Monday, March 19, 2012

Siesta Key, Florida

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A beautiful senset at Siesta Key
Siesta Beach made the #1 spot for 2011  according to  Dr. Beach, (link here)  Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.  So we thought we would try it out.  Last July, the Brosius Family: Jim, Pam, then 14-year old Cara, 11-year old Josiah, 10-year old Cameron, and 7-year old Maddox headed south.

The condo we chose we found on (link here) I strongly recommend vrbo and renting condos and houses as opposed to hotel rooms.  See my other post about how renting from a private owner works and the benefits of houses and condos over a simple hotel room.  Our condo was part of Midnight Cove II.  This is on the bayside of the road, across from Midnight Cove I.   I walked over to the beach from the condo several times to watch the sun set and the walk was maybe 3 minutes.  But with all our boogie boards, snacks, sand castle building gear, we actually dumped it all in the van and drove it across the street for most of the week.  As guests of Midnight Cove, there was a beach umbrella guy stationed at the walkway waiting to use his handy-dandy drill to set your beach umbrella and drag over some chairs for you.   

By July 2011 when I walked down to the edge to grit my teeth and get in the ocean, the Gulf water was surprisingly nice and warm.  I know a beach is awfully warm when I can walk right in without my usual act of standing and look imploring at my husband, whining about how cold it is. As if he can do anything about cold seawater, you know?  I was pleasantly surprised by the water temperature all week.  Siesta Beach is known especially for its floury sand which stays cool under your feet. Another source called it sugar sand, but to me it was floury.   The difference is that it is 99% quartz. Siesta Beach is a natural sort of beach with lots of diving pelicans to watch and protected sea turtle nests taped off.  From the photos of Cameron on the beach, you can see there are people about, but we certainly weren't crowded.   These Gulf beaches have some decent waves, but the undertow is not anything like on the Atlantic side.  You swim way out and sometimes find a sand bar that you can stand up on to catch your breath.  I normally like sleeping in on vacations, but on one morning, my teenager and I got up early and took a long walk on the beach.  Her talking, me listening.  It was a lovely way to start the day.

My son Cameron learning to use his wakeboard at Siesta Beach

point of rocks water.jpg
Point of Rocks, Sarasota
Just a short walk south down the beach is a snorkeling area called Point of Rocks.  This is a very shallow area and was fun for me to check out while I still kept track of my eight-year old Maddox learning how to use his mask and snorkel.  A decent assortment of living things with visibility up and down from day to day, depending on the waves and some storms further out.  I think even the plant life growing on the rocks is beautiful when you are submerged, floating, and just watching it all undulate.

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As Jim and I are scuba divers, we left the kids in the condo watching tv for the morning on our third day and did two boat dives.  This is not an area known for reefs, but we will take any chance to get in more dives under our belts.

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(above) Cara and Maddox getting a feel for

the sea horse's prehensile tail
(below) Cameron aghast at the smell of the sea snail

Later in the week we bought a combination ticket for the Sarasota Bay Explorers Sea Life Encounter and Mote Aquarium.  Driving south along Highway 41 took us past the huge "Unconditional Surrender" statue of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day.  We took the last boat tour of the day with Sarasota Bay Explorers after enjoying the beach for the morning and early afternoon.  There were approximately 20 people on the boat.  We drove around the bay while the naturalists pointed out some dolphins and manatees swimming in the distance.   They had to keep a good distance from the manatees as they are protected, and you have to catch a quick glimpse when they come up for air, but spotting them was enjoyable and especially thrilling for my 14-year old for whom it was love at first site.  The naturalists then drag a net on the bottom and pull out  whatever creatures they find for us to view up close and personal.  Each creature either goes right into their fish tanks on board, passed around, or demonstrated by the naturalist, depending on the hardiness or fragility of each creature.  We all thought it was pretty special, seeing a puffer fish zoom around the little tannk and getting to feel and examine things not living in a touch-tank, but fresh out of the wild.  Here's a link so you can check it out:  Sarasota Bay Explorers Boat Tour 


Our kids in front of the Mote
Our last excursion took us south through  keys to Mote Marine Laboratory This is a very serious research facility and an asset to this area.  Now that we have been there, I have been reading or hearing bits about it on the news.   Highlights of the day were my daughter gazing rapturously at the manatee munching lettuce and my boys stretching into the sting ray pool to stroke the sting rays as they swam round and round the pool.  My favorite was comparing the size of Maddox's head next to a little baby sea turtle swimming next to the glass.  It was soo small!  The combo boat tour/aquarium ticket was $36 

for adults, $29 for kids.  Just the aquarium is $17 for   adults, $12 for kids.  Check out the link above.

Now for all you penny pinchers out there, here is the damage:  

-condo rental via, Saturday to Saturday. $650 This was a steal.  

-sleeping in Tennessee on the way there... $81  We don't drive at night.

-groceries for the week...  $266  This was more food than we needed.

-2 nights to sleep in Atlanta ...$133 and a fun day at Six Flags Over Georgia during our drive home, food and admission... $222  Broke up the drive since, again, we don't drive through the night.

-Mote Aquarium and boat tour for 6... $188

-Gas to drive our minivan from Bowling Green, Ohio to Florida and back........wait for it...wait for it... $550.  Yes, this is unfortunate.

So, does this trip sound like it would suit your family?  Then here's your To do list

1.  Pick a week.  vrbo and other condo rentals are generally Saturday to
     Saturday.  January through April is considered high season; May 1st to August low

2.  Pick a vacation house or condo. See my other post about tips for using  Turtle Beach and Crescent Beach are also right in this area.

3.  Wait to buy your tickets.

  You can buy your tickets for the boat tour and aquarium that
     day on a rainy day or when you need a break from the sun. 

4.  Stock your supplies.  Buy some groceries on the way to the condo so you don't have to
     get back in the car once you are there.  Don't forget coffee so you can wake up with a
     walk on the beach, coffee in hand.

5.  Talk to the locals.  Ask a local the time of sunset so you can all be there to see the sun
     sink into the Gulf.


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