Another favored spot to congregate: The little shopping mecca on the beach, home to an ice cream shop, a hair braiding and temporary tattoo kiosk, a store selling beach gear, including T-shirts and flip flops, and, conveniently, an ATM.
Away from the beach, you can head to one of two marinas, which offer boat rentals and fishing trips. Or rent kayaks and watch the birds and manatees at the Jim Neville Marine Preserve at the key's south end.
Two-wheeling across townAfter leaving the beach, the best way to see Siesta Key is by bike.
The island, connected to the mainland by two bridges, is only six streets at its widest. One main road cuts through the key and offers either a bike lane or sidewalk for safety.
Siesta Key is tourist-snowbird territory, whose year-round population of 12,500 swells to 20,000 during the winter. So don't expect a bonanza of stores and eateries.
Two small shopping areas, one north and one south, offer two dozen restaurants, along with ice cream emporiums, beach wear and shell shops, most independently owned.
Don't look for hotel chains, either. The island lodgings are mainly rental properties, including condos and cottages, town homes, and mom-and-pop hotels circa '50s and '60s, some still sporting jalousie windows.
If you want beachfront lodging, make sure your accommodation opens directly on the sand. There's a reason local businesses rent small wagons for families to haul coolers, rafts and other beach paraphernalia from apartments that are dozens of yards from the beach.
Some serious sandNow, about that beach: For geology geeks, here's a shorthand version of why the sand is so special.
Before it was sand, it was rock. Over millenniums those rocks moved from the southern Appalachian Mountains into rivers, which carried sand grains into the Gulf and down Florida's west coast.
The sand is really, really old because the feldspar and mica, originally part of the rock, are gone, leaving only quartz.
When Dr. Beach named Siesta Key among his top beaches, he wasn't just looking at soft sand. He studies 50 criteria to select his top 10 — from water cleanliness to sand color. And he's hardly the first to honor Siesta Key.
In the Great International Sand Challenge in 1987, Crescent Beach was rated "The World's Finest, Whitest Sand," beating out more than 30 entries, including the Bahamas and Grand Cayman. The Travel Channel named Siesta Key as America's top sand beach in 2004.
In Siesta Key, folks take their sand seriously.
In April, police arrested a 70-year-old retired businessman trying to block crews from spreading brownish colored sand trucked in to fill a hole.
Making it clear the imported stuff didn't measure up, he posted signs that read: "This Dirt Must Go."
Liz Doup can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4722.