Voted one of the top 10 vacation islands in the US by Conde’ Nast Traveler, Longboat Key offers almost eleven miles of white sand beaches lapped by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The 4.26 square mile offshore barrier island is home to roughly 8,000 full-time residents, but can grow to over 22,000 in peak season, including the 12,000 snowbirds who flock home seasonally. Rarely getting more than a mile wide, Longboat Key runs north to south, with its eastern side decorated with dense mangroves, winding canals, marinas, and an assortment of beautiful homes.
It is bordered to the south by St. Armands Key and Lido Key and to the north by Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island. Gulf of Mexico Drive serves the length of the island as a main road, showcasing the gorgeous landscape design that permeates the key, and branching off into a number of winding roads and cul-de-sacs amid the variety of single-family homes and condominiums. This stretch of road offers eleven different access points to Longboat Key’s beautiful beaches, and while there are no amenities, as you find on Siesta or Lido Key beaches, there are miles of white sands, sea oats, and sparkling waters.
Longboat Key’s fist official resident moved his family to the north end of the key in 1888, and the island became a farming community until 1921. Unfortunately, a hurricane in October of that year destroyed the agricultural infrastructure and the majority of the buildings. A few of the buildings that survived were built in 1915, using a distinctive concrete mix, and most of them still stand today.
There are still a number of Old Florida homes built in the 1920’s as the area recovered from the natural devastation. During that time, things were going well for John Ringling, with his Golden Gate Point project and the success of Lido Key, and he started development of a Ritz Carlton Hotel at the south end of Longboat Key in March of 1926. Unfortunately, the building was never completed, and sat dormant for forty years, coming to be called the “Ghost Hotel” until it was torn down.
The first bridge to Longboat Key wasn’t built until 1929, and the island was slow to develop, not getting full telephone service until 1940. Because it was secluded and unpopulated, throughout World War II, it was used as a bombing range for American military planes, closed to all traffic from 8am to 5pm during training sessions.
After the island was incorporated as a township on November 14, 1955, the Arvida Corporation purchased the southern tip for $13.5 million in 1959 and started development on what we now know as Longboat Key. Developing beautiful condominiums and world-class golf courses, Longboat Key has become a vacation destination and a dream for retirees.
With an average age of sixty-six among residents, this island offers miles of paved paths for walking, biking, rollerblading, and even recumbent biking, for those seeking to enjoy more of the outdoors than just the fabulous beaches. Contact me today to schedule a visit to Longboat Key to find your piece of Sarasota sunshine.