The Sandpiper Inn on Longboat Key
University Park Golf Club in Sarasota a
Perfect Place for Golfers and Non-Golfers in Florida

Story & Photos by: Ed Stone

Recently my wife, Fran, our sidekick “Snazzy” and I were invited to visit one of our favorite destinations…Longboat Key and the Sarasota, Florida area.  We were delighted to accept since we almost settled there a few years back for our winter home.  The following is a summation of places and activities we enjoyed.

"Snazzy" taking his walk through the beautiful gardens at the Sandpiper Inn

Our accommodations were at the 11-unit Sandpiper Inn situated on one of Florida’s pristine beaches just a short drive from downtown Sarasota on Longboat Key.  This petite inn reeks of “old Florida” quaintness and style.  All rooms are spacious studios, one and two bedrooms and come fully equipped with everything you’ll need to make your stay everything you’re wanting in a vacation.  Each room has its own private patio overlooking tropical gardens and the beautiful beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  And, Snazzy was very pleased that it is pet friendly and a non smoking facility.

Sunsets on the Gulf are always spectacular.

Sunsets on the Gulf are always spectacular.  The mornings and late afternoons are perfect for a stroll on the beach with seafaring birds of all types to keep you company and entertained.  Many times, the dolphins are at play as an added attraction to your visit.  This quiet section of Longboat Key is perfect for biking with wide paths and lots to see and do.

Captain Mark Gore, a U.S. Coast Guard certified, licensed, and insured U.S. Merchant Marine Officer stopped by one morning and brought his surf fishing equipment to teach us how to catch some very nice sporting fish.  He offers guide services that are unforgettable!  What a great experience and wonderful family or group activity.  Should you ever need someone to take you fishing and hunting in these parts of Florida, I can highly recommend Capt. Gore.

Capt. Mark Gore teaches me surf fishing

Richard Merenda and Mary Lou Lookabill are the local innkeepers at the Florida property.  They paid extra attention to our needs and made sure that Snazzy was leashed and walked in the proper area.  Not a problem!  These two individuals have over 40 years experience and have managed all types of properties across the U.S. and Hawaii.  Back in the 1980’s, they returned to Florida to enjoy a lifestyle that is quite envious…like living on the beach.

The property on Longboat Key is owned by Christine & Harold Cullison who also own and operate the Sandpiper Inn in Spring Lake, New Jersey on the Jersey Shore.  This 15 unit Victorian house B&B was built in 1888 by the Mexican/Spanish Minister to the United States.  It was a private home until 1940 and Albert Einstein once visited the residence.  We’re hoping to checkout that property in the near future.

We’re told that The Black Trumpet is the signature restaurant of the Jersey Shore Sandpiper Inn Bed and Breakfast.  Its website indicates, “This eatery will not disappoint your desire for a casual yet elegant dining experience.  Chef/Owner Mark Mikolajczyk, along with his long time sous chef and now partner Dave McCleery, offer acclaimed culinary talents evidenced by their #1 food ranking in the Jersey Shore Zagat guide for their efforts at Whispers restaurant and most recently at Brennens Steakhouse where they earned "best of the best" rating from the Asbury Park Press.”

Finding a good restaurant on Longboat Key and St. Armands Circle is not a problem.  Choices range from lavish to laid-back.  Seafood is certainly the specialty at most all Florida restaurants, but extra special culinary delights are found at some of the places we discovered.

TOP: Harry's Continental Kitchens and Columbia's 1905 Salad.
BOTTOM: Bar at Harry's and desserts at Euphemia Haye

• Mar Vista - The Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub is located on the North end of Longboat Key in the heart of historic Longboat Village. Enjoy fresh Florida seafood inside the quaint dining room or on their outdoor covered deck overlooking picturesque Sarasota Bay.

• Sandbar Restaurant – Located on the North end of Anna Maria Island, just three miles north of Longboat Key, is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico from the dining room or covered deck.

• Beach House Restaurant – Located on the South end of Anna Maria Island, just west of the quaint Cortez fishing village in Bradenton Beach is a great place for families and kids to play on the beach while enjoying the sunset, a tropical drink and fresh Florida seafood.

• Harry's Continental Kitchens – This is one of those “not to be missed” restaurants on Longboat Key with fine dining at its best.  A relaxed atmosphere, lovely tropical dining room, award winning menu and wine list, friendly and expert service combine to make dining at Harry's a satisfying and enjoyable experience. In addition to the restaurant is Harry's famous deli. This is the place to get scrumptious take-out gourmet dinners.

• Columbia Restaurant – This restaurant group was begun in Tampa.  The one we visited is located in charming St. Armands Circle.  The Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota serves up delicious home-style Spanish cuisine and offers the same elegant atmosphere and outstanding service that patrons have enjoyed since the original restaurant opened in 1905. Be sure to order their famous 1905 signature salad that is made tableside.

• The Famous “Euphemia Haye” – Here we found Chef Raymond Arpke, co-owner and cookbook author with his wife, D'Arcy.  Both contribute to the innovative flair, and a love for fresh foods providing outstanding, American, global and slow cooked foods.  Their breads, stocks, sauces, soups, dressings and desserts are homemade on the premises.  They use fresh local ingredients as much as possible to create a distinctive menu.

