Island Chatter: April

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TripAdvisor users: Siesta Beach is best on continental U.S.

Only a beach in Hawaii topped Siesta Key in TripAdvisor’s annual ranking of the best beaches in the U.S.

Reviews by users on the website resulted in Siesta Beach landing a No. 2 ranking, making it the top-ranked beach in continental America. That position was part of TripAdvisor’s announcement in late February of its Best of the Best Beaches for 2023 list, which is part of its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards.

 Siesta Beach narrowly missed reaching the Top 10 list of best beaches in the world, coming in at No. 11.

Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, Hawaii was No. 1 on the U.S. list while Baia do Sancho in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, ranked No. 1 on the worldwide list.

Last year, TripAdvisor also named Siesta Beach No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 14 in the world. In 2021, Siesta was ranked No. 17 in the U.S. and was not ranked globally.

Other Florida beaches to make the Top 25 list are Henderson Beach State Park in Destin at No. 6, St. Augustine Beach at No. 13, St. Pete Beach at No. 14, Panama City Beach at No. 18, Pensacola Beach  at No. 20, Sombrero Beach in Marathon at No. 22, and Clearwater Beach at No. 23. 

That total of eight Florida beaches on the list matches the top number for any state, tied with Hawaii.

Shootings near north bridge send two to local hospital

The Sarasota Police Department reports that two 21-year-old males suffered non-life-threatening injuries as the result of gunfire outside a party on March 15.

The incident occurred at about 11:30 p.m. in the 1300 block of Siesta Drive, in park area on the east side of the north bridge that leads to Siesta Key. Witnesses say the two men, who were transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, had been attending a large party in the vicinity.

Police re-routed traffic after the incident for a short period of time, instructing motorists to use the south bridge in order to get to and from the Key.

Officers determined the incident was isolated and the public is in no danger. The case remains active as the investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at (941) 263-6070 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling (941) 366-TIPS or going online at

Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce hires new staffer

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has hired Marisa Merlino as its new promotion and event manager.

She replaces Mandi Green.


Originally from New Jersey, Merlino relocated to Sarasota with her mother in 1998. She graduated from Sarasota High School where she served as the captain of the soccer team. She was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Polk State College in Lakeland.

Merlino has worked in hospitality since she was 13 years old, beginning as a busser and working her way up to events and catering director positions at two private country clubs. 

She has volunteered with a program supporting mothers and infants; and has also served as the event chair for the Caring Hearts luncheon. 

Merlino also has professional experience as an advertising coordinator specializing in online and social media marketing. 

Mote Marine’s Run for the Turtles event set for April 1 on Siesta Key’s public beach

The annual Run for the Turtles event, organized by Mote Marine, is set for 7 a.m. April 1 on Siesta Beach. The 5K or 1-mile races support the area’s sea turtles.

If you can’t join the races in person, you can participate virtually.

To register, visit

Sunrise service is 6:30 a.m. Easter morning

The annual Community Easter Sunrise Service, conducted by Pine Shores Presbyterian Church, will be held at 6:30 a.m. Easter morning (April 9) near the pavilion on Siesta Beach, 948 Beach Rd.

It is recommended that attendees bring a beach chair or blanket.

Easter egg hunt will be at Siesta Key Chapel

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s annual Easter egg hunt has a new home: Siesta Key Chapel, 4615 Gleason Ave.

It will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 8.

Preregistration is required and limited to 200 children (ages 1-6). There is a $12 fee per child.

To register, visit and click on the event calendar tab at the upper right of the homepage.

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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