Florida’s Western gulf coast is known for its quiet escapes and stunning displays of nature. Sitting at the confluence of the emerald waters of the western coast and the confines of Tampa Bay is Anna Maria Island, a barrier island which draws many for its quiet and “old Florida” feel.
It is the kind of place where shoes seem optional, no building is higher than two or three levels and streets are lined with quaint houses and boutique hotels that invite the tens of thousands of guests who explore the area year round. Unlike many other scenic islands along this stretch of coast there is no fee to access the island, but it is a twenty-minute drive or more in from the mainland. That alone keeps the massive numbers of vacationers looking elsewhere. The island is infused with expensive homes, simple cottages, specialty stores and essential needs shopping centers, there is something for everyone and its easy to discover on the slow speed limit roads.
Of course many come to explore the beach as the major attraction. With the island boasting a length of seven miles and lined on one side by the Gulf of Mexico and on the other by backwaters and Tampa Bay there are plenty of majestic views to discover. The powdery sands make for a great spot to relax along the shores. The island pier is a popular spot for sunsets and several beach restaurants too. Several famed restaurants include the Sandbar, Café on the Beach and Gulf Drive café for an authentic tiki-bar experience.
Thankfully the island attractions don’t end with the beach. There are spas and salons, health and beauty locations, galleries, golf courses and charters, tours and attractions too. Tours and attractions include horseback rides on the beach, snorkeling, fishing and kayak and paddleboard rentals. Key Royale and Smuggler’s Cove are the closer golf courses to the action of the island. The island gallery and the historical society provide some on site museums and curiosities while nearby Sarasota and Tampa boast some excellent artistic museums. Bayfront Park is one of the best public areas that is on a shaded beach with public facilities and unbeatable views of the skyway bridge over Tampa Bay.
The draw of Anna Maria Island is timeless and the charms are unique. It is a marvelous place for seasoned visitors and newcomers to the Gulf coast, a place where recreation, curiosity and natural beauty all blend into one.