Englewood, a Beach Town With the Feel of Old Florida
The 4 main beaches of Englewood, Florida, are all on the barrier island of Manasota Key, which is located south of Venice and north of Port Charlotte. The term "barrier island" refers to its placement just off the coast of Englewood, where it is the first place hurricanes and tropical storms hit as they come ashore. Much of a storm’s fury is spent as soon as it hits land, so these islands are not only beautiful but very important to area inhabitants.
While the Englewood beaches are not as well-known as some near-by locations in Southwest Florida, they are equally beautiful, and generally far less crowded than neighboring vacation spots. The four beaches on the Key include Manasota Beach, Blind Pass Park, Englewood Beach, and Stump Pass State Park.
There are 2 bridges onto the island, one on each end of the Key. The island is divided into 2 sections, each located in a different county (Sarasota and Charlotte). The Sarasota side of the Key is mostly residential, with huge homes built in various interesting styles. Some are located so far back in the lush tropical landscape that you can’t even catch a glimpse of them from the road. The Charlotte County end of the island is more commercial, featuring several seasonal rentals, a few condos, some great restaurants, and a souvenir shop or two.
I always feel like I am on vacation when I take Beach Road, which is a narrow, two-lane road that runs the length of the Key. There is always a laid back feeling typical of life in a beach town anywhere. Somehow it always relaxes me just to know I am on my way to the beach!
Stump Pass Beach
At the Southernmost tip of Manasota Key is Stump Pass Beach. It is a State Park, so there is a small fee for using the tiny parking area. This is the most remote beach on the Key and usually has a lot of folks fishing and sunbathing. Be careful, though. Like the rest of the beaches on the island, there are no lifeguards on duty to help you if you get too far out in the water.
The beach area open to the public is quite long, so you can find your own quiet little spot if you are willing to walk a bit. The Park land is narrow, so you can walk from the Gulf of Mexico to the Bay fairly easily.
I love to walk the entire length of the beach and search for unusual shells. It’s a great way to spend a winter afternoon, and I am told it has the feel of what Florida was like years ago. Just be sure you are close to the parking area at sunset as they lock the gate promptly and you could get stranded overnight.
Located on the south end of the island, in Charlotte County, this beach is the first one you reach when you drive onto the Key from the bridge at the South end. It is the perfect "family hangout" beach because it offers covered picnic pavilions, grills, a playground and even a volleyball set up. Onsite showers and restrooms are also provided and the beach area was recently renovated with new sand and facilities.
It’s a great spot for shelling, swimming and sun bathing, but there are also several great restaurants and stores within easy walking distance when you get tired of the heat. The drawbacks? 1) There are no lifeguards on duty and 2) it costs 25 cents an hour (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM) to park – and the law is strictly enforced.
Blind Pass Beach
Blind Pass Beach is located at about the middle of Manasota Key, a mile north of the Charlotte County line. Guess that’s why the locals all call it "Middle Beach." It’s a favorite with the retired residents and those who enjoy a beach that’s a little more secluded and a bit less crowded.
Blind Pass is a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, and there is a nature trail near by, complete with dunes and wildflowers. Dolphins are frequently spotted swimming close to shore, and many blue herons and egrets like to wait for treats from the fishermen on the beach.
This is a favorite beach for egg-laying sea turtles, and you can view their protected nests from May until they hatch. If you arrive at the end of the day, you can watch the pale little ghost crabs scurrying across the beach in search of food, or ducking into the safety of their holes in the sand.
Fishing, swimming and shelling are the main attractions at Blind Pass, though there are no lifeguards on duty here either. You can find as many fossil sharks’ teeth here as you can on any of the near-by Venice beaches, and the sea grapes grow higher and wider than anywhere else on the Key.
The beach also features amenities like restrooms, showers, picnic tables and plenty of free parking a few steps from the beach area. Just off the parking area, on the bay side of the island, is a whole other site featuring a canoe launch and a boat ramp. The coves along Lemon Bay are perfect for catching a variety of fish, and there is a cute little playground to keep the kids busy.
This beach is located at the northern entrance to Manasota Key, and is the favorite spot for residents who live in the South Venice area. This beach offers free parking, though the lot is fairly small. Amenities include rest rooms, picnic pavilions and showers.
Manasota Beach is the only beach on the island with lifeguards on duty regularly. The facilities and picnic areas are well-maintained, and the beach is quiet most days, though it can get busy on weekends and holidays. Manasota Beach is shielded from the road by a large dune area containing sea grapes and other native vegetation.
Across the street, on the bay side of the Key, is a boat ramp and 620 foot dock on the Intra Coastal Waterway which gives folks access to the Bay and the Gulf.
All in all, the beaches of Englewood are perfect examples of Florida’s gorgeous Gulf Coast. In the words of a resort located on the island, "Manasota Key is the perfect retreat for those who want to get away from it all without the hassle of actually being away from it all." (From