Visit Siesta Beach: Voted the Best Beach in America

Siesta Beach, commonly called Siesta Key Beach, is often ranked the number one beach in America for its pure white, sugary sand and colorful lifeguard stations. Tourists from around the globe will fly into Sarasota to visit this beach. With water so clear that you can see fish swimming around you, it’s no wonder this is a top destination in Florida for many.

Hearing this world-renowned claim of being number one, we knew we had to make the 50-minute drive from Anna Maria Island to Siesta Beach. It wasn’t a bad drive; we drove through downtown Sarasota and a lovely residential area with beautiful, dreamy homes.

Once we got to the parking lot, I jumped out of the car, grabbed our camera bag and beach stuff, and eagerly made my way down to this famous beach. We only had one day here, and I was determined to enjoy every minute.

Did Siesta Beach live up to our lofty expectations? Read below on what makes this beach special, including visiting tips for your beachy adventure!

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

Siesta Key Beach Public Access

I made a mistake thinking Siesta Key was a big, long beach. But Siesta Key is a barrier island with three primary beaches, each unique and gorgeous:

  • Siesta Beach
  • Crescent Beach
  • Turtle Beach

We parked at the primary beach access for Siesta Beach (Siesta Beach Park):

948 Beach Road, Siesta Key, Florida 34242

There is plenty of free parking, but we arrived in the morning. It’s best to arrive early; as the day progresses, it becomes full, especially during peak visiting seasons. But there are several other access points if you can’t find a parking space at the main access.

Find maps of the Siesta Key public beach access points here.

When is the Best Time to Visit?

Winter and spring are the busiest seasons for Siesta Key due to its pleasant, mild temperatures and sunny weather. You’ll probably want to avoid spring break for fewer crowds, usually in late March and early to mid-April.

September through November is less crowded but expect more rain. Hurricane season in Florida runs from June to November, so you will 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’ll want to avoid Siesta Beach if there is red tide, which are harmful algae blooms that can cause skin irritation. During this time, the water will often change to a nasty red, green, or brown color, killing fish and washing them up on the shore. It can be hard to predict when this will happen, but you can check for red tide status here.

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.

What Makes Siesta Beach Unique and Is It the Best?

Siesta Beach is known for its unique, lovely white sand, which helps the beach earn its number one spot as the top beach in America. What makes the sand pure white? Unlike many beaches, the sand at Siesta Key is mostly comprised of quartz. The fine grain size of the quartz makes it powdery and exceptionally soft.

And with the sun’s rays blazing down, you would think that the sand would be unbearably hot to walk upon, but it’s not. The sand is cool to the touch and feels great as you walk along the beach on a hot summer day.

But even though the sand is beautiful, I found that the sugary sand sticks easily to the skin. I read that baby powder makes brushing it off and removing it from hair easier, but I’ve yet to try it!

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

Siesta Beach is also known for its clear, turquoise water. I wouldn’t say it is the clearest beach water I’ve seen, but it’s more transparent than other beaches in Florida, especially those on the Atlantic Ocean. Plus, it’s clean.

When we went in June, the waves were rough and choppy, enough 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 gently feel around in the sand for them with my feet. Twenty minutes later, we were lucky to “find” them a couple of feet from where he lost them. By finding them, I mean stepping on them.

Fortunately, the sunglasses didn’t break, and we breathed the most enormous sigh of relief. 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.

Is it the best beach in America? Eh – I think that’s a stretch. But it’s all subjective. It’s definitely one of the best beaches I’ve been to in Florida, maybe even the Southeast, and I want to return.

Amenities

Siesta Beach is family-friendly with many amenities:

  • Bathrooms
  • Changing areas
  • Playground
  • Outdoor showers
  • Food and drink concessions (alcohol is allowed on the beach, but no glass)
  • Volleyball nets and tennis courts
  • Lifeguards and First Aid
  • Covered picnic areas
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. If you forgot something, there are retail stores on-site—image shot on Portra 400 film.

Prepare to walk from the beach to the amenities and back. 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 visiting, I read you can rent beach umbrellas. We could not find a rental place when we arrived, and the information desk said there wasn’t one available. Perhaps we were at the wrong beach access point to do a rental (we were at the main beach access), or maybe it’s only seasonal or not available at that time. Fortunately, there is a beach retail shop on-site, and we became the proud new owners of a big, blue beach umbrella. At least I have one for future trips now.

It is so easy to get lost in a sea of beach umbrellas and chairs; therefore, you’ll want to note the color of the lifeguard station you’re closest to, as this will help you find your beach stuff if you happen to get lost or forget where you are. The four station colors, red, blue, yellow, and green, easily stand out and are fun to photograph!

Can you bring your dog to Siesta Beach? Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed on the beach.

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.

Beach Photography

I didn’t plan to take my camera out of my 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 about taking my camera out of its bag for a long time at the beach. If you are concerned about taking yours, you might want to check out my Protect Your Camera at the Beach with These 10 Tips.

Regardless, I quickly wanted to take photos of the colorful lifeguard stations, beautiful sand, and people enjoying the beach. If you like to people-watch, Siesta Beach is your 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.

I did feel like a tourist walking around with my camera gear, and I got a few glances from people, but it was worth it since I love these images, especially the lifeguard stations.

I can’t wait to visit again, stay a little longer, and hopefully spend more time exploring Siesta Key and nearby downtown Sarasota.

Have you been to Siesta 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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