Sunday, April 6, 2014

Travels to Anna Maria Island, Florida

I have been to Anna Maria Island in Florida a couple times before, as my in-laws own a beach condo there.  After my fourth visit, I thought it would be fun to share an overview of my travels there to summarize not only all the good eats, but also some of the fun activities to do.

Just over seven miles long, the western shore of Anna Maria Island is an expanse of white sand beach, gently curving along the unbelievable blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Intriguing bays and bayous grace the eastern shore where mangroves retain much of the island's natural beauty. Anna Maria Island is connected to the mainland by only two bridges. In this secluded location, one can truly escape the hustle and bustle of city life and relax in beauty and warmth. Seagulls, pelicans, egrets and other island birds greet you each day. Dolphins and manta rays playfully swim and jump in the warm Gulf waters for all to enjoy.

We stayed at the Villas on Anna Maria Island, which is in the center of the island in Holmes Beach (the 2 other cities on the island are the southern area of Bradenton Beach and northern area of Anna Maria). This lovely property features a tropical setting surrounding a heated swimming pool. The six unit complex is located one block from the beach - super convenient and great for family reunions or wedding parties. Look at this view!

Grab breakfast at Ginny & Jane E's Bakery on the northside of the island while looking at the unique island collectibles in the shop, or transport yourself to France and enjoy an easy European style breakfast of crepes, croissants, and coffee at Island Creperie on the southside.   For a sweet breakfast or snack grab donuts from Anna Maria Donuts.  For a more classic sit-down diner experience, try Peach's Restaurant.

On Holmes Beach, you can easily walk to the Sandbar Restaurant for lunch (get the grouper sandwich).  The stroll is so easy and it is nice to walk right up, bare foot, and be seated along the sand with a prime view of the water. Or if you need a break from seafood, get an Italian sandwich or slice of rustic pizza from Vinny & Cheryls' Italian Kitchen, Mission-style tacos from Poppo's Taqueira, or treat yourself to ice cream from Dips.  For classic seafood, we ate dinner at the Sign of the Mermaid.  We also ate dinner at Eat Here for a more contemporary spin on bistro fare.

Head north on the island and visit the city pier and see if anyone caught anything with their bait.  Located at the end of the pier is none other than the  City Pier Restaurant.  We ate dinner there once, but the rocking caused by the waves hitting was a bit too much for me to truly enjoy myself. Ha!

Again, with other areas of the island not being that far away from our home base in Holmes Beach, we took advantage of the free trolley! The schedule is not exactly prompt, but when it did arrive, it was a cool ride in the vintage blue mobile.  Also, the trolley does not run that late, which we learned the hard way after a late dinner one night. No worries, the island is safe so we were totally comfortable walking back to the condo at night.

The next day, check out the south side and visit the Bradenton Beach historic pier with a view of the original bridge to Anna Maria Island.  Be careful of the greedy pelicans - they hang out waiting for fish scraps and are not afraid of us humans one bit.  There are a few shops with island trinkets and collectibles that are fun to explore as well.

In Bradenton, we've dined at Oma's for pizza and Italian take-out, Blue Marlin for exquisite fresh seafood, and at Michael John's Restaurant.

Drive towards Longboat Key for a more elegant dinner at Euphemia Haye or check out their amazing spread of desserts at the upstairs Haye Loft.  For a more laid back dinner with a great view of the water, try Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant.

Also, if you drive in towards Sarasota, stop by Siesta Key, home of the the #1 beach in U.S. (though I think Holmes Beach is actually nicer), and grab lunch at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar.  We also visited the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.  Here are some pictures we took when touring the 14 acres of the garden and museum.

Before heading back to the airport, stop off at Cortez (just across the bridge) for stone crabs at Star Fish Company.

Anna Maria Island is an easy and relaxing destination for those looking for a Floridian tropical getaway full of sun, sand, and seafood!  Have you visited Anna Maria Island before? What are some of your favorites things to do and places to eat? Please share in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. This part of florida looks lovely. I am in the middle of a search for anna maria vacation rentals and when I see pictures like this it ensures me that it's definitely where I want to go!


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