Many wonderful places are surrounded by not-so-wonderful places. Often these wonderful places have been preserved, and protected from development, but the development has sprawled all around them. Eventually the small preserved spots can start to feel more like museum exhibits than like places where real life takes place. They are isolated. It may be fun to visit such places, but in my opinion it would not be enjoyable to live in them.
Sometimes things happen in the opposite way. It’s the new development that is nice compared to the older surroundings. This is how it is when an upscale gated community is developed in an area that was previously undesirable. All is fine inside the gates, but outside there is not much of appeal.
Anna Maria Island is a gem of a place, and it is surrounded by a wide variety of other kinds of places, all of which are appealing. This is one of the island’s greatest assets in terms of being a wonderful place to live. Not only is the island a remarkably small scale, natural Old Florida area, but it also offers its residents easy access to many other kinds of places. This makes life here more interesting and colorful. Within a short distance, the variety of surroundings and activities is remarkable.
To the south, Longboat Key is one of the wealthiest communities in the nation. The professional landscaping is reason enough to occasionally take a drive or trolley ride down Longboat. At the top of Longboat Key is the historical village where peacocks have roamed freely for years, and where the art center is now a part of the Ringling School of Art and Design.
A little beyond Longboat is the lovely city of Sarasota , boasting many cultural amenities and interesting activities.
On the mainland opposite Anna Maria Island the City of Bradenton holds a surprising number of interesting institutions and useful services. IMG Academies offers world class tennis facilities and instruction. There is a planetarium and an aquarium, holding Snooty, the sixty-year-old manatee. One can listen to surprisingly good concerts and recitals. And it’s easy to get around to all the big stores for every convenience one might want to buy.
The old fishing village of Cortez, just across the bridge from Bradenton Beach , is a rare and colorful community, where festivals and fresh fish make the short trip very worthwhile. The Starfish restaurant right on the docks is a popular place to eat, with panoramic charming views of old fishing structures and wildlife.
To the north of the island, St. Petersburg and Tampa offer day trippers a huge array of additional activities and places of beauty. And getting there is half the pleasure, with water views all around.
Anna Maria Island’s most immediate surroundings, of course, are all water … the Gulf and bays. These add immeasurably to the enjoyment of life on the island. They are an expansive wilderness of sorts, offering islanders an immediate escape to beauty, excitement and relaxation.