Categories
Tourism

Exploring Anna Maria Island Neighborhoods

Exploring the wide variety of neighborhoods on beautiful Anna Maria Island is easy and fun. Depending on how much time you have, you can take a quick car tour, or a leisurely stroll. And there are many other options in between.

In addition to all the fine shops and restaurants that attract many visitors, the neighborhoods, themselves, are an attraction. The charming old houses and dense vegetation that characterize “Old Florida” offer endless interesting details and variety to be enjoyed by the curious visitor or local.

Kayaking canals

One way to get an even more intimate look at the lovely neighborhoods of Anna Maria Island is to tour around it on weekends, in order to drop in at yard sales and real estate open houses. It’s a sure way to make friends and see how other people have chosen to live on an island.
The island’s free trolley makes it very easy to travel any part of the island on foot, since you can always hop on for a ride if you get tired or short on time. This brings up a great way to start a walk from a variety of points around the island. It also makes it easy to take long walks in one direction without having to backtrack to get home.

Another fun way to wind up and down the streets to look at the vegetation and architecture is from the other side … the water. The island is ideal for very pleasant kayaking. The canals off of Bimini Bay are quite sheltered, offering smooth conditions even on breezy days. In addition to seeing interesting trees, flowers, decks and docks, one may be greeted by a manatee, a dolphin or a duck. And it’s not unusual to see a variety of herons, ospreys, and egrets perching and staring at you as you go by.

Categories
Tourism

Walking to the Beach

Here it is, mid summer, and we still are enjoying our daily walks over to the beach. Most of us who live on Anna Maria Island are able to walk to the beach. It is wonderful not to have to drive. The island is so narrow at the south end that the beach is never more than three or four blocks away. Farther north, the island widens and the walk increases by a few more blocks. But the only areas from which a walk to the beach would take more than just a few minutes are Key Royale and the neighborhoods near Galati Marine at the southeast end of the City of Anna Maria.

Our house is exactly a half mile from the beach. We usually make that walk and then continue along the beach, toward the setting sun before we turn and head home. The beach part of the walk is spectacular every evening. Tonight the beach was particularly wide, and the sand looked smooth and white. The temperature was extremely pleasant—amazing for mid August! The water reflected the pink/orange glow from the low sun. There was almost nobody on the beach. This is the kind of “paradise” experience for which people travel long distances. How lucky we are to be able to walk to it.

Categories
Real Estate Tourism

Old Florida is Disappearing at Anna Maria Island

Old Florida destroyed
What is “Old Florida”?

“Old Florida” is a term people love to use when describing a place that has not been taken over by the development trends of the day. It has been a favorite way to describe Anna Maria Island for many years … both by residents and visitors who truly love the simple charms of the area. It’s also a favorite term of those whose main interest is selling the island to the public. “Old Florida ” is a great marketing slogan.

Unfortunately, even among those who think they love the Old Florida feeling of a place, it is challenging to know how to identify the details that give that feeling. And it’s even more challenging to protect them. Often the details that need to be protected do not sound very glamorous. But getting rid of things that are not glamorous is a sure way to destroy the sense of history and simplicity that are so much a part of Old Florida.

Who wants to argue that an old shack should not be torn down? Especially among those whose main priority is marketing. Who wants to argue against “beautification?” Or replacing an old bridge with a big modern bridge? Or getting rid of invasive, exotic plant species?

Categories
Restaurants Tourism

Anna Maria Island City Pier

One of the most enchanting spots on Anna Maria Island is the old City Pier at the end of Pine Street in Anna Maria. The enchantment comes from the simplicity of the shoreline and the structure. It has not been “gussied up” as a tourist attraction, and it retains the authenticity of a place enjoyed by real people from all walks of life. There is a certain feeling of camaraderie among all those who stroll out the pier, whether to fish or watch others fish.

The City Pier Restaurant at the end of the pier is casual dining in atmosphere, but not in its standards. Friendly locals serve very good food. Most of the dishes are seafood, not surprisingly. The large glass windows give open views of Tampa Bay, over to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Immediately outside the window people are fishing, just feet away from the restaurant patrons. The feeling of being on the water is enhanced by the frequent, though minor, vibrations of the entire pier due to wave action.

Anna Maria City Pier According to Carolyne Norwood, in her book Anna Maria Island: The Early Days, 1893 – 1940, the City Pier was built in 1911. By this time the small town of Anna Maria already had 60 homes and several stores. The purpose of the pier was to accommodate steamers bringing wealthy tourists from Tampa and St. Petersburg, so it was built 776 feet out into the bay.

Categories
Tourism

Offering Homestead Bed and Breakfast

Sometimes at this time of year, the residents of Anna Maria Island begin to feel as if they are operating bed and breakfasts. One set of guests leaves and there is barely time to wash and dry the sheets before the next visitors arrive. It is no wonder friends and family from up North want to visit paradise at this time of year but, while the guests are reveling in paradise, their hosts can start to feel as if it’s “paradise lost.” A constant stream of even the most considerate visitors can hinder residents from focusing on their own favorite island activities. Before they know it, the best season is over and it’s time to turn on the air conditioning and retreat inside.

There are many ways to cope with living in a place everyone else wants to visit. One Islander, formerly of Chicago, sent a card to all his friends when he moved here, announcing that they were welcomed to visit in Anna Maria Island, but only if they had previously visited him in Chicago. This was the acid test to prove that the guests were not just using the friendship as an excuse to have free accommodations in paradise. If they really were visiting for reasons of friendship, they would have visited in Chicago, too.

Homestead bed and breakfast Another way to cope with having too much company is to not have a guest room. Silly as this may sound, it seems to be a possibility that many islanders have seriously considered. They talk openly about it. In fact, in early years, when researching accommodations for guests at the island information center, I explained to the sweet ladies working there that I had no extra room for guests, but that we were planning to build an addition for this purpose. I was surprised to be sternly advised by one of the ladies not to add a room for guests, or I’d be sorry. Maybe she was just trying to promote more business for the island hotels and motels. But I had the feeling she was giving me a sincere warning.