Sure, going out to lunch or dinner at atmospheric restaurants is great, and many here even have beautiful outdoor dining setups. But sometimes, it’s just really nice to get further away from downtown areas and closer to nature. Luckily, Sarasota County is spoiled with scenic landscapes and pristine coastal parks. Whether in a hammock, at a picnic table, park bench, or the back of your open trunk facing crystal blue waters, grab takeaway food at a local restaurant and perch at one of these spots for the perfect picnic with yourself or loved ones.
Sarasota Bayfront Park
Boasting views of the photogenic John Ringling Bridge, Bayfront’s pet-friendly, paved walkways hug the edge of the marina’s seawall where gorgeous boats dock and dozens of sailboats set the backdrop for sunset anchored out in the water as you stroll till dusk. You can grab food to-go right at the casual waterfront restaurant there, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, where fish tacos, burgers, wraps and other easy hand-helds make it easier than ever to walk off and grab a park pench facing the dozens of sailboats anchored in the marina.
Bird Key Park
A popular locals’ spot to pull in at the water’s edge, hang hammocks, fish, walk the dog and catch sunset skies on the Bay. Park the car at Bird Key and grab one of the many park benches or tables to eat while enjoying arguably the best skyline view of Downtown Sarasota. Located just before you exit the south side of the John Ringling Causeway. Less than five minutes away, stop in at 99 Bottles Taproom & Bottleshop for some craft beer in a crowler (a tall can sealed onsite after filling with draft beer of your choice) and elevated bar bites to-go. If picnicking on the weekend, take advantage of 99 Bottles’ beloved NY Bagel Brunch and order real deal NY bagels by the dozen to-go.
Humphris Park, South Venice Jetty
The entrance to Venice’s South Jetty is named Humphris Park, and an incredibly picturesque spot known for fishing, surfing, sunsets and its gulf view. Watch the boats cruise in and out of the inlet, with its neighboring Nokomis North Jetty Beach just a stone’s throw away. Amenities include picnic tables, benches, showers, restrooms, a large parking lot and even a food concession stand: Jetty Jacks Refreshment Deck to grab snacks, ice cream and refreshments for sunset snacking. For more of a meal, Fins at Sharky’s restaurant is just steps away as well, where you can order a meal, or sushi, to-go.
Ken Thompson Park
Not only a prime recreational location for canoe/kayak launching, fishing and picnicking, but this local favorite at the end of Lido Key is also a spacious nature preserve on City Island. With shaded oak and palm trees to keep you cool while you eat, post up for a bite at one of the few picnic tables by the water’s edge and enjoy views of downtown. Right there on City Island, find Old Salty Dog, a casual, island-themed restaurant where you can get seafood favorites, sandwiches, tacos, wings and more to take with you.
Nora Patterson Bay Island Park
Just over the North Bridge heading into Siesta Key is a pet-friendly fishing pier and park boasting entire city views of Sarasota’s skyline. Park benches, picnic tables, a walking path and plenty of parking make it an accessible yet uncrowded spot to hang till last light. Nearby in Southside Village, stop in first at Morton’s Gourmet Market to stock up on some artisanal snacks, baked goods, refreshments and freshly-made gourmet bites.
Ca’d’Zan at The Ringling
Walk through The Ringling’s public grounds to Sarasota’s most famous home for a sunset picnic overlooking the Bay. Pack your favorite beverages and stroll leisurely through the gardens for lunch or before 5pm. Beyond the giant banyan trees, the waterfront patio of the famous Ca’ d’Zan house is adorned with numerous park benches lining the water’s edge for a picture-perfect meal in peace and quiet. Just minutes from downtown, pop in for takeout at Circo for artisan tacos ala carte, and don’t forget the homemade chips and salsa.
Lemon Bay Park & Environmental Center
This 210-acre nature-based park is located in Englewood with 1.7 miles of shoreline on the beautiful Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve. Enjoy a part of natural Florida and learn about the environment in a great place to meet and socialize. Enjoy the serenity of Lemon Bay, whether it is in the morning to enjoy the sweet songs of the early birds, or late evening to observe the glorious sunsets over Manasota Key. Beforehand, stop at Mango Bistro in Englewood for freshly-made foods like grilled paninis, gourmet wraps, salads, crepes and smoothies and more to enjoy alfresco.
The Bay Park Conservancy
Head to the northern portion of Sarasota Bayfront, where a community, city and park conservancy initiative is transforming 53 acres of city-owned land into a signature public park. The Bay is accessible, free and welcoming to the full diversity of locals and visitors. With plenty of park benches lining its waterfront landscaping, opt to grab a bottle of wine and a delicious Neapolitan-style pizza to share from Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria downtown and only a few minute’s drive from The Bay Park.