A wooden footbridge leading to the beach

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Year-Round Fun in the Longboat Key Sun

Despite what you may have heard, Florida does have a change of seasons. Sure, our winter may look like everybody else’s spring or fall, but there’s a perceptible shift, and we’ve got the boots and sweaters to prove it.

The Sarasota area’s Gulf of Mexico temperature is about 60-65 degrees December through February. Compare that to summer’s bath water average – a balmy 86 degrees – and you’ll understand that the main difference between seasons is whether we can dive right into the water and sunbathe on the beach or are forced to find other ways to enjoy both. Fortunately for us, winter skies are sunny. It rains less, and yet we’re still steeped in a sea of green, as well as a literal sea of inviting blue.

Our famously mild cold weather means that no one is kidding about the year-round recreation here. Rather than shutter for the winter, our tour operators and attractions rev up. Kayaking – a way of life here – is never out of season. There are sandbars and shores to explore, as well as mini keys like Jewfish and Lido Key’s mangrove tunnels. Island Adventure Outfitters and Happy Paddler Kayak Tours & Eco Adventures provide everything from ocean kayaks to naturalist guides, who point out the birds wintering here while you paddle, as well as other wildlife. There’s also paddle fishing, which is a nice choice for anglers, as you can really get into the nooks and crannies to find the grass flats of Sarasota Bay, which lies to one side of Longboat Key. In winter, the water here is rich with speckled trout, flounder, pompano, grouper and snook. For bigger expeditions, operators like Longboat Key Fishing Charter will point you to all the key spots such as Longboat Pass.

On land, there’s plenty to do. The pitch perfect weather makes long bike rides finally tolerable, for one. The best bet on Longboat Key is the trail that runs nearly 9.5 miles, from the south end of the island to the north. Once there, bikers can even cross the bridge over to Coquina Beach and have a picnic (a stop at Harry’s or The Lazy Lobster for take-out is a must) or catch the sunset. Backyard Bike Shop or Beach Bums are just two of many places to rent from. Getting out of the car and onto the bike is a great way to experience the area’s natural beauty, any time of year.