Insider's Guide to Anna Maria Island
Colorful shops and local restaurants added charm, and a laid-back vibe erased all cares. I awoke smiling but shook my head. Surely there was no such piece of paradise left. Then I discovered Anna Maria Island.
It's only 7 1/2 miles long and less than a mile wide and, for starters, boasts not a single towering condo. (No building over three stories is allowed.) Chain restaurants? Very few of them. The restaurants are delightfully local and extremely good. In other words, you’ve stepped into the Florida of decades ago, with one major difference: New amenities enhance the old charm for a winning combination.
Contact Information: 1325 Gulf Drive North, Bradenton Beach; www.tortugainn.com or (941) 778-6611. Rates start at $170.
Contact Information: (941) 778-1885, 875 North Shore Dr, Anna Maria, FL 34217
For toes-in-the-sand dining, the Sand Bar Restaurant wins out. Everything tastes better if you’re sitting at a table on the beach, with waves gently splashing nearby. No reservations are accepted, but you’ll dine on such delightful entrées as freshly caught grouper and top sirloin, starting at $14. Contact information: 100 Spring Avenue; www.sandbar-restaurant.com or (941) 778-0444.The Waterfront Restaurant. Ask to sit near the porch, and you’ll have a grand view of the bay. If the white chocolate-raspberry cheesecake shows up on the menu on your visit, give in. Contact information: 111 South Bay Blvd.; www.thewaterfrontrestaurant.net or (941) 778-1515.
Contact Information: 9807 Gulf Drive; (941) 778-7370
Contact information: 3901 Gulf Drive North; (941) 778-7769. (Cash only.)
Shopping Information: Art Attack, The Sailor’s Knot, Bridge Street Jewelers, Bridge Street Bazaar. All located on Bridge Street.
Best Cottage Rescued From Tampa Bay: Belle Haven Historical Cottage. It was built on City Pier in 1920 and fell into Tampa Bay in 1926. Rescued, reclaimed, and renovated, it looks none the worse for wear and sits alongside the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum. 402 Pine Avenue; (941) 778-0492.
1. Favorite Lodging: Tortuga Inn Beach Resort, www.tortugainn.com
2. Favorite Restaurant: Rod & Reel Pier Restaurant, (941) 778-1885
3. Best Sunset Dining: Sand Bar Restaurant, www.sandbar-restaurant.com or (941) 778-0444.
4. Best Shopping Area: Art Attack, The Sailor’s Knot, Bridge Street Jewelers, Bridge Street Bazaar. All located on Bridge Street.
5.Best Convenience Shopping: Pine Avenue General Store. 307 Pine Avenue; (941) 779-9200. Buy groceries, sunscreen, and deli items, just down from Beach Bums and City Jail.