When it’s sweltering in South Florida, a few hours drive northwest to the Gulf Coast can make all the difference.
When we arrived at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, the first thing the bellman mentioned upon hearing that we were from Miami was that Sarasota tends to be a few degrees cooler and breezier than its neighbor to the south.
That night, as we enjoyed dinner al fresco, we felt the wind change and the cool breezes roll in over the bay—nothing that a light shawl and a glass of wine couldn’t fix. It was just the change of scenery we needed—quiet streets, fewer honking car horns, and best of all, bold pink and orange sunsets that faded into deep star-filled skies. That was just the outside ambience.
Inside, the newly reimagined Ritz featured a soft white, seaside-inspired lobby, renovated guest rooms painted in colors of blue and purple to “reflect Sarasota sunsets,” along with a new club level and lounge.
Our weekend retreat coincided with two weddings at the property, and it’s easy to see why brides fall for this spot. Newlyweds can say “I do” on a lawn overlooking the bay with a spiraling stone staircase that fans out onto the green.
What makes the Sarasota property unique is its ability to offer guests both bay views and beach-front access. If you’re looking for a saltwater surf experience, skip the on-site pool and hot tub, and hop on the complimentary shuttle to the exclusive Beach Club at Lido Key. There, guests can indulge in the same decadent cocktails, food and service offered on-site at the property. While lounging on a beach chair, order the “Stress Relief” cocktail, a refreshing blend of peach vodka, peach puree and prosecco.
For dinner, be sure to make a reservation at the Jack Dusty—the upscale, nautical-themed restaurant that serves seafood dishes like whole fried snapper, shrimp and grits, and a wide variety of fresh oysters from the raw bar. One of our favorite dishes was the crab and fried green tomatoes appetizer—a seafood-inspired take on the southern classic.
With beach club access and bay front pools, it’s easy to be tempted to stay on property during your visit. But you’d miss out on the area’s artistic flair and circus legacy that includes The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the famous Ringling College of Art & Design, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and more. Plus, for a hearty local’s breakfast, it’s worth a short walk to the Toasted Mango Café for homestyle eggs Benedict, French toast and pancakes.
It’s just a three-hour drive to Sarasota, but when you get to watch the sunset dissolve into the night sky over the Gulf, it feels worlds away.
When You Go…
Where To Eat: The Ritz-Carlton’s on-site restaurant, Jack Dusty
Where To Soak Up The Sun: The Ritz-Carlton’s exclusive Beach Club at Lido Key. Or head to Siesta Beach on Siesta Key, known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with white sand that’s composed of 99 percent pure quartz (it stays cool even on a hot, sunny day).
For A Little Culture: Visit The Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota’s famed circus and art museum formerly owned by John Ringling of the Ringling Brothers; ringling.org