• Stephanie Joy

Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota, Florida: Red Tide Blues

Lido Beach Resort....Oh how I longed to spend my weekend being lazy on the sandy shores of your beach, gazing out on the turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

I grew up visiting the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico when I lived in Alabama and Georgia. Trips to the"panhandle" of Florida, staying in Destin or Panama City Beach were an annual event and I fell in love with the white sugar sand and the beautiful green blue of the gulf water. When my family and I wanted to have a quick getaway, I knew we needed to take Sarah for a vacation over on the gulf, since the last time we were there was back in 2007 when she was only a toddler and doesn't remember it. We decided on Sarasota since I have family down in the area and one of my best friends from college lives there and recommended the Lido Beach Resort. Although I initially wanted to drive over to the outskirts of Panama City and stay at Pinnacle Port, the beach resort we would visit when I was younger, we decided Sarasota was closer and the beaches would be just as nice.

Yeah, maybe not...

When we driving on the bridge to get to the island, I noticed the smell. Now, we live on the east coast of Florida with the mainland being separated from the barrier islands by the Indian River Lagoon, which is a mixture of fresh and saltwater and can smell a bit funky at times due to the tides, so I wasn't put off by the smell. In retrospect, I should have noticed the fact that the as we were in the car, the smell wasn't dissipating, as it normally would once you leave the area of funkiness. It was just hanging in the air as we drove through the shopping district on the way to our hotel. When we pulled up outside to drop off our luggage, I didn't notice it as much, maybe because I had sort of gotten used to it at this point, plus, we pulled up directly in front of the hotel and I immediately went inside to check in while my husband and daughter took care of the luggage.

The front desk staff were very friendly, answering my questions about where to park, what all the resort fee covered, if the use of the beach umbrellas and cabanas could be billed to the room (yes they can, chairs are free and first come first served) and things like that. Our room was ready so we could go ahead and check in. Fabulous!! We were ready to drop off our stuff, go get some lunch and then it was time for me to make myself a cocktail, change into my bathing suit and hit the beach!!

The room was nice. Was it $325 a night, before parking and the lovely "resort fee" nice? No. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't a bad room at all. 2 double beds, a nice bathroom and a small kitchen with a full size fridge, ice maker, dishwasher, microwave, dishes, glasses and full size sink. It's just that I've stayed in places just as nice in Hawaii for less and let's face it, Sarasota is no Hawaii. Before my husband and daughter got in the room, I wanted to take photos for the blog so you could see everything. Right after these were taken, I went to open the curtains and get some fresh air in the room.

And then my happy smile faded...as I opened the curtains and the door and stepped out onto the patio, this is what I saw. Green/Brown water (it was worse in person) and dead fish on the beach. Where were the frolicking families on the beach? Where was the crystal clear blue green water? Why does the water look like it came from the sewer and Dear God, WHAT IS THAT SMELL?

Notice the absence of ANY person on the beach.

Oh my goodness! This is not what it was supposed to look like. This is not what it was supposed to smell like. Why are their dead fish everywhere? Why am I coughing like a 70 year old smoker? Well, you may have seen it on the news recently, because it has been all over the place since this weekend...it was the Red Tide.

What exactly is Red Tide?

Per the Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Website, Florida red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a naturally occurring, microscopic algae called Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as  K. brevis. It produces brevetoxins — powerful and potent neurotoxins — that can kill marine animals and be harmful to humans.

Red tides form many miles offshore, sometimes causing no impact to humans. However, when red tides travel inshore on wind and water currents, they can cause respiratory irritation among beachgoers, especially those who have underlying lung diseases.

As a result of this recent red tide activity, sea life is dying and quickly. On August 3rd, the day after we arrived, 7 TONS of dead fish were removed from the shoreline of Lido Key. The very next day, August 4th, another 16 tons of dead fish were removed from Lido Key Shorelines.

You'll notice that there are no photos of the kitchen in the room. That's because after looking out over the balcony and seeing the water, I was sort of in shock and thrown through a loop.

