Siesta Key Beach in Florida: America’s Best Beach

Like me, you might be wondering what makes the Siesta Key Beach in Florida the best beach in America. Does it really have gorgeous white sugary sand with clear blue water? Is the water so clear that you can see small fish swimming around at the bottom?

I knew I had to visit Siesta Key Beach myself to see if it lived up to its claim of being the best beach in the United States. To make this happen, we took a day trip from our hotel near Anna Maria Island to Sarasota County, Florida, where Siesta Key Public Beach is located.

It wasn’t a bad drive, approximately 50 minutes to get to Sarasota. We drove through downtown and a lovely residential area with beautiful, dreamy homes. Siesta Key Beach is only minutes from these charming neighborhoods.

Arriving at our destination, I grabbed the camera bag and our beach gear and made my way down to check out this famous beach. This beach is renowned worldwide, and many tourists will fly in just to swim at Siesta Key.

Unfortunately, I only had one day to enjoy the beach, but I could have easily spent more time here. However, I made the most of my time by taking photos and enjoying a good book with my feet in the sand.

Below I’ve listed some helpful tips for visiting Siesta Key Beach in Florida, along with my overall thoughts on what makes this beach special.

White sand and blue water at Siesta Key Beach in Florida.
Look at that beautiful water and sugary, white sand! Image shot on Kodak Portra 400 film.
A red lifeguard station with people walking on the beach.
The beautiful Siesta Key Beach in Florida. Image shot on Portra 400 film.

Siesta Key Beach Access and Parking

There are different access points to Siesta Key Beach, each with a certain amount of parking spaces. We parked at the primary beach access:

948 Beach Road Siesta Key, Florida 34242

There is plenty of parking (and it is free!), but we arrived early. Expect a lot of crowds during peak season. It is best to come earlier in the day to get a parking spot. If you can’t get a parking space here, you can try one of the other beach access points listed here.

When is the Best Time to Visit Siesta Key Beach in Florida?

The best time to visit is in the springtime (March to May) or late fall (October and November) as there are fewer crowds and it is not as hot as summer. Winter is generally more crowded, especially if school is out. However, if you want milder temperatures, visit in the wintertime.

Hurricane season in Florida runs from June to November, so you will also want to keep that in mind when booking a beach trip. I tend to stay away from this timeframe unless I find excellent deals or have travel insurance.

Also, you might not want to visit if there is red tide. I’ve been lucky never to have experienced it. Red tide is harmful algae bloom and can change the water to red, green, or brown. If you search for this term and images of red tide, you will see what I mean. For some, red tide can cause skin irritation, and the water looks gross. Not to mention, red tide can, unfortunately, kill fish too. It is definitely something I don’t want to swim in.

The red tide can be hard to predict, and it is best to research before your trip to see any potential issues with the water before you go.

People sitting on the beach under beach umbrellas. They are sitting near a yellow lifeguard station.
There are lifeguard stations located on Siesta Key Beach. Image shot on Kodak Portra 400 film.

So, What Makes Siesta Key Beach the Best Beach in America?

Since this beach is well-known worldwide, the beach is often crowded. But there is plenty of space to enjoy your time on the sand. The beach is very family-friendly, so you will see many kids splashing around in the water.

We went on a hot summer day in June. There were plenty of people there, but locals also told us that they are seeing more visitors this year since people are starting to travel again since the pandemic began. It wasn’t peak time when we went, however.

So, what makes this beach the best beach in America? Well, for starters, Siesta Key Beach has gorgeous white sand. The sand is mainly made of quartz, which is fine grain and very powdery. It easily sticks to your skin, which can be slightly annoying. As a side note, I read that baby powder works great in getting the sand off your skin, but I didn’t have the chance to try this method to see if it really works.

The sand is pretty, but my favorite thing about the sand at Siesta Key is that it is cool to the touch. With the sun rays blazing down on the beach, you would think that the sand would be unbearably hot to walk on. This isn’t the case at Siesta Key Beach; the coolness of the sand feels great as you walk along the beach on a hot summer day.

