Longboat Key - This 12-mile barrier island is regarded as one of the area's wealthiest enclaves, with fabulous golf, tennis, restaurants and resorts.

Lido and St. Armands Keys - World renowned shopping, dining and nightlife along with swimming, sunning and strolling is this area's forte.

Siesta Key - The keyword here is beaches - the widest and most powdery in the county, in fact the sand here has been consistently been among the winners since 1987 in the "Great International White Sand Challenge" award. Popular with fishermen, this barrier island provides shelter for many species of fish. Cast fishing from the bridges, trawling from boats in the Intracoastal Waterway, and in the nearby grassy flats produce delicious results.

There is a public beach is located at Siesta Key's midpoint with volleyball nets, a playground, a picnic area, and shade. Stop in at nearby Siesta Village for a bite to eat or a look at the art galleries. To the south awaits Crescent Beach, a snorkeler's paradise. A bit farther south is Palmer Pointe South, popular with boaters, hikers or anyone seeking acres of unspoiled privacy.

Venice - This community is known for its quiet atmosphere and the abundance of fossilized sharks teeth along its shores. Laced with canals, this town reminds one of the original in Italy, but with nature trails, boating, golf, tennis, fishing, swimming, snorkeling and more. The arts are vibrant in this community as well, with a lively dinner theater, an opera, theatre guild, and a symphony orchestra.

Englewood - The beaches here enjoy a reputation as some of the most beautiful in Florida, abundant with prehistoric shark's teeth, sea oats, dunes, shells and driftwood. This community enjoys two private and four semi-private golf clubs, as well as the Texas Rangers' winter home.

Northport - An inland town with many canals leading to the Myakka River provide plenty of fresh and saltwater fishing and canoeing opportunities. You can ride a hot air balloon, glimpse deer, bobcats, otters and perhaps a bald eagle. The famous spa there, Warm Mineral Springs, contains heavily mineralized waters at a constant 87 degrees and attracts thousands of visitors yearly.

Photos courtesy of the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau