Sarasota County, or the “culture coast” is located in southwest Florida, on the Gulf Coast. It’s one of the top destinations in the USA for retirees. Its largest city is North Port, with a population of approximately 65,000 people. This county contains much of the Myakka River State Park. The land size of Sarasota County is 556 square miles, and about 169 square miles of water. Sarasota County was founded in 1921, and is now home to over 400,000 people. This area of Florida has seen continuous growth, with both population and migration marginally increasing year over year.
We all know what Southern Florida implies: sunshine, heat, and a promising escape from cruel northern winters. Sarasota County gets 0 inches of snow each year - ZERO! You can expect over 250 days of sun, which is much higher than the U.S. average. Summer temperatures average around 91°F, it will feel even hotter with humidity. This climate is similar to that of the Caribbean, so to beat the heat, grab a cool drink and take a dip! The average January temperature is 50°F, and average rainfall per year is 54 inches. Sarasota does have a low elevation (as does all of Florida), so be cautious about severe rainfalls! The weather here makes for a perfect vacation spot, or a migration destination for those looking to escape the snow and cold.
Aside from absolutely awesome weather, Sarasota County offers a great diversity in landscapes. It ranges, of course, from beaches and oceanside, to forested preserves, rivers and waterways, and a wide variety of trails. You can explore the county by boat, fishing for different specimen on the way. Or you can drive to different preserves and parks to take in the trails by horseback, or walking. Southwestern Florida has some of the best weather in the country, so get out and explore!
If you’re looking to move to Florida, don’t delay. Sarasota County may very well be the last affordable coastal town in the state! There are a few cities and towns to choose from in Sarasota. Larger cities include Sarasota (population 210,149), North Port (population 65,246), Englewood (population 17,166), Nokomis (population 16,531), and Osprey (population 7,318). The county seat is Sarasota. Sarasota County has great shopping, with over 12 malls and outlet centres in the county lines! On top of this there are plenty of boutique stores, food markets, and box stores like Walmart, Crate and Barrel, Walgreen’s, and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Whether you’re looking to decorate a new vacation home, or get supplies for a fishing trip, there is a store with options for you.
The cost of living in Sarasota County is slightly higher than the U.S. average. The biggest factor in cost of living is the housing, which has a higher value than average. It’s important to note that land in Sarasota County is still quite reasonably priced, and in some subdivisions is still under-valued - so don’t be discouraged! The county cares about its residents, and spends time creating plans and goals around a variety of topics such as sustainability, green transportation, and neighborhood planning.
Transparency is of high importance in this county. Partly accomplished by their Performance Dashboard, which allows residents to click through and evaluate county progress in different areas. From the dashboard we see that in 2017, Sarasota County had a very strong sea turtle season with over 7,000 nests for the year. We can also see that 7 new bus shelters were added, and there was a 6% increase in the number of homes permitted compared to last year (2017).
Sarasota County is committed to demonstrating respect, accountability, integrity, quality, teamwork, and trust. And to keep these values as a priority while continuously working towards their mission:
If you’re beginning to browse land in Sarasota County, know that living in an RV is not permitted, unless it is within an RV park. You’re welcome to park an RV on your residential property, but it cannot be the main dwelling structure nor can be connected to any utilities.
When looking at different options, it’s always advisable to check with the county’s Planning and Development Services, to double check the less obvious restrictions like loads, size restrictions per acre, and potential hazards. It’s also important to check the property zoning to make sure you can use the lot for what you wish (we talk about this in our eBook – more info here).
If you’re planning on building, the Sarasota County Code of Ordinances can be found here (see Chapter 22). As described in the document, any development or construction site in Sarasota County must have the following:
Zoning Certificate (may be part of the Building Permit)
Plan and Building Specifications
Sarasota County has much to offer to keep you busy. You may be surprised to know that this area has options for hunting! Legal hunting is allowed only on Wildlife Management Areas, Public Small Game hunting areas, certain military bases, and National Wildlife Refuges within certain zones of the county.
Permits for the appropriate land area and a legal hunting license are required. Different permits are required depending on the animal and the weapon that you use for hunting - check out all the details here. Popular game for hunting are deer, turkey, migratory birds, waterfowl, quail, and alligator.
This area of Florida boasts a world-class fishing environment. People travel from all over to practicing their angling skills here! If you’re feeling confident, you can enter in the seasonal fishing tournaments. Note that a freshwater or saltwater license is required even if you do not catch anything. What you might catch depends on whether you’re fishing the Gulf of Mexico, deep sea, or the Intracoastal waterway.
Depending on the season, you’re likely to find:
Spanish Mackerel, Mangrove Snapper, Red Snapper, Red Fish, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Sheeps Head, Lady Fish, Whiting, Flounder, Cobia, Shark (Hammerhead, Nurse, and even Bonnet Heads!), Blue Fish, Tarpon and Snook
As you might expect, Florida offers a wide variety of beaches and outdoor activities. The eight-mile island of Siesta Key is comprised of Siesta Beach, which is one of the most highly regarded beaches in the world, Crescent Beach, and Turtle Beach. All boast soft white sand, and are good for families and sunbathers during the day, and party-goers at night. Venice Beach is close to downtown Venice, has wonderfully colorful lifeguard stands, a pavilion with shaded tables, a café, bathrooms, and ample parking. Note that nearby Brohard Paw Park is Sarasota County’s only dog-friendly beach. Other notable beaches in the county include Manasota Key, Lido Key, Longboat Key, and Casey Key. You can check out current beach conditions here.
Florida is blessed with one of the longest golf seasons in the U.S., plenty of time to perfect your swing! There are over 30 golf courses in the area to choose from, some of these are private clubs, and others are open to the public. One of the best is the TPC Prestancia, University Park Country Club, and the Meadows Country Club, which has two 18-hole championship courses.
Aside from hunting, fishing, and golfing, Sarasota still has many activities to offer!
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
MLB Spring training (Ed Smith Stadium)
Siesta Key Rum Distillery
Detwiler’s Farmers Market
Museums (Sarasota Opera, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, The Ringling, Ca d’Zan Mansion, Marietta Museum, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium)
Youth Sports Leagues
TreeUmph! Adventure Course
Community Events (Manatee County Fair, Greek Fest, Sarasota Jazz Festival, Sharks Tooth Festival, Siesta Fiesta, Sand Scuplting Contest, Suncoast Offshore Racing Festival, Oktoberfest, Sarasota Holiday Parade)
The Myakka State Forest is a must visit in Sarasota County. The Myakka River flows through the northeastern portion of the forest, dividing it into two tracts. This ensures plenty of recreational activities such as biking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, hunting, paddling, and picnics. Myakka State Forest is an excellent park with much to see and wildlife to observe (with active alligators!). Enjoy a walk, tree bathing in this peaceful environment, and press the reset button on your day.
Another great way to reset and get in touch with nature is to explore nearby Stump Pass Beach State Park and Gasparilla Island State Park. At either of these beautiful beach hangouts you can rent a kayak, and wander through the blue water. Keep an eye out for manatees, turtles, rays, and other colorful fish.
Sarasota County has fun to offer for the entire family, and plenty of activities to keep you busy on vacation! It’s one of the best places to retire in the USA, and the top four retirement destinations in Florida. Its rich culture offers something for everyone, so be sure to check it out soon!