Sarasota's well-kept secret:
On a westward trek across Ringling Causeway (State Route 780) you'll cross Bird Key, Coon Key and the glittering St. Armands Circle
, home to an upscale shopping district that locals like to call "our Rodeo Drive." Finally, when you can go west no further, you've reached the three-mile Lido Key situated just north of Siesta Key on the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf-facing coast of Lido Key is one long, uninterrupted beach.
The three beaches start at Big Pass with South Lido Beach which is a 100-acre nature preserve with a small beach — just under 650 feet. The main beach is simply called Lido beach. Just a half mile west of St. Armands Circle, that park has over 3,100 feet of beachfront (a heated swimming pool) and lots of parking. North Lido Beach features 3,000 feet of secluded shore, with little parking and no lifeguards or facilities.
Back to nature:
Nature trails run through each park. The southern trail runs along a sandy-soiled coastal ridge with a thick growth of Australian pines. Along the northern trail, you'll discover a mangrove swamp (with a canoe trail) and tidal swamp forest. The north beach has been kept in a wild state for the birds and other wildlife. Nude sunbathing was allowed as late as the 1980s and it is said that although it is illegal, it still goes on.
Lido Beach is located at 400 Ben Franklin Drive (a half-mile southwest of St. Armands Circle at Lido Beach. At the southern tip of Lido Key, you will find South Lido Beach (at the south end of Ben Franklin Drive). North Lido Beach Park is located on North Polk Drive in Lido Key.
All three beach locations feature a free parking lot, with the main beach having the largest lot and metered spill-over parking along Ben Franklin Drive.
Beaches are accessible from 6 a.m. to sunset.
Lido Beach and South Lido Beach have lifeguards on duty, as well as picnic tables, restrooms and showers. Lido Beach also has concessions. North Lido Beach has no facilities.