When asked where “Florida’s least crowded best beaches” might be… enchanting Manasota Key Beaches comes to mind! Just off the coast of Englewood between Sarasota and Fort Myers on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Manasota Key is 7 miles in length with four expansive beaches.
The popular Englewood Beach lies just over the south bridge and features a boardwalk, picnic tables under shelters, restrooms and changing facilities. Restaurants and tourist shops are located nearby. A couple of miles south lies the more secluded Stump Pass Beach, part of Florida’s state park system. The park claims the entire southern end of the key. Visitors can explore the mile-long beach and hike the trails where tortoises and egrets call home.
North of Englewood Beach, Blind Pass Beach is a great place to search for shark teeth. The beach also includes a nature trail that meanders through mangroves and sand dunes. Farther north, Manasota Beach offers tranquility and is a popular snorkeling area. Boogie boards, noodles and beach balls are welcome (but California surfers may prefer the Atlantic coast).
Manasota Key is a barrier island off the coast of Englewood; known as the “Gem and the Heart of the Sun Coast”, “a bit of Heaven on Earth”, “a place unspoiled by high rises and high prices”, and “where the “livin” is easy”. Englewood is a community of communities, set comfortably on an area straddling Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Located on Lemon Bay, Englewood has grown from its humble beginnings as a farming area for lumber, lemons and turpentine to a beach community that thrives on nature parks, fishing, boating, and so much more. Englewood is just a short 85 miles south of Tampa Bay, 90 miles north of Naples, 50 miles north of Fort Myers, and only 35 miles south of Sarasota. Englewood is easily accessible from U.S. Route 41 or Interstate 75.
Manasota Key is accessed by two bridges. The Manasota Bridge to the north leads directly to Manasota Beach with the most northern end reserved for an exclusive gated enclave. Martina Navratilova and country singer Tim McGraw are known to winter there at their beachfront mansions. Manasota Beach with its’ community boat ramp just south of the intra-coastal drawbridge, is an attractive spot for locals to launch their boats with quick and easy access to Lemon Bay and the Gulf. It’s also a place to see courting manatees and often a mother manatee with her calf. There’s even a friendly dolphin who enjoys showing off while your standing on the bridge.
South of Manasota Beach, be sure to travel the canopied road where extraordinary residences and some 50’s styled beach homes are nestled in dunes or tucked neatly behind established groves of trees. As you approach a bend in the road, capture a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Mexico and Blind Pass Beach. This is where The Hermitage, a 4-acre artist and writers’ retreat invites international talent to expand their talents at a group of restored historic homes located directly on the shore. Artists are invited to stay for up to six-weeks and in return they are asked to provide two services to the community.
Archaeological digs have unearthed a rich Amer-indian past in Manasota Key. Its Indian Mound Ark is a legacy of the earliest settlers in the area, the Calusa Indians who resided in Southwest Florida thousands of years ago.
The entire community is now a designated wildlife sanctuary where beaches are maintained in a more natural, less developed manner. Only Englewood Beach maintains traditional amenities that often draw a youthful and cost-conscious vacationer and day-tripper.
Manasota Key is also known as the turtle nesting capital of Southwest Florida. Sea turtles begin nesting in March with peak nesting from May through August. Nests incubate 45 to 60 days during peak nesting season that ends Oct. 31. Florida accounts for more than 90 percent of the loggerhead nesting in the United States and is one of the two largest nesting sites in the world. About 80 percent of the world’s population is believed to nest on Florida or Oman on the Arabian Peninsula.
This is also the “Tarpon Capital of the World” with several fishing tournaments held yearly. Two State parks provide excellent opportunities for casting a line for Cobia, mackerel, redfish, whiting and blues.
Southwest Florida, and Englewood in particular, has a variety of shells for the serious or just fun-loving shell collector to find. Many of these shells not only arrive on the beach intact but, in some cases, still inhabited and very much alive. Many shells found on Englewood beaches are the Left Handed Whelks, the Auger shells, Coquina shells and, at low tide, the Rough Scallop and the Fighting Conch…both are great for chowders.
Another common find are Shark Teeth that usually come ashore after a storm. Some of these shark teeth are over a million years old, black and brown colored and range from a tiny 1/8th inch to three inches long.
Celebrated every Labor Day Weekend, Englewood commemorates the pioneers who were responsible for its origin in 1896. Golf and fishing tournaments, boat races and a huge parade bring this community to life. Other annual celebrations include an Art Guild Show, Seafood Festival, July Beach Bash with Fireworks, as well as the annual Turtle Watch…when Sea Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand.
Englewood and Manasota Key…It’s pure Florida of long ago.
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