It’s suddenly high season on Anna Maria Island. You can tell by the tremendous increase in traffic, by the length of time it takes to get a table at restaurants, and by the number of house-guests we locals are welcoming. One of the good things about having guests is that it gets us out to enjoy things we don’t usually do when we’re busy with work and daily routines. There are so many wonderful activities and attractions to enjoy on Anna Maria Island and in the nearby region. This week, a guest was the reason I visited Robinson Preserve for the first time. This lovely preserve is just across the bridge, accessible off of Manatee Avenue.
Robinson Preserve trail overbridge
Opened to the public July of 2008, this 487-acre natural area features 56 acres of diverse marshlands, 10 acres of uplands and open water. There are 2½ miles of kayaking and canoeing streams, and 6 nature trails, with 6 bridges, winding through the mangroves. The 500 foot boardwalk serves bird watchers well, and the trails are great for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Sponsored in part by the County Conservation Land Management, the preserve houses endangered species like the gopher tortoise, indigo snakes and the Florida scrub jay.
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The waters in and around Anna Maria Island are perfect for kayaking, and there are more and more people enjoying it. Inside Bimini Bay, the conditions are particularly peaceful. Beginners or those who don’t know how to swim can feel very safe there. Surrounded by land, except for the channel out to Tampa Bay, the water is usually flat and it’s very shallow. In fact, it’s so shallow at low tides that even kayakers should pay close attention to water depth, in order not to damage the fragile sea grass floor of this environmentally important location. Just north of Holmes Beach City Hall is a park with a boat ramp, from which it is easy to kayak into Bimini Bay, under the bridge to Key Royal.
Among the wildlife usually seen by kayakers in Bimini Bay are dolphins, with the occasional manatee. Birdlife is plentiful. Ospreys, pelicans and terns dive for fish. Gulls hang around hoping for scraps. Great blue herons can be seen nesting high in the Australian pines, or wading in the waters at low tide.
Sit-on-top kayaks require almost no instruction or technique, but it helps to keep a few things in mind. A stable way to get into these kayaks is by putting one’s bottom into the seat before trying to bring one’s legs on board. Paddling is quite straightforward, and it’s good to aim for rhythm. In addition to pulling back on the paddle with one hand, one pushes the other side of the paddle forward.
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