In the west of Sarasota County lies a little gem of paradise called Lido Key. Located across the John Ringling Causeway from the city of Sarasota, Lido Key is a large barrier island floating in the Gulf of Mexico, with marvelous white sand coasts and turquoise blue waters.
Since people often choose to vacation on the beaches of Sarasota or Siesta Key, the hidden beauty of Lido Key remains exclusive. You can relax away from the crowds and still find fun activities for recreation, including the fabulous Mote Marine Laboratory.
Art, gastronomy, culture, adventure, and even ecology: This destination has all kinds of attractions, perfect for relaxing and interesting days.
Planning a trip to Lido Key and don’t know where to start? Embark on the perfect vacation with this complete guide for things to do in Lido Key, FL, including where to eat & drink and where to stay.
Things to do in Lido Key, FL
Lido Key Beach
Here is a paradox: Lido Key Beach is a secluded but popular beach. It’s a rare and hard-to-find combination that could only be enhanced with something magical, like the chance to swim with dolphins.
Lido Beach has the same white sand and turquoise waters as top-rated Sarasota area beaches like Siesta Key Beach or Turtle Beach, but with a touch of quiet exclusivity you won’t find on nearby Siesta Key. You can spend the day frolicking in the sun or take a peaceful afternoon walk on the white sand and collect shells.
At the end of the day, you’ll see cruise ships ready to catch sunsets. Why not get on board one for the perfect way to end a day at this popular beach?
South Lido County Park
Walking along the coast from Lido Beach you’ll reach South Lido County Park, a lush green area. For a day of immersion in nature, you can wander through the park from the Gulf of Mexico to Sarasota Bay.
Take a sandwich and some snacks and settle at one of the picturesque tables dotted around the park and on South Lido Beach. Picnic under the shade of the trees or on the sandy shore. The bathrooms are also clean & convenient and allow you to spend a full day of fun outdoors.
You can also fish in the small streams that run through the park or take advantage of the currents in a kayak. South Lido County Park is a refuge for a range of beautiful and diverse animals and is a must-see spot on Lido Key for all nature lovers.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
Still yearn for nature but away from the wilder areas? Drive down Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island until you reach the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. At this popular Sarasota attraction, you can experience total calm while observing the aquatic life. Learn about marine life in the best style, a la David Attenborough.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium offers viewing pools for 100 marine species and runs many different events to support marine life. Needing to blow off some steam while sharing your love for turtles? Why not run a race to help support the turtles?
To observe aquatic life in its natural environment, you can participate in a morning kayak paddling excursion. You can also learn more about the sustainability of life on our planet by taking the eco-tour in Sarasota Bay.
St. Armands Circle
Lido Key is not just a sanctuary for naturalists. For a more urban experience treat yourself to a pleasant walk down John Ringling Boulevard to see the St. Armands Circle.
A marvelous spot for shopping, St. Armands Circle is a fantastic place to break up Lido Key’s seaside fun with some urban charms—without needing to drive all the way to Sarasota.
After a day of sun and sea at Lido Key Beach, there’s nothing like a quiet walk along the palm tree promenade before nightfall. Feel the breeze and the good vibes, shop till you drop, have some drinks at cool local bars, and sample amazing seafood at some of Lido Key’s top restaurants.
Ken Thompson Park
Very close to the City Island Aquarium is Ken Thompson Park. Although it’s much smaller than the South Lido County Park, it still offers the same possibilities for adventure. Its wooden paths are a very pleasant spot to have a picnic or a barbecue. You can also kayak, canoe, or fish, and even take your pet with you to the park.
What sets Ken Thompson Park apart from other Lido Key parks is its location next to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. Close your eyes and imagine the quiet port and the small boats swaying gently from the sea breeze.
In the evenings, after a romantic sunset, you can gaze at the bright lights of Sarasota and the residents’ fishing boats bobbing in the bay.
Ted Sperling Nature Park
South of Lido Key, next to South Lido Park, lies Ted Sperling Nature Park, famed for its fantastic mangrove tunnels. For an optimal experience in the tunnels, rent a kayak in one of the stores located on the northern margins of the park.
Follow the directions of local residents to start the tour and let yourself be carried away by the charm of nature. The aquatic channels will lead you under the mangroves, giving you a unique experience.
To the south of Ted Sperling Nature Park, there’s an easy trail coming from Lido Beach where you can enjoy observing local wildlife. Follow the trail towards the sandy beach on the bay at the other end of the key for a triumphant swim.
Bird Key Park
On the way to Sarasota from Lido Key, you’ll land upon Bird Key. On the shores of the barrier island lies Bird Key Park. The main draw of this park is, of course, bird watching. Here, you’ll be surrounded by a promenade full of palm trees and comfortable seats to enjoy the aqua blue horizon.
Like almost everywhere else in the area, Bird Key Park is also a pet-friendly space. Bring your dog with you and take a pleasant walk along the shoreline to burn off some energy.
Where to eat & drink
Visiting this beautiful coastal area, it’d be a sin not to indulge in some tasty seafood. There are a couple of good places around St Armands Circle to chow down. Crab & Fin Restaurant is a local favorite. Be sure to try the shrimp scampi, one of the restaurant’s best dishes.
Right across the street is Sarasota’s Columbia Restaurant. Opened in 1959, it’s the oldest restaurant in Sarasota, modeled after the original in Ybor City in Tampa. Its Spanish and Cuban food has won many awards, and you can enjoy its relaxed Mediterranean dining rooms. We recommend making a reservation in advance: It’s a popular spot.
Right next door to Columbia Restaurant, treat yourself to a good old American burger with a gourmet twist at Cha Cha Coconut. Pro tip: the Mexican food here is glorious.
A refined option for dining out around Lido Key is Speaks Clam Bar, one block from St. Armands Circle. The plating is elegant and the homemade pasta is on point. As a bonus, their dim lighting makes for a romantic ambiance.
If you want to have a spectacular time in a festive atmosphere, hit up the Daiquiri Deck. Located on John Ringling Boulevard, close to St Armands Circle, this popular bar is the life of the party.
From 3 pm to 7 pm, the Daiquiri Deck offers what they call “Legendary Happy Hours.” They also organize live music events and beer pong competitions. If you’ve built up an appetite, taste their varied culinary offerings, including specialty oysters for refined palates.
For a dining experience by the shore that feels more local, you can visit Old Salty Dog, north of Lido Key. Although it has a simple appearance, its dishes are far from basic. Their crispy coconut shrimp is a perfect starter to accompany with a cocktail while you appreciate the beautiful view of the shore.
Where to stay
Want to stay on the beach? Book yourself into this popular 3-star hotel. The Holiday Inn Lido Beach offers guests pet-friendly accommodation with plenty of amenities including an outdoor poo and on-site restaurant with panoramic views of the beach.
With its beautiful views over Sarasota Bay, this family-owned boutique motel is one of the top places to stay on Lido Key. Rooms offer comfortable king-sized beds along with extras like kitchenettes and smart TVs. Rent one of their cottages for the perfect family or romantic getaway.
Steps away from the island’s historic landmarks, this beachfront resort is a fantastic choice for both sightseeing and chillin’ on the pristine shoreline. If the sea isn’t calling, take a dip in the outdoor pool or sweat out some margaritas at the well-equipped fitness center.