Sarasota vs St Petersburg: Where to go for your Vacation

Sarasota vs St Petersburg: Sarasota and St Petersburg are two of Florida’s best gulf coast vacation destinations. With beautiful beaches, great restaurants, plenty to see and do, and excellent weather year round, both cities are ideal for a getaway. But there are some significant differences between the two that may make one better for certain travelers. If you are trying to decide between Sarasota vs St Petersburg for your next vacation, keep reading to learn which one is a better fit for you.

Getting There

Both Sarasota and St Petersburg are located in close proximity to Tampa. If you are planning to fly to the area, your best bet is often to fly into the Tampa International Airport. Tampa International Airport is a major hub airport, and one of the busiest in the United States. This means there are always plenty of flights from most major cities around the US and Canada. 

The drive from Tampa International Airport to Sarasota takes about one hour, and the drive to St Petersburg takes about 20-30 minutes.

Your other option for flying into Sarasota is the Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport (SRQ). SRQ is a small-hub airport three miles north of downtown Sarasota. The airport sees year-round or seasonal flights from many of the major cities in the central and eastern United States.

If you are flying into St Petersburg, your other option is the St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport (PIE). PIE is a relatively small airport and a focus city for Allegiant Air, so most of the flights coming into and leaving PIE are Allegiant Air flights. Like SRQ, PIE sees flights from most major cities in the eastern and central United States.


Sarasota vs St Petersburg: A Beach in Sarasota
Sarasota vs St Petersburg: A Beach in Sarasota

Both St Petersburg and Sarasota are known for their beautiful beaches. In fact, the beaches in the whole Tampa Bay area are widely considered some of the nicest in the world, with fine white sands, refreshing bluegreen waters, and plenty of space for all beachgoers

Although both cities have beautiful beaches, St Petersburg’s beaches are typically considered to be nicer. In fact, St Pete Beach, on St Petersburg’s western coast was ranked the number 1 beach in the United States in 2021 according to Trip Advisor. And for good reason. St Pete Beach and St Petersburg’s other western beaches are absolutely stunning, with vast expanses, plenty of nearby restaurants and bars, cool waters, and gorgeous sunsets. The beaches are also very well maintained, and there are jetski, kayak, and parasailing rentals right on the beach.

Sarasota also has plenty of beautiful beaches. The beaches in Sarasota are mainly concentrated on three islands, known as the Keys, Longboat Key, Lido Key, and Siesta Key. These islands are connected to each other and to the mainland by causeways, making it easy to travel back and forth between each island, provided you have a car. 

Sarasota has a wide variety of beaches, from party beaches attracting a younger crowd, to laid-back and quiet beaches that are great for families and retirees, to secluded, natural beaches that are great for bird watching and seeing sea turtles visit to lay their eggs.

Attractions and Activities

Sarasota vs St Petersburg: The Ringling in Sarasota
Sarasota vs St Petersburg: The Ringling in Sarasota

There is no shortage of things to do and places to see in either Sarasota or St Petersburg. Although the beaches are the main attraction in both cities, both also have a wide variety of great museums, parks, music venues, restaurants, theaters, galleries, and more. 

Some of the main attractions in Sarasota include:

  • John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: The 66-acre estate of John and Mable Ringling features one of the best collections of art and cultural artifacts in the United States. With a collection of over 10,000 objects, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, and more, it is easy to spend an entire day or two exploring the Ringling.
  • Myakka River State Park: At 37,000 acres, Myakka River State Park is one of the largest state parks in Florida. The park features hiking and bicycling trails, boat ramps and canoe launches, fishing tiers, picnic facilities, and more.
  • Sarasota Jungle Gardens: The stunning 10-acre Jungle Gardens feature botanical plantings of native Florida species, and bird and animal shows. One of the garden’s main attractions are the free-roaming flamingos. There are also many other species that call the garden home, including parrots, butterflies, and lizards.
  • Siesta Key Rum Distillery: Open for rum tours and tastings, the Siesta Key Rum Distillery is famous for its award-winning, handcrafted coconut, coffee, beer barrel, and spiced rums.
  • Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium: An aquarium that is home to over 100 species, including sharks, otters, sea turtles, and many different types of tropical fish.

Attractions in St Petersburg include:

  • Sunken Gardens: Beautiful 100 year old gardens featuring over 50,000 tropical plants and flowers, waterfalls, koi ponds, and a flock of free roaming flamingos. 
  • The Dali Museum: An art museum dedicated to the works of Salvadore Dali, St Petersburg’s Dali Museum features an unparalleled collection of art by Dali.
  • MiGFlug Jet Fighter flight: For the adrenaline junkie with some money to burn, MiGFlug offers 30-minute to one-hour flights in an Aero L-39 Albatros Jet fighter. The company even offers participants to take control of the jet themselves, under the pilot’s supervision. Flights cost $4,500 for 30 minutes or $5,600 for one hour.
  • Pier Dolphin Cruises: Pier Dolphin Cruises offers 90-minute boat cruises around Tampa Bay, giving passengers great views of the skyline, city landmarks, and Tampa Bay’s dolphin population. The tour guarantees dolphin sightings.



  • The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota: The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota lives up to its lofty reputation. This beautiful, 5-star resort on the beach features pools, a beach club, a golf course, a spa, and excellent suites with private balconies.
  • The Resort at Longboat Key Club: The Resort at Longboat Key Club is a sprawling 4-star resort right on the beach on the southern end of Longboat Key. The resort features plenty of amenities for all visitors, including a spa, gym, and numerous golf courses.
  • Hyatt Regency Sarasota: A beautiful 4-star resort located right on the bay, the Hyatt Regency Sarasota has a private marina, a pool, restaurant, gym, golf, and suites with balconies.

St Petersburg:

  • Don CeSar Hotel: The preeminent resort in St Petersburg, the Don CeSar has attracted visitors from around the world since its grand opening in 1928. With two pools, multiple restaurants, and a fitness center, the Don CeSar has something to offer everyone. And the beautiful suites with private balconies offer breathtaking views of the ocean.
  • Island Grand Resort: A large, 4-star beachfront resort, the Island Grand Resort is perfect for a St Petersburg getaway. The resort features 545 beautiful rooms, 10 restaurants and bars, a floating waterpark, a three story water slide, and much more.
  • Treasure Island Beach Resort: A modern 4-star resort right on the beach, the Treasure Island Beach Resort features an outdoor pool, multiple dining options, and beautiful guest suites.


The overall cost of a vacation to Sarasota vs St. Petersburg depends on many factors. However, in general, St Petersburg is quite a bit less expensive than Sarasota. The average daily cost of vacationing in Sarasota comes out to around $290 per day. The average daily cost of vacationing in St Petersburg, on the other hand, comes out to around $180 per day. 

See Also:

Clearwater vs Sarasota: How to Choose your Next Vacation Destination


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