Siesta Key Still Has The Finest, Whitest Sand in the World

It all started as a friendly competition over “bragging rights” about what beach has the finest, whitest sand in the world.

More than 30 years ago tourism professionals in the Sarasota and Bradenton area persuaded scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to judge the “Great International White Sand Beach Challenge,” with more than 30 entries from beaches around the state and around the world.

The competition was held in Manatee County on September 14, 1987, and on that day Siesta Key was named the winner of the worldwide title, which remains in effect today.

Siesta Key residents and visitors alike have long recognized their outstanding sand. A 1950s promotional brochure tells the story of a visitor from New York, Mr. Edward G. Curtis, who sent a pickle jar of Siesta's sand to the Geology Department of Harvard University for analysis. The report in summary follows: “The sand from Siesta Key is 99% PURE QUARTZ grains – the grains being somewhat angular in shape.

The soft floury texture of the sand is due to its very fine grain size. It contains no fragments of coral and no shell. The fineness of the sand which gives it its powdery softness, is emphasized by the fact that the quartz is a very hard substance, graded at 7 in the hardness scale of 10 – the diamond being rated 10 in that scale. Minerals of hardness 7 cannot be scratched with the point of a steel knife.”

Siesta Key has received many honors for its powdery white-sand beaches including in 2011, as the #1 beach in the United States by “Dr. Beach”, a.k.a. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, director of Florida International University's highly respected Laboratory for Coastal Research. In 2004 the Travel Channel named it “The Best Sand Beach in America” because of its 99% pure quartz sand that stays cool under your feet.


Siesta Key, an eight mile long barrier island off the coast of Sarasota, Florida, has long been one of the Gulf Coast's most popular vacation destinations with a wide variety of cozy, family-owned accommodations. Recreational opportunities include beach walking, fishing, boating, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and sail-boarding. On Siesta it's also popular to use rollerblades and bicycles as alternative modes of transportation. Siesta Village is a lively district of boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.

All year long you'll find something to do on Siesta Key. Every February, the island celebrates Valentine's Day with a “Say I Do Again” ceremony for couples to renew their vows at the beach.

In April “Siesta Fiesta” takes over the streets with art exhibits, live entertainment, food and fun. Every May the Sand Sculpting Contest attracts professional and novice sand sculptors to compete for prizes

Siesta Key also holds their own beautiful and colorful Fourth of July Fireworks Display over the Gulf of Mexico. The display is coordinated with music and usually runs for more than 30 minutes. Other events include the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix Festival over the Fourth of July holiday, Sandfest in October and a Taste of the Holidays in December.


The west coast of Florida is an excellent place to find shells and start your own collection. Siesta Key's spectacular shores provide a new assortment of shells daily. A walk on the beach is like a treasure hunt. Shelling does not cost anything, it can be good exercise and is a great hobby for everyone. So head out to the beach and start your own personal collection.

The Sand Dollar

The sand dollar is one of the most unusual animals among all marine life. The fact that the patterns and shapes of the shell tell a story is what sets it apart from all other sea creatures. The four smaller holes around the edge of the shell represent the nail wounds in the hands and feet of Christ. The larger hole represents the sword wound in Christ's side The shell is also imprinted with the designs of two flowers. On the front is a picture of the Easter Lily. On the back is an outline of the Christmas flower, or Poinsettia. If the Sand Dollar is broken open, five perfect replicas of doves are found inside. These are known as the doves of peace. The Star of Bethlehem can also be found inside the center of the shell. We are very fortunate to have such a large population of these unique animals along the beaches of Siesta Key.

Graceful Sea Oats

Sea oats are those graceful, tall perennial grasses that grow in what is known as the “pioneer zone” of Siesta Key's beaches. This is the area just beyond the wave action where the plants miraculously take root in Siesta's fine sand. Sea Oats are important in the maintenance of Florida's beaches and are protected by state law. There is a fine for destroying or tampering with them. So, admire, photograph and thank you for being careful not to walk on them and please never pick them.