"The Best Beach In America"
That's what the sign says right outside of Siesta Key. Now, they didn't make this up like the "world's best famous authentic coffee". They actually were awarded this title by Tripadvisor.
Why did they get this award? The sand. It's this incredibly soft and cool to the touch powdered white quartz. I don't know where it came from or how it happened, but it's like nothing I've ever beneath my feet at a beach.
Normally it's more coarse, but most importantly it's usually blazing ass hot. But here, even in direct sunlight, it's nice and cool.
Siesta Key Beach
948 Beach Road
Siesta Key, Florida
February 26th, 2017
This is Regina's territory. She'd spent a lot of time here in her childhood. I had only been to Florida once, and I had a horrible, horrible experience and I never wanted to come back.
But the years passed and that changed!
Usually I do a lot of research on places to go, things to see, what to eat (most importantly). I didn't have to this time. I still did, out of habit, but it turns out Regina already knew the best beach around. She didn't tell me that, and I didn't tell her that I'd done research, it was more like we got up in a morning and she said "we're going to beach", and off we went to these amazing places.
Because we flew to Florida, we didn't have a car. We could have rented one, but Regina's family is there, so why would we when they were happy to lend us one?
Regina really wanted to drive her mom's car because it was so cute and sporty. It was a bright red Mazda Miata. It was a very fun to car see, but is SO SMALL. I could barely fit in it in the drivers seat, which goes back a little bit further than the passenger seat. But when Regina was driving, I was in the passenger seat and it was cramped. I love being in a convertible, It's the right car for driving to the beach. But this one was tiny.
Outside of the car, though, it was a really pretty drive. We drove through a lot of nice, green areas. Lots of really pretty neighborhoods and pretty houses that I wanted to get out and photograph, but there was no time for that. I remember driving across several bridges and through lots of pretty little cities. I even remember us shooting some videos in those places. Ah, here it is!
We were getting to the beach late. Regina's wisdom is to show up to the beach really early in the morning so you don't have to deal with parking and crowded beaches. But we were lazy this day and didn't get there until around 2 in the afternoon. A terrible time to arrive at a beach.
I drove up and down the road running along the beach, not even turning into the parking lot proper to start. I thought "surely if I just get far enough away from the beach, it won't be a problem." But that plan fizzled when the distance away from it just got to be too great to make sense. So around we swung and entered the slow churning fray of the parking lot. It was the stuff of nightmares.
Have you ever tried to find a parking spot in Park Slope? If you have, you may well know the pain of the hunt. In suburbia, your most likely parking nightmare would probably only be at the mall on Black Friday. But trust me, this was much worse.
After nearly an hour of hunting for parking, my typically calm and collected demeanor was falling to shambles. I couldn't take it anymore. So Regina came to the rescue. "Get out and go relax on the boardwalk, I'll park the car." I put up a fuss at first, trying to be tough, but when has 'trying to be tough' ever really been the right choice?
I was SO EXCITED to be out of the car, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. I wandered around in awe of the vastness of space around me. I wasn't stuck in a tiny little box, I could me around freely! And oh, what's this? A concession stand? Sure!
What's on the menu?
Softserve ice cream and pina coladas.
The cure for what ails you.
Happily cooled and increasingly intoxicated, I waltz around the beachfront plaza taking it in. I read some little plaques about the history of the boardwalk and something about sea turtles and other marine life. Several other people sat or walked around about the place, some stopping to reach the same things, others noshing away at whatever they'd gotten from the concession.
I felt great, at peace, relaxed, and I hadn't even gotten out on to the beach yet. In my quiet contemplation my eyes began to wander, and thats when they fell on this incredible structure.
There are simple beaches, where a gravel parking lot gives way to sand and maybe a few plants, and that just continues out into the beach in the ocean. But then there are beaches like Siesta Key, where there's a gorgeous work of modern architecture to welcome you.
As I walked around it to take a few pictures, I wondered what could be inside? I'd like to imagine all sorts of incredible things and that the room surrounded by all that glass is a gorgeous place to look out on the happenings of the plaza. And since I don't actually know what's in there, I am happy to preserve that fantasy.
The presence of this fantastic building let me to do some research into how this plaza came to be what it is. Turns out in all my wondering around it while waiting for Regina to park the car, I only saw a tiny portion of it. Turn out it has just undergone a massive overhaul in the past year. I had no idea going in.
After I wandered around taking photos and getting tipsy on pina colada (aka living in my natural state), Regina finally parked the car and showed up at the beach. At this point she was experiencing a little bit of frustration, too, and was giving me the "must be nice to be wandering around having a good time" face, which I quickly dispelled by passing her the remaining booze and ice cream. Few things can cause so instant a shift in mood as that combo.
With that, we were finally ready to make our way out on to the beach proper, and what a beach it is.
We stepped past the plaza, dreading the feeling of burning hot sand sneaking into our sandals... but it never came. The sand was cool, even during the hottest part of the day. I was filled with wonder. I took of my sandals and dug my feet into the sand. It was soft, finer than any I’d ever encountered, and just as it was brilliantly white, it was also gloriously cold. What more could you ask for than a beach on a warm day that doesn't sizzle your feet? It felt wonderful.
Being February, though, the water wasn't exactly warm. I wasn't going to let that stop me, though, so I quickly made my way out. Regina reluctantly followed, vocally unhappy with how the chill was seeping into her toes, but we pressed through. I saw a line of people standing on a bank quite a ways from the shore and that struck me as an exciting point to reach. So we moved forward and the water got deeper and chillier, but then it sloped back and and shockingly we ascended to ankle deep water and a great view back toward the beach.
Time for a selfie, right?
I can't really say enough great things about this place. Sure, it was crowded and it took forever to find a parking spot. There is a reason. The water is clear and gorgeous and the sand is just unbeatable. There's no beach I'd rather walk on. You owe it to yourself to check this out as soon as you can.
Just, y'know, try to get there early.
And then after the beach, if you're anything like me, you might just have tiki cocktails on the brain. Next stop:
Sunset tiki cocktails at the hidden Lido Key Tiki Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.