Do you need a break? Are you ready to kick back and forget the rest of the world? But do you want to do that and still be close to all of the fabulous things that Sarasota has to offer? Then Lido Key is just the answer for you. By simply leaving downtown Sarasota and crossing over the gorgeous John Ringling Bridge you have now come to Bird Key. Keep going. Cross over another small bridge and you will see the new and very cool Sarasota Yacht Club on your left. Welcome to Lido Key……some will refer to this part as St. Armands Key…..no matter……all the same…… You have arrived.
Continue your drive and you will come to the very famous St. Armands Circle, known for its fun shops and great restaurants. Proceed about halfway around the circle and head toward the Gulf of Mexico. Now you are at the point where most people will refer to Lido Key. Enjoy seeing all of the lovely condos that sit on and just across from the beach, enjoy seeing some beautiful single family homes, enjoy the beach, enjoy the parks, enjoy the people, enjoy it all! This is Lido Key.
At one point in time and for a very, very long time, Lido Key was simply an assortment of very small islands of mangroves that enjoyed a pretty beach. Early Sarasota settlers along with Spaniards and Native Americans used it simply as a fishing camp. Only in the 1920’s when John Ringling, the developer and circus czar arrived did it become somewhat civilized.
When Ringling helped to develop St. Armands Circle, he also was responsible for laying out the streets of Lido Key and he did this naming them after American presidents as a tribute. He was responsible for building causeways to connect the islands. At the end of the 1930’s there was a very popular casino built by the city of Sarasota known as the Lido Beach Casino. This art deco style building had restaurants, bars, shops, cabanas and even a swimming pool and ballroom on site and was all done under the watchful eye of architect Ralph Twitchell, the grandfather of what has come to be known as the “Sarasota School of Architecture”. Officially opening in May of 1940, this casino ran for over 20 years and attracted many well-known bands and celebrities from Hollywood and other places and was the site for everything from political rallies to sporting events to beauty pageants to proms and so on. With additional hotels and beach cottages and the like being built all around the casino, Lido Key did become a destination for many seasonal visitors and also for the locals. By the late 1950’s the building was in disrepair and despite local efforts and fund raisers to restore the building, it was finally torn down in 1969. The pool does still remain in place as a public pool.
As it turns out, only a few homes were ever built on Lido Key at that point in time and 4 still stand today. They are located on McKinley and Harrison Drives. Many condo buildings now line the beaches and wonderful single family homes exist. There are currently about 10 hotels on the key and about 300 condominiums units and 175 single family homes. These condominiums include such prestigious names as the Ritz Carlton now. The area known as South Lido Key has a wonderful park and is home to more than 100 acres of Australian pines, picnic areas and a gorgeous beach. The north end of Lido Key is a more private half-mile or so stretch of sand that is great for walking. The middle part of the key is where the Lido Key Public Beach is located and there is plenty of public parking and amenities such as concessions and grills.