Beer Can Island (Longboat Key)

The Tampa Bay area has two popular islands named “Beer Can Island”.

One “Beer Can Island” is located near Sarasota, on the northern tip of Longboat Key.

The history of this small island traces back for many decades. Historians say it was created in the 1930s as part of the Intracoastal Waterway dredging project, and has been a popular destination since at least the 1950s. Beer Can Island on Longboat Key is also known as Greer Island.

The other “Beer Can Island” is a small, privately-owned island in the middle of Tampa Bay. It is located approximately two miles away from Apollo Beach, and is just offshore from the TECO Manatee Viewing Center. The island is commonly known as “Beer Can Island”, but the owners changed the name to “Pine Key Tampa Bay” in 2021.

This article is about Beer Can Island, also known as Greer Island, near Sarasota and Longboat Key.

Beer Can Island Location

Beer Can Island, also known as Greer Island, is located at the northernmost point of Longboat Key. It is bordered by the waters of Longboat Pass, and sits at the south side of the Longboat Pass Bridge, which connects Longboat Key with Anna Maria Island.

Beer Can Island Description

Beer Can Island is essentially a one-mile stretch of sandy beach which wraps around the northern tip of Longboat Key. 

Today Beer Can Island is not actually an island, but more of a peninsula. It was an island in the past, but shifting sand and beach erosion have connected it with the rest of Longboat Key.

The beach at Beer Can Island is absolutely beautiful. The water is generally clear, especially during periods of low wind and wave action. 

Manatees can often be seen in the clear, shallow waters around Beer Can Island

The sand is beautiful and baby-powder white, just like the other famous beaches nearby, including Siesta Key, the beautiful Coquina Beach to the north and Whitney Beach to the south.

Most visitors agree that the beach at Beer Can Island is just as beautiful as all of the other nearby beaches, which are more famous, and are usually more crowded.

Beer Can Island offers a much more interesting and adventurous beach experience than other beaches in the area. 

Many locals consider Beer Can Island to be the best beach near Sarasota because it is natural, unique and is always changing. Because the island is always changing, there is always something new to find. 

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On uncrowded days it can be a great place to find beautiful shells and sand dollars.

Beer Can Island is a popular destination for birdwatchers and photographers. 

Birders come in search of shorebirds and migratory bird species. Photographers and nature lovers often come to take photographs among the impressive driftwood forest. 

Many Australian Pine trees have fallen over the years. As they age, the trees have weathered into a beautiful gray, and resemble driftwood. The trees, set against the beautiful blue water, offer dramatic photo opportunities.

Beer Can Island Longboat Key Driftwood
Beer Can Island is famous for its beautiful weathered driftwood and beautiful blue water

Some driftwood was removed in 2021 as part of a large beach renourishment project, which was controversial in the local Longboat Key community.

History of Beer Can Island

Beer Can Island appears to have been created in 1939, during the dredging and construction of the Intracoastal Waterway.

According to local knowledge, the Corps of Engineers Dredging operation dumped sand onto two small existing islands, Jewfish Key and Pickett’s Key.

The dredge material joined the two smaller islands, and altered the flow of water through Longboat Pass. 

Beer Can Island and Longboat Key are both barrier islands, which change constantly from wave and tide erosion.

Like all islands in Florida, the creation of Beer Can Island dramatically altered the natural water flow and environment. The shape and accessibility of Beer Can Island have changed dramatically over the years.

Before the island was created, the bay is said to have flushed itself out at every turn of the tide. 

After the dredge fill altered the water flow, sand began accumulating, and Beer Can Island began to grow. 

Over time sand accretions connected Beer Can Island with the rest of Longboat Key, and the island turned into more of a peninsula. The joining of the island also closed off a shallow lagoon, which is a popular place for shorebirds.

Throughout its history, Beer Can Island has been a popular beach spot. 

Some sources mention that it was a popular beach hangout as far back as the 1950’s, before other beaches in the area were developed into county parks. 

The name “Beer Can Island” has apparently been used since at least the 1950s, and possibly earlier.

Beer Can Island is subject to the jurisdiction of the Town of Longboat Key, and was apparently donated to Manatee County in the 1970s.

