Paradise Without An Attitude is not just an advertising slogan on the cover of a glossy travel brochure. This tropical mindset flows tip to tip along all seven miles of serene Anna Maria Island. If you’re heading down to Florida this winter and don’t have kids to entertain, skip Disney and instead get a major dose of downtime on beautiful beaches fringed with swaying sea oats.
Anna Maria Island is delightfully set apart from the more popular areas of the sunshine state, which helps preserve its “Old Florida” unhurried pace. While only 15 miles from bustling Sarasota, its physical and a mental detachment from traffic, crowds, and noisy tourist attractions make it a great get-away. If you’re expecting to pound the pavement or shop ‘til you drop, you’ll be disappointed. But you’ll never be bored— fish, parasail, rent a boat, beach comb, bicycle, bird-watch, sunbath, and swim to your heart’s content. And when it’s time for dinner, casual dress is the order of the day.
As you make your way down the island’s main route, Gulf Drive, you’ll pass through three tiny towns:
Anna Maria City. Anchoring the northern tip of the island, two fishing piers— Rod & Reel and the Anna Maria City Pier— are the best places to catch your dinner. But if the fish aren’t biting, you won’t go hungry because restaurants at both locations serve all the fresh seafood you can eat.
Holmes Beach. It’s here in the middle of the island where you’ll rub elbows with locals while grocery shopping, banking, or mailing “wish you were here” postcards back to colder climes. Follow the advice on the billboard that exclaims “Eat At Bones!” Funky Mr. Bones BBQ has the best baby back ribs in the state. And nowhere else will you find bottled beverages served from an ice-filled coffin!
Bradenton Beach. Don’t miss the Historic Old Town District at the southern part of the island. Recently rejuvenated with beautiful landscaping and charming boutiques, Bridge Street is the center of the district. After strolling through the seasonal outdoor markets, hang out with the pelicans at the Bradenton Beach Fishing Pier.
Anna Maria Island works hard to preserve its laid-back “Old Florida” heritage. No lofty structure (except maybe a tall shady Australian Pine or gnarled mangrove) hides the soft white sand beaches. No concrete walls block the blue view of the Gulf of Mexico on the west, Tampa Bay on the east, or Sarasota Bay to the south. First-time visitors often turn into “regulars” and agree that you really can find Paradise Without An Attitude on Anna Maria Island.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com