Cà d’Zan, seen from the Sarasota Bay was the home of John & Mable Ringling

When you think of Longboat Key and the Sarasota area, you think of the circus.  This is the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.  The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University, is one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation.  The museum complex preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling.  It is most educating and enables a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art.  The grandiose and opulent historic home of John Ringling is called Cà d’Zan.  The Circus Museums, the Original Asolo Theater and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlook Sarasota Bay.  Of all the museums and attractions in this area, this is a “not to be missed.”

Dolly Jacobs poses with her place in the Circus Walk of Fame.  She and her husband Pedro Reis founded the Circus Sarasota organization.

Circus Sarasota was founded in 1997 as a non-profit organization by Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs.  They have combined their expertise and passion for the circus.   The couple is committed to broadening the artistic contribution of circus, while raising the level and perception of the American Circus to that of the other fine arts.  Their involvement within the community is enormous from visiting senior citizen centers to children’s hospitals and schools.  They focus on the performing arts and educational outreach to provide a circus representing the circus arts at the highest level and linked to the community through performance.  Since its inception, Circus Sarasota has helped bring the magic of circus to more than 200,000 people.  Last spring, we took our two grandsons to see a performance in Ft. Myers…an outstanding production.

Chuck Sidlow, a performing clown, addressed our group and told about the presence of Circus Sarasota as a Living institution.  The artists, as individual citizens, have contributed substantially to the cultural richness and diversity, which is now synonymous with the Sarasota area.

Chuck Sidlow illustrates how a clown is made up for the "Greatest Show on Earth"

Golfers need not worry about a place to play in this area…there are plenty of courses to choose.

University Park is a gated community but offers golf privileges to visitors and residents.  We had the opportunity to play the beautiful and challenging University Park Golf Club which is about a 25 minute drive from the Sandpiper Inn.  This is a 27-hole layout designed by Ron Garl of Lakeland, Florida.  He takes great advantage of the terrain and vegetation to create a most demanding course.  It is obvious that he respects the standards for environmentally friendly golf courses.  We were impressed with how he maximizes and enhances the land’s natural characteristics with offering a choice of six sets of tees to play.

University Park Country Club has been ranked one of Florida’s top courses as evidence by its four star rating by Golf Digest, nationally ranked as one of Florida’s best courses by Golfweek Magazine and number one golf course in Southwest Florida by Florida Golf News…just to name a few.

Sue Ertl former LPGA tour player and now the resident LPGA Golf Professional and Head Teaching Pro for the new University Park Golf Academy

This award-winning community is home to The Golf Academy at University Park.  We had the privilege of meeting Sue Ertl a former LPGA tour player and currently the resident LPGA Golf Professional and Head Teaching Professional for the new Golf Academy.  Also on hand was Ashley Hayden the Head PGA Pro and Assistant Pro, Bill Tawney.  Evidenced from our arrival to departure, the pros and staff are customer service and team oriented.  You are warmly welcomed and genuinely given attention to every detail in making your golfing experience top quality.  Some of the Golf Schools available to both residents and visitors to sharpen your skills are:

  • 3-Day Comprehensive Golf School   
  • 2-Day Short Game Scoring School    
  • Beginner Golf Series
  • "Tee for Two" - Two Students - Two Hours of Instruction
  • 9 Holes with your Pro
  • Early Afternoon Golf Clinics
  • Kids Golf Camp - A FUN morning of golf and lunch for kids ages 5 - 18
  • "Weekender" Golf School

When it comes to awards and recognition, University Park has accumulated a most impressive list, such as:

  • Best Community Design in America
  • Best in American Living Award
  • National Association of Home Builders
  • Professional Builder Magazine Best Country Club Community
  • Aurora Awards
  • Southeast Builders Conference
  • Best Country Club Community
  • FAME Awards
  • South Florida Builders Association
  •  Best Community In Region
  • 2000 Future of the Region Award
  • 1st Place in Development Category
  • Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council
  • 4 Star Rated Course
  • Golf Digest One of the Best Courses in Florida
  • Nationally Ranked by Golfweek Magazine
  • Number One Golf Course
  • in Southwest Florida
  • Florida Golf News Best Place to Play Tennis
  • Best of the Best Award
  • Sarasota Magazine and WWSB TV
  • Best Neighborhood
  • Best of the Best Award
  • Sarasota Magazine and WWSB TV Best Place to Play Golf
  • Best of the Best Award
  • Sarasota Magazine and WWSB TV
University Park Golf Club offers 27 outstanding and challenging holes of golf

There are several other course open to the public in the Sarasota area and you may want to check them out on at:

Whether you are a beach lover or an avid golfer, Longboat Key and the Sarasota area offer a plethora of waters sports, golfing, restaurants and accommodations.  I highly recommend the Sandpiper Inn and the University Park Golf Club as a place to stay and play…after all where else can you find “The Greatest Show on Earth?”

Sandpiper Inn on Longboat Key
5451 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Longboat Key, Florida 34228
Phone: 941-383-2552

The Sandpiper Inn on Jersey Shore
7 Atlantic Avenue
Spring Lake, NJ 07762
Phone: 732-449-6060

University Park Country Club
7671 The Park Boulevard
University Park, Florida 34201

Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau
701 N Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: 800.800.3906