The name “Greer Island” honors a local couple, the Greers, who fought to save the island from development.

The name was never officially changed to Greer Island. Today the island is referred to as both Beer Can Island and Greer Island interchangeably.

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Access to Beer Can Island 

Beer Can Island on Longboat Key is a public beach. Although parking is limited, anyone can go to Beer Can Island on Longboat Key.

Although this is less of an issue after the recent beach renourishment, high tides and strong wave action may block some beach access to Beer Can Island. Visitors should be extremely careful and should not attempt to access Beer Can Island if conditions are unsafe.

Visitors should also be aware of private property near the parking areas for Beer Can Island, and should ensure that they comply with parking rules.

Dogs and alcohol are prohibited on Beer Can Island.

Parking for Beer Can Island

Visitors to Beer Can Island should be careful to only park in public parking lots, and should avoid parking on any private property. Parking violations may result in fines, or their vehicle being towed.

There are two public parking areas which provide reasonable access to Beer Can Island.

The most convenient parking for Beer Can Island is a public parking area just south of Longboat Key Bridge. 

Parallel parking is available along N. Shore Drive. Signs indicate that parking is restricted from 11 PM until 5 AM.

Additional parking is located on Broadway Street, near Whitney Beach. This parking is a further walk, and is several blocks south from Beer Can Island. To access Beer Can Island from Whitney Beach, walk north for approximately ½ mile from the Broadway Street beach access point.

A third parking option for Beer Can Island is to park at the Coquina Beach parking lot on Anna Maria Island, and then walk south across the Longboat Key bridge.

Boat Access

Many people like to visit Beer Can Island via boat. Especially on summer weekends, many boats come to anchor off of Beer Can Island. There are not any docking facilities, so boaters should be prepared to anchor safely and have the proper knowledge and equipment.

Things To Know Before Visiting Beer Can Island

Beer Can Island is a favorite beach spot for many locals, but there are some downsides.

  • There are not any restrooms or facilities of any kind on Beer Can Island, so be prepared! Bring your own trash bag, and be prepared to “Pack it in, pack it out!”
  • There is a relatively long walk from the parking area to Beer Can Island, so be prepared and wear appropriate shoes. There are not any restrooms or showers at Beer Can Island.
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  • Because of the shallow lagoon, mangroves and other natural features, the area around Beer Can Island can be very “buggy”. Mosquitos and noseeums can be intense. Visitors should bring good bug protection which is effective against noseeums.
  • The area around Beer Can Island is natural and is generally not groomed like other public beaches. Visitors should be careful and watch out for hazards like partially buried stumps, and others. 
  • The tide and current in Longboat Pass can be extremely strong, depending on current conditions. Visitors should be extremely cautious. There are not any lifeguards on duty at Beer Can Island.
  • The boat activity in Longboat Pass can be heavy, and many boats operate recklessly. Be careful!
  • Parking is limited at Beer can Island. Depending on when you go, it may not be very convenient. It is also heavily enforced, largely because it is located in a relatively ritzy neighborhood. There is a high risk of having your car towed or ticketed for illegal parking.
  • Overnight parking is prohibited, and camping is not allowed.
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During certain times parallel parking may be restricted, so be sure to pay attention. 

Be sure to only park in a properly designated place. Be sure to follow local signage and to parallel park appropriately. 

In general, Beer Can Island is an excellent beach for exploring, but there are better nearby beaches for laying out and sunbathing. The beach is not very wide, and many parts have stumps buried in the sand.

Beer Can Island is usually not very crowded during the week, but can become very crowded on weekends and holidays.

Beer Can Island is a great place to visit. It is beautiful, and is very unique compared to other nearby beaches.

It’s not for everybody, but it is a great place to explore and find a nice, relaxing stretch of beach, if you avoid going during the busiest times. It’s also a great place to visit by boat, for an even more adventurous experience!

If you do visit, I hope you enjoy it! Please help take care of Beer Can Island, AKA Greer Island. If you visit, especially with a group, please help leave it cleaner and more pristine than you find it, it’s a special place!