Anna Maria Island is not your typical stretch of Florida beach. There are no tacky souvenir shops, no nightclubs and no large high rise chain hotels. Instead this quiet island boasts miles of soft white sand beaches good for shelling, building sandcastles or just watching the waves roll in. A commitment by residents keeps large scale development off these shores. No buildings over three stories are allowed. This laid back slice of Florida is an easy drive from the Tampa Bay area, less than a two hour drive south over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Anna Maria Island's seven miles of coastline is home to three separate communities, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria. There is a free trolley that runs the length of the island making frequent stops so you can hop off and on as much as you like and get to know the unique character of each part of the island.
Bradenton Beach makes up the southern tip of the island. It is by far the most active of the three municipalities. Bridge Street is a dedicated area for socializing featuring shops and restaurants to fit all tastes and palates. There are a wide range of recreation options available on this part of the island, the most of the three cities.
Holmes Beach takes up the center section of real estate on the island and it is where the islander's go for their local festivities and larger get together's. If your vacation plans include traveling with a large group of adults and children then Holmes Beach will be the area to stay in as it has a wide selection of multifamily lodging options.
Small to medium size homes can be rented within the city limits of Anna Maria which takes up the northern tip of the island and is the most quiet and peaceful. There is a city pier where you will find locals keeping one eye on their fishing polls and the other eye closed for a midday nap. Down the beach from the pier is a local hangout called the Rod and Reel Restaurant. Try to grab a table next to the windows so you can watch the local fisherman haul in their catch and have a great view of the expansive Sunsshine Skyway Bridge. Kick back with a beer and a grouper sandwich for lunch or dinner. After you have had your fill of seafood take a walk along some of the sugar fine white sand public beach that stretches between the Rod and Reel and the public pier. You won't find any parking meters here nor any ice cream trucks announcing their arrival over their sound systems. The water is calm and clear and the shells are abundant. If you want more exercise for your feet and your wallet wander down Pine Street where you will find eclectic shops like "Relish" which sells re-purposed accessories and clothing. You must put off any diet plans and stop into "Homemade Desserts" for some rich and delicious cookies and heavenly cakes.
A visit to Anna Maria Island is something to put high on your travel wish list for this year. It is a slice of laid back Florida that can be hard to find these days. Whether you take the kids and spend a week in a rental house or indulge in a long weekend, the island is a great place to turn off all your gadgets and reconnect with the ones sitting across the dinner table from you.