People enjoying a day at Siesta Key Beach in Florida.
People enjoy a day at the beach—image shot on Portra 400 film.

Siesta Key Beach is also considered the best beach for its clear, blue water. The water there is nice, but I wouldn’t say it is completely clear. I could not see my feet when I stood in the water. I’ve been to beaches in other parts of the world where I can clearly see my toes as I stand in the water.

However, it is still a lovely turquoise blue, and it is a clean beach. I can undoubtedly say that it is one of the best beaches I’ve been to in Florida and perhaps the Southeast. But it’s not the best beach I’ve ever been to.

The waves were slightly rough the day we went. Rough to where my husband lost his sunglasses when a wave crashed into him. I could not see the sunglasses in the water, so I desperately tried to feel around in the sand for them gently with my feet. Twenty minutes later, we were lucky to find them a couple of feet from where he lost them.

And by finding them, I mean stepping on them. Fortunately, the sunglasses didn’t break, and I was so relieved. Lesson learned: don’t wear expensive sunglasses on the beach. Or at least buy a lanyard for the sunglasses to hang safely around the neck.

Despite that, I had lots of fun catching those waves.

Amenities at Siesta Key

There are excellent amenities at this beach:

  • Bathrooms
  • Changing areas
  • Playground
  • Places to wash the sand off your feet
  • Food and drink concessions (alcohol is allowed on the beach, but no glass)
  • Volleyball nets and tennis courts
  • Lifeguards and First Aid
  • Picnic benches

Prepare to walk from the beach to the amenities and vice versa. They aren’t exactly close to each other, but there is a walking path between them if you don’t want to walk in the sand.

Before our visit, I read that you can rent beach umbrellas. We could not find a rental place when we got there, and the information desk said there wasn’t one available. Perhaps we were at the wrong beach access point to do the rental.

However, there is a beach retail shop on-site, and we became the proud new owners of a blue beach umbrella. At least I have one for future trips, now.

The top of a beach umbrella is in the foreground while people are enjoying the beach in the background.
A closeup of my new beach umbrella. There are retail stores on-site if you forgot something you need for the beach—image shot on Portra 400 film.

The lifeguard stations also make Siesta Key Beach unique since they are painted a different color (red, blue, yellow, and green), making them easily stand out.

It is so easy to get lost in a sea of beach umbrellas and chairs. You can notate the color of the lifeguard station you are closest to, as this will help you find your beach stuff if you happen to get lost or forget where you are. For instance, I went to get a drink and forgot where our stuff was, but then remembered we were near the green station and was able to locate my beach stuff.

The red lifeguard station at Siesta Key Beach.
The green lifeguard station on Siesta Key Public Beach. A family is enjoying the beach in front of the station.
For me, this is what relaxation looks like. Notice the flip-flops tossed into the sand—image shot on Kodak Portra 400 film.

Not Just for Swimming, but Taking Photos Too

I didn’t plan to take my camera out of the camera bag too much while we were here because I just wanted a beach day to do nothing except relax in the sun. I am also cautious with taking my camera out of its bag for a long time at the beach. If you are concerned about taking yours, read my Protect Your Camera at the Beach with These 10 Tips.

Despite my cautiousness, I knew I had to immediately take some pictures because of the colorful lifeguard stations, beautiful sand, and people enjoying the beach. If you like to people-watch, this is a great place.

My camera already had on my 17-35mm lens because I use that lens the most for my landscape photography. The images in this post are shot on Kodak Portra 400 with two stops of overexposure to preserve the sand’s true whiteness. Portra 400 looks great for beach photos.

I felt like a tourist walking around with my camera gear, and I got a few glances from people, but it was worth getting these images. I can’t wait to visit again, stay a little longer, and hopefully get a chance to spend more time exploring Sarasota.

Have you been to Siesta Key Beach in Florida? If so, what were your thoughts? Please comment below!

A tiki style umbrella with two beach chairs and a person's hat and bag sitting on sand.

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