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The Many Delights of Lido Key

While it’s one of the smaller and less-famous barrier islands off Sarasota, Lido Key is thought by many of the locals to be the region’s most beautiful jewel.

With three sparkling beaches, two scenic parks, the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, and several examples of the historic “Sarasota School” of architecture, Lido Key is so much more than “just another” barrier island.

At the north end of Lido Key, North Lido Beach and North Lido Beach Park provide one of the area’s quieter, more secluded beach experiences. Sea oats cover the tall sand dunes leading to the shoreline. This is the spot for romantic strolls and spectacular sunsets; the park is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Immediately east of North Lido, the Mote Marine Laboratory works to advance marine biology through research and educational offerings like the Mote Aquarium, open 365 days a year from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Parking is free and Mote Aquarium is handicapped-accessible; other than guide animals, no pets are allowed.

Also at the northern tip of Lido Key, several products of the Sarasota School of Architecture are set in the Lido Shores community. The Sarasota School, or “Sarasota Modern” style, gained popularity in the years from 1941 to 1966. Paul Rudolph’s acclaimed “Umbrella House” is a two-story, wood-frame home built in 1953. The rear wall is made entirely from glass: jalousie windows and sliding glass doors. A wooden “umbrella” lattice over the pool and roof supplied shelter against the sun, but it was damaged and removed in the 1960s.

South of Lido Shores, Lido Beach offers plenty of free parking and powdery white sand along with lifeguards, a playground, concessions, picnic tables, showers, restrooms, surf, sun, and fun. At Lido Key’s southernmost tip, the 100-acre South Lido Park features picnic tables and grills, volleyball courts, a playground, and plenty of shade from the park’s towering Australian pines. You’ll also find restrooms, showers, free parking, a canoe launch, and South Lido Beach.

From almost any spot on Lido Key, it’s a 5-minute walk (or less) to the world-class shopping, 5-star dining, and superlative entertainment at St. Armand’s Circle. Circus tycoon John Ringling purchased the St. Armand’s property in 1917, and he was responsible for the street design you’ll find radiating from the circle and the magnificent Italian statuary there. Today St. Armand’s is perhaps the most cosmopolitan shopping experience in North America.

There’s more, of course; Lido is only minutes from downtown Sarasota, southwest Florida’s booming leader in commerce and culture. East and south of Sarasota, prestigious golf courses and enchanting state parks are virtually everywhere. Lido Key is at the heart of it all, blending together sun-drenched beaches, natural Florida beauty, and a rich historical heritage.