the watercolor hues in the sky. You can arrange a private charter with catered food while you sit by and breathe in the fresh salt air, but keep a sharp eye out for curious dolphins on your way.
Treasure Island: Good Times, Great Cruise
A loose vibe and a crew noted for their gregarious nature make the half hour boat ride out to historic Egmont Key a delight, and the ruins exploration, snorkeling, and sand dollar collection once you’ve arrived make for a busy and rewarding day. If you’re itching for some fishing, you can sign up for a day-long trip out to nearby Shell Key to cast out for tarpon, kingfish, and grouper.
Best Open Air Adventures
Longboat Key: Nature’s Bounty
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.
Treasure Island: Touching the Sky
Even if you’ve never tried this relaxing flight before, Parasailing the Pass will tailor a program for you, one that could feature dolphin watches, tandem sailing, and GoPro recordings of the ocean from your lofty perch. The half-day sandbar trip is recommended both for the time you’ll spend in the air and the opportunity to mix with locals for an afternoon.
Longboat Key: Oceanfront Teetimes
A huge portion of the Key’s southern end is given over to golf, and the Harbourside Golf Course at the Resort at Longboat Key Club offers up 27 holes for avid players split among three nines built into the folds of Sarasota Bay. The breeze off the bay keeps your round challenging – and refreshing even in summer. The signature 9 is the Blue Heron track, with its piece de la resistance being the par 5, 580-yard fifth hole that requires two water carries and green set on its own peninsula.
Treasure Island: Hacks Welcome
Golf – and particularly buttoned-up country clubs – can be intimidating for casual players or those new to the game. No such issues at the laid-back Treasure Bay course, a great spot to enjoy nine holes of par 3 golf with the kind of ocean views typically reserved for high-caliber courses.
Best Beach Bars
Longboat Key: Upscale
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub offers the best grouper sandwich in western Florida, a stately atmosphere dining in one of the oldest buildings in Longboat Key, and terrific local beers from luminaires like Cigar City Brewing.
Treasure Island: Party on the Sands
There are a ton of worthy choices in Treasure Island, where the noisy, laid-back beach bar scene that defined Florida through the latter half of the 20th century is still alive and well. For our money, Caddy’s on the Beach is one of the best picks, offering easy access to the beach, great seafood, and unapologetically strong cocktails like the sweet, iconic Rum Runner.
The Resort at Longboat Key Club
Forty-five holes of golf, five restaurants, 291 slips at the deep-water marina, 2 minutes to the beach – the numbers are a compelling reason to stay at the Resort at Longboat Key Club. So is your very own sunset view from your private balcony.
Treasure Island Beach Resort
Luxury meets a good time here, where views of the beach and fine dining from the restaurant’s BRGR Bar are steps away from Treasure Island bars, boat tours, and of course the white-sand beaches.