Manasota Key, a beguiling barrier island off the southwestern coast of Florida, is in perfect harmony with its surroundings. There are no traffic lights or high rises, just a narrow two-lane canopy road leading past the pure white sand of the island’s four beaches. Each of these beaches (read about Manasota Beach and Blind Pass Beach in earlier articles), has a distinct personality deserving of a separate review.
While singles and couples may prefer the more remote beaches on the northern end, Englewood Public Beach is the preferred park for families. Hardly a day goes by that dolphins are not seen romping just offshore in the warm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Other wildlife abounds too: loggerhead turtles have been known to nest here and the shore is alive with seabirds. All of the southwest coast of Florida, but Manasota Key in particular, offers exceptional shell collecting that rivals Sanibel Island, which is known the world over for its shells. On Englewood Beach it is not uncommon to find shells that have arrived on the beach intact, but are still inhabited and very much alive.
Englewood Public Beach also offers recreation areas, picnic tables, restrooms, and a snack bar. A large paved lot contains an ample number of metered parking spaces, which cost an affordable 25 cents per hour. From the parking lot, decks lead up and over the dunes, then turn and run parallel to the Gulf, making it a breeze to haul coolers, beach umbrellas, chairs, and other gear to the beach. After a day spent frolicking on the beach, nearby Historic Dearborn Street offers an array of shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
To reach Englewood Beach, from SR 776, turn west onto either Beach Road. Just across the Intracoastal Waterway, the road will end at the ocean; the park is straight ahead on the far side of the traffic roundabout.