This Florida Island Is An Uncrowded Paradise Of Pristine Beaches And Charming Towns

Picturesque beaches, untouched nature, and laid-back vibes worthy of a Caribbean escape — Florida's lesser-known Manasota Key really does have it all. Located along the state's southwest coast — just 3 miles south of the city of Englewood and 30 miles south of Sarasota — the peninsula-turned-barrier-island beckons local and foreign travelers alike who are looking to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle (and the Florida beach parking woes) — all while soaking up the Florida sunshine.

A true hidden gem that strays far from Florida's typically crowded beaches, heart-racing roller coasters and theme parks, and fiercely overpriced and underwhelming tourist traps, Manasota Key is more about relaxation and less about exploitation. With 11 miles of coastline to enjoy — as well as the 245-acre Stump Pass Beach State Park primed and ready for more adventurous travelers hoping to come face to face with the local wildlife — the destination has plenty to offer in terms of natural beauty and outdoor activities.

Visiting Manasota Key's best beaches

Let's be honest: No trip to Manasota Key would be complete without spending some time by the water, lounging at one of the island's postcard-worthy beaches. With turquoise waters and white sands, these idyllic shores are generally uncrowded and pristine — which means you don't have to worry about fighting other visitors in order to find the spot that's right for you.

Manasota Key has four main beaches that visitors can hit up: Manasota Beach, Englewood Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and Stump Pass Beach. While the island's namesake beach is typically the least busy of the bunch, it's still a perfect family-friendly beach for a fun day under the sun in Florida. Meanwhile, Englewood Beach — the busiest and most popular destination, located on the southern portion of the island — tends to draw in more people without necessarily ruining the "deserted beach" vibe. Equipped with ample space for beach volleyball, sand castle-building, parasailing, and more, it's a great place to spend the day.

North of the town center, Blind Pass Beach — also known as Middle Beach — is further off the beaten path and surrounded by a lush mangrove forest, as well equipped with a dock that's perfect for fishing the afternoon away. Lastly, Stump Pass Beach — located inside Manasota Key's state park (more on that later) — can only be accessed via boat or by foot. This ultimately makes it even more secluded — and perfect for travelers really looking to get away from it all.

More things to do in Manasota Key

From renting a kayak and venturing out to sea for a chance encounter with a dolphin pod to exploring the town's quaint streets and beachfront by bike, Manasota Key is the undercrowded escape most travelers can only dream of. For starters, the town center is perfectly suited for cycling enthusiasts — and, yes, beginners too — looking for a laid-back way to stay active while, at the same time, making the most of the local atmosphere. Lined with palm trees and local shops, Manasota Key is quintessentially coastal and, best of all, unpretentious. Plus, throw in a bite to eat at one of the many eateries and tiki bars lined along the water, and you've got a recipe for the perfect day out.

As for nature lovers, one final must-do activity for anyone traveling to Manasota Key is a visit to Stump Pass Beach State Park — also accessible by bike, of course. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. 'til sundown, the park's secluded beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and shelling (you might even find a shark tooth or two!). Meanwhile, the state park's 1.3-mile hiking trail is the perfect opportunity to come in contact with plenty of local birds — think ospreys and southern bald eagles — as well as other critters such as crabs, manatees, and tortoises.