Great beach breaks: sunny Sarasota and Anna Maria Island, Florida
Laid-back lounging on the world's whitest sands
Sarasota, on Florida's southwest coast has been drawing in visitors bent on fun wince the 1920s, when John Ringling set up his circus, The Greatest Show on Earth. Now, tourists come to enjoy Sarasota’s year-round sun, laid-back vibe and the white- sand Lido Beach – a great place to watch the sunset.
If it’s a retail experience you’re after, then St Armands Circle, with its stylish shops, restaurants and buzzing pavement cafés is close by. Or head to Downtown Sarasota for quirky antique and vintage shops and diners. Travel a little further down the coast to Siesta Key, where the sand was voted the world’s whitest. Tuck into crab cakes at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar in Siesta Key Village where lunch costs around £12.
Then cross the bridge to delightful Anna Maria island. The pace is laid-back and there's a village feel to the pastel-coloured clapboard houses, cafés and boutiques.
Want more sand? There are fabulous beaches within walking distance, as well as a pretty pier. Hole up at the Waterfront and Sandbar restaurants to eat fresh seafood and drink cocktails with an ocean soundtrack.
● Visit Myakka State Park and view alligators from the world’s largest airboat.
● Drive to Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota, and queue at the popular Amish restaurant, Yoder’s, for a delicious pie.
● Shop at Ellenton Outlet near Sarasota for designer brands at knock-down prices.
● British Airways flies to Tampa from £494 return. Rent a car through Holiday Autos from £108 a week.
● Rooms at the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel on Lido Beach cost from £77.50 per night. Visit www.helmsleysandcastle.com.
● Pineapplefish offers luxury villas on Anna Maria Island. Honeyfish (sleeps 10) costs from £1800 per week.
● Visit www.visitsarasota.org or www.bradentongulfIslands.com.