Sarasota: an Atoll in the Middle of Everything


An atoll is a wide area of shallow water surrounded by low, sandy islands. As such, one could be forgiven in calling Sarasota an atoll. It consists of five sandy keys (in true Florida fashion, connected by soaring bridges and rod-straight causeways) and a stretch of the mainland. The John Ringling Causeway has a 1000-metre long, 20 metre-high bridge on an 8-km causeway.

This makes it a difficult town to get around in, unless you have a car. Fortunately we were visiting our friend, Anne, whose family has owned a place in a gated community in South Sarasota for forty years. We shared the rental on a car, and (bonus!) she did the driving, as she knows the area well. Here is a sample of what we experienced in the past couple of weeks, including distances and times from Anne’s pied-a-terre for your reference.

Siesta Key (10 km, 20 min) One of the most popular beaches in the whole US. Huge white-sand beach with surf toy rentals. Ice cream on the way home. Yummy.

Drums on the Beach 

Then, on Sunday at sunset, the locals meet for a ritual:


Fort Myers Beach (150 km, 1 hr 40 min) E & J Seafood Market for shrimp. The sad story there is that Hurricane Ian piled all the shrimp boats on top of each other and completely destroyed them. Out of about 90 boats, there are only 9 left. E&J is the only packing company in the area. Their shrimp was great.

On the way home, we visited Big Olaf’s Ice Cream, where I ordered three “large waffle cones.” The young lady regarded me, and said, “that’s six scoops.” I did the math and assumed she meant two scoops times three cones. “Sure,” I said breezily.

Oh, no. It was it was six scoops per cone! No need for dessert at supper that night.

Dali Museum in St. Petersburg (80 km, 54 min.)

They were featuring an interesting display of Dali’s younger works. He started out as an Impressionist, and they had collected some works of Degas, Monet, and others of that ilk that compared to Dali’s similar paintings. To be frank, I enjoyed the French works more. Dali really came into his métier as a Surrealist.

The Weather

We had come to Florida in early April, hoping to slide in between Spring Break madness and Summer heat. It worked out perfectly for most of the visit: sunny, not too humid, temperatures in the low 20s. Except for the day we visited Señor Dali. There was an “extreme weather forcast,” starting at 3 in the afternoon.

Precisely at 3 pm we exited the museum, to the drumming of pounding rain. Anne brought the car as close to the main entrance as possible. Then we made a dash for it, but got soaked in thirty seconds.

And did I mention the big bridge? As we approached the causeway the rain increased, blowing in horizontal with a touch of lightning for decoration. Effective, but not reassuring. Fortunately, everybody on the road felt the same way, and we toodled up and over the hump at about 60 kph, cars spaced out safely. When we got home the roads were still dry, although we got our share of rain that evening.

Hermanns’ Royal Lipizzan Stallions (40 km, 36 min.)

The Lipizzan heritage, in North America anyway, is in steep decline. Their main show is four or five performing stallions with three riders in a weedy outdoor arena. They no longer tour. However, they are beautiful animals and both riders and steeds perform with great pride and skill. It was another beautiful day, and we sat in the stands in the shade of huge trees and had a pleasant hour’s entertainment, tarnished slightly by a heavy overtone of American patriotism and the glory of “hard work and perseverance.” Oh, well, it’s Florida, after all.

Linda’s Birthday Dinner: Marina Jack’s, Sarasota Harbour  (15 im, 18 min)

(next to the iconic statue of the sailor kissing the nurse)

Jack’s was pretty crowded, but we got a table right down by the dock with the yachts tied up nearby. Again the sun was out, the wind was just a bit cool, and the food was great.

Tarpon Springs: Hellas Restaurant at the sponge docks. (130 km, 1 hour 40 min)

The historical background is that a Greek came out to Florida and discovered a coastline rich in sponges (don’t know what you call that – a spongery?) that nobody was harvesting. He went back to his little village in Greece and persuaded half the inhabitants to come with him and create a new life at their old occupation, using old-fashioned deep-sea diving equipment. Over a hundred years later, the spongery still thrives, as well as the town full of service industries for the fisherment and the tourists who come to savour the hints of Greece that abound.

St. Armand Circle. (16 km, 25 min)

(Or, as Anne’s grandchildren call it, ‘Starman Circle”)

We went back here three times. It’s out at the junction of the Ringling Causeway and the road up the keys, in the middle of a great tourist area, with shopping and restaurants galore. It certainly solved the problem of what to buy Linda for her birthday, and we had a great Cuban lunch at the Colombia restaurant. Parking wasn’t easy, but it was possible.

The Bottom Line

If you pick your weather properly and have your own transportation, Sarasota is the centre of a huge tourist area, and a great place for a laid-back, relaxing holiday.

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