We had been on the road for 3 1/2 hours from our house on the East Coast to drive to Sarasota, so we decided to just go grab some lunch, as there is a place within a short 5 minute walk where they have the BEST lobster rolls for only $13. Of course we had to try them, so we left the hotel and headed over to the Lido Beach Restaurant for a quick lunch.

Within a minute of being outside, both my daughter and I are coughing and my chest starts to tighten up like I am having an old asthma flare up. We walk and go get some lunch and I see this sign:

Slight Red Tide that might cause respiratory irritation? That's the understatement of the year! Needless to say, as nice as the day was outside, I wasn't going to sit around coughing like Typhoid Mary all during lunch sitting outside for a picnic, so we took our order to go and headed back to the room for lunch.

And then I started to get upset.

When I checked into the hotel not even an hour earlier, why didn't they mention to me that the beach was littered with dead fish, the ocean was un-swimmable and the air smelled like the funk of 40 thousand years? Even when I had been asking about chair and umbrella rentals, there was nary a mention of anything being out of the ordinary. There is no way in hell they didn't know what was going on. So I took to "the Google" and saw what was going on in SW Florida. The Red Tide, the blue Green Algae Blooms and the massive amounts of dead sea life washing ashore.

I started crying. Where was our nice family vacation? This was my birthday, our wedding anniversary and one last memorable beach trip before my daughter started high school and it was nothing like we planned...and we were paying almost $400 a night for it?

Awwww....hell no.

Yes, we had a prepaid reservation, but I don't care what hotel it is. There are ALWAYS extenuating circumstances that should allow someone to back out of their reservation and get a refund and if you were there, you'd agree that this was one of those times. I'm sure the fact that I was at the front desk in tears crying about how putrid the beach and the smell was, and how our family vacation was ruined, all while other guests were checking in (and no that was not intentional, I was honestly that upset & emotional) played a big part in them letting us check out and issue a full refund. I will give them credit for doing the right thing.

All things red tide related aside, having been there, would I stay there again? Yes, possibly, but only at maybe half the cost. The beach was much narrower that shown in the advertising pictures (and no it was not high tide) and the sand was packed & gray, not powdery and white. I'm not sure when this picture was taken, but it was probably before a lot of beach erosion, as it looked nothing like that....or maybe because it was shot from such a distance it makes the beach look wider than it really was. I will say they have two great looking pools and a tiki bar that looks like it would be a lot of fun under the right circumstances, but with the craptastic conditions of the beach and surrounding environment, I just couldn't justify the daily price they charge there once you include the taxes, parking, resort fee. In total, it would have been $373.80 a night for an oceanfront room with 2 queen beds and a kitchenette. I'm not cheap with it comes to places to stay, either. It's just that I expect the price to reflect the quality and this was most definitely a place in the $150 to $175 range. Tops.

My suggestion: If you are looking for a great place on the Gulf of Mexico and don't mind a drive to the Panhandle, take a look at Pinnacle Port Condos in Panama City Beach. It is located at the far end of PCB, so it is not crowded, most of the condos have been renovated and it is a great place for couples and families! You can visit their website at http://www.pinnacleportrentals.com/ That's where we will be going for sure the next time!

On the bright side, since we live in Florida we were able to drive home the same day. We weren't having to make alternate transportation arrangements or anything. We drove home and decided to make the most of our backyard pool and enjoy our time there. For my birthday and anniversary on Friday, we headed out to dinner, stopping by the beach before hand to enjoy the view. It might not have been Sarasota, but it was home and that is the best place to be!

For anyone who has a trip planned to the peninsula of Florida this summer, my advice it to check the Florida Wildlife Commission website that does all the Red Tide updates. You can find it here: http://myfwc.com/redtidestatus

About the Joy Family

We're not a normal family. In fact, we're downright goofy, with just a touch of nerdy (well, maybe a lot of nerdy at times)...but we're fun, we care very much for one another and we LOVE to travel.

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