It boasts sugary white beaches that sand snobs love for being 99 percent pure quartz. Accommodations run the gamut, but rooms can be tough to find in high season.
*Avoid the crowds: Recently renovated Turtle Beach is where locals go to beach comb and escape crowds. It sits at the south end of the island with views of Midnight Pass. There are no lifeguards, but it is a favorite family picnic and sunbathing site.
*Timing is everything: Mid-January through mid-April is high season, and rooms can be hard to come by unless you plan ahead. Hurricane season runs June through November. Check for red tide reports at floridama rine.org.
*Can't miss: Mothers often prefer Siesta Key Beach for its easy access, broad beach, kid-friendly shallows and full-time lifeguards.
*Bargain lodging and dining: The Tropical Breeze Resort of Siesta Key and Siesta Beach Resort & Suites are among the more moderately priced accommodations (tropicalbreezeinn.com, sies takeyflorida.com).
Captain Curt's Crab & Oyster Bar is a child-friendly restaurant that boasts an award-winning New England clam chowder (captaincurts.com).
*Inside track: Former anthropologists Nancy Connelly and William Singleton operate the popular Crescent Beach Grocery, known for its historical photographs of Siesta Key as well as its steaks and homemade sandwiches. Nancy, a fourth-generation Sarasotan, recommends renting a boat or kayak and heading out to Midnight Pass to watch the sun go down. "It's one of the few places you can go where things don't seem to have changed over the years," she promises.
Wes Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5672.