While Longboat Key boasts some of the whitest sands and clearest waters that Florida’s Gulf coast has to offer, families will find a host of things to do when they’re not beaching it. From kid-friendly museums to the pristine natural wonders of state parks, the area offers ample fun for all ages.

Getting There

If you’re planning your getaway from the Tampa area to Longboat Key, it’s about 61 miles and the drive takes about an hour, depending on traffic conditions. To get there from Tampa, take Interstate 275 south over the Sunshine Skyway (also called the Skyway Bridge). From there, take the first exit after the Skyway, which is US 41/19 (Palmetto/Bradenton). Continue straight past the Manatee River. Take a right on Manatee Avenue, then a left turn at 75th Street west. Take a right turn on Cortez Road, then a left at the ocean. Continue until you hit Longboat Key.

What to Do

(photo credit: mymanatee.org)

Coquina Beach
2650 Gulf Drive South
Bradenton Beach 34217
(941) 748-4501

Price: free

Located about five miles from the city center, this picturesque, white-sand beach sits adjacent to a park on Anna Maria Island. As a great family friendly option, it offers shade, picnic tables and a playground. While crowds can be an issue on weekends, they are not as large as those on Siesta Beach, one of the area’s most popular swimming holes. Another helpful amenity is the concession stand. When you add the frequent dolphin sightings reported at this beach to the gorgeous turquoise hue the water takes on here at times, it’s easy to see why this is a winning destination for one of Florida’s favorite past times.

Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota, FL 34241
(941) 361-6511

Price: $6 per vehicle with two to six people/$4 for one person/$4 pedestrians and cyclists

As one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, Myakka is home to 57 square miles of woodlands, prairies and wetlands. The river area and its surrounding beauty is a primitive, beautiful place to take the kids fishing, hiking, camping or just observing the many native plants and animals at this untouched wonderland. Be sure to try out the canopy walkway, a trail suspended 25 feet above the ground and extending 100 feet throughout the hammock canopy. Explore the tower that extends 74 feet in the air to view the treetops, wetlands and soaring eagles, hawks and vultures. Dogs are allowed, if leashed, in most areas of the park.

(photo credit: gwiz.org)

G.WIZ – The Science Museum
The Blivas Science & Technology Center
1001 Boulevard of the Arts
Sarasota, FL 34236
(941) 309-4949

Price: $15 adults ages 16 and older/$10 children ages 3 to 16/$14 seniors, students and military/$1 off for Florida residents

This hands-on learning center was made for kids, sparking their interests in all things science. It will take you and the family a full day to explore exhibits such as Mindball, which pits kids against each other to see who can move items with their minds. (Hint: Relax and you’ll win). Other cool stops include Body Zone, which is all about how the human body works; Wave Zone, which lets kids experiment with sound and light waves; and ExploraZone, which helps young ones learn about electricity, magnetism, sound and light. Tech Zone offers them the opportunity to flex their animation and engineering muscles, and Machine Village promises plenty of levers, screws, pulleys and hydraulics to play with. There are always new exhibits opening, and a newly built Tot Zone is perfect for the 1 to 3-year-old set.


(photo credit: geomerx.com)

The Lazy Lobster
5350 Gulf Of Mexico Drive
Longboat Key, FL 34228
(941) 383-0440

This kid-friendly, moderately priced seafood haunt features free WiFi, outdoor dining, gluten-free options and happy hour pricing specials. Don’t miss the lobster mac and cheese and lobster bisque when you stop for a bite at this local favorite. It can get busy, as more people have discovered it, so be sure to make a reservation. Although pricing is slightly higher for a restaurant not located directly on the water, the excellent waitstaff, delicious menu and ample serving sizes make it worth the visit. Call for summertime dinner and drink specials as well as hours.

(photo credit: stonecrab.cc)

Moore’s Stone Crab
800 Broadway St.
Longboat Key, FL 34228

This is the oldest family owned seafood restaurant in Manatee County, according to local sources. As a destination for superb stone crab, this waterfront institution also features decent grouper sandwiches, grilled fish items, clam chowder and hush puppies. The restaurant catches its own stone crabs during stone crab season from October 15 to May 15, and trapping is done between the Florida Keys and Clearwater Beach (on the Gulf side). Also known for excellent service and its beautiful views, Moore’s is an economical way for the entire family to get their seafood fix.

Related: Fun for the Road


(photo credit: longboatkeyclub.com)

Longboat Key Club and Resort
220 Sands Point Road
Longboat Key, FL 34228
(941) 383-8821

Price: from $259 per night

While room prices are a bit higher, this resort is considered the gold standard in the area for families looking for a beachfront view and activities for everyone. The property features seven restaurants supplied by 25 local food purveyors, babysitting, a year-round Kids Klub activity club for kids ages 5 to 12, golf, tennis, a full-service fitness center (including yoga classes) and a spa. Beach-front water toy rental includes kayaks, sailboats and equipment. The rooms are spacious and include balconies that overlook the gulf, providing spectacular views of the area’s gorgeous sunsets.

(photo credit: hilton.com)

Hilton Longboat Key Beach Resort
4711 Gulf Of Mexico Drive
Longboat Key, FL 34228
(941) 383-2451

Price: from $175 per night

Offering some great getaway price specials for families traveling this summer, this pet-friendly Hilton has both beach-front and pool views, a large, heated outdoor pool, beach-side volleyball, bike rentals and water sport activities. Bonuses here include a great staff, good breakfast buffet and a friendly, low-key vibe that makes this a relaxing beach-front retreat. The newly renovated rooms offer gorgeous views of the gulf with direct beach access, balconies or patios, as well.

Related: Road Trip Rules

Kim Tobin enjoys breathing deeply whenever she can carve out a few seconds between writing and parenting twin 6-year-olds, a 9-year-old and a rescued German Shepherd mix who thinks he’s a dingo. Always on the lookout for the next best way to exhaust them all (while disguising it as fun), she has also served as the Tampa Fitness Examiner since 2009. See her work here.