It doesn’t take much to get me to travel to a beach. Whether it’s a jaunt to Toronto Island, a drive to a cottage or a flight to a foreign land, this sunworshipper will go just about anywhere as long as beach time is guaranteed. So when the opportunity to explore an area that boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I clearly jumped at the chance. So, to Anna Maria Island in Bradenton, Florida EIC Mark Munroe and I went, and we absolutely loved it.
Reknowned for its miles of crisp, white sandy beaches and clear, turquoise water as far as the eye can see, Anna Maria is a barrier island located in the Gulf of Mexico. This 7 mile long island boasts beach access on both the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. This destination has something to offer for every kind of traveller, and we got to experience so many of them, to the point that this trip merited not one, but TWO articles. So once you’re done checking out what guys can get up to, take below of my gal’s guide to Anna Maria Island!
Stay at the Tropic Isle
Our first stop on our trip was at what would become our new home for the next five days. The Tropic Isle Inn is as quaint and adorable as Anna Maria Island itself. With its oceanside inspired decor, king sized bed, a spacious bathroom, lovely pool and private beach access, it was the perfect place to host us. I loved the touch of including makeup wipes in my bathroom, a little bit of personalization that differed between Mark and my room – it was sweet and considerate and made me feel even more at home. But the best part? The view of the absolutely stunning sunset that that private beach afforded us. It was unforgettable.
Hit the Beach
When Mark and I first chatted with the lovely ladies at the Bradenton tourism board about this trip, they piqued our interest in the area by comparing the sand on Anna Maria Island to snow, due to its crisp white color, and the way that it crunches below your feet. Clearly, these women had never seen snow in real life before, since this Canadian has never seen snow that inviting in her life. What we could agree upon was that the sand was white and crunchy, making for a stunning contrast against the clear, blue, and nearly bathwater warm Gulf water. While we mostly sought sanctuary on the private beach of our resort, our second favorite spot had to be beautiful Bean Point at the tip of the island. While you’re over there, head over to historic Anna Maria City Pier, one of the best spots on the island for fishing, photo taking and wildlife spotting.
Fall in love with aquatic life
I’ve always been an animal lover, which makes a place like Bradenton heaven for me. The amount of aquatic life that just hangs around this area was astounding. I went from never having seen a dolphin out of captivity to seeing more than 10 of these beautiful creatures just going about their lives as we explored the island. I discovered my deep love of manatees at the South Florida Museum where Snooty, the oldest living manatee (who turned 68 during our visit!) in captivity and South Florida darling resides. I highly recommend taking the time to visit the museum, where you can learn all about the natural history of the area. If you have the time, catch Snooty at one of his feeding times, where you’ll get to watch the happy manatee be hand fed by one of the attentive and knowledgeable museum staff, all while getting a lesson on manatees and other marine life.
Tour Cortez Village
While Mark will be regaling you with tales of fishing, I’ll entertain you with tales of a fishing village. Cortez Fishing Village is the oldest working fishing village in Florida, where the sustainable practices of its forefathers are still practiced to this day. We spent some time with the lovely Amara Nash from the Florida Martime Museum and toured around this historic fishing village, where she showed us the old fish houses that are still in use, the scenic trailer park and what has to be one of the coolest junk shops in the world. We wrapped up our time in Cortez with a delicious dinner at the Starfish Company. This casual waterfront restaurant and fish market has been open since the 20s where locally caught fish and seafood is served up for the gastronomical pleasur of locals and tourists alike. Bar manager Denese was an absolute gem, touring us around the market, showing us Emeril Lagassi’s cheque from his (no doubt pleasurable) visit and ensuring that we left with full bellies and smiling faces.
Everything on Pine Avenue
Besides the beach, the picturesque Pine Avenue area was my favorite part of our Anna Maria Island adventure. With a focus on everything local and sustainable, Pine Avenue features award-winning, energy efficient, storm-strong buildings that play host to local businesses, shops and boutiques selling locally sourced goods, crushed-shell sidewalks, a LEED-certified Green Village, community gardens, and gourmet restaurants. It’s actually one of the top green projects in the state and region, and it’s a must visit if you’re in the Bradenton Area. We started our tour with delectable donuts from the Donut Experiment. These cake donuts are made fresh and in-house, down to the creative and tasty toppings. My favorite had to be the Reese’s pieces, but they were all insanely delicious, especially when washed down with their creamy iced coffee. We then took a walk down the street, popping into some lovely boutiques, including Pink and Navy, where local and tourists go to stay stylish, and Shiny Fish Emporium, where the cutest of trinkets and little treats can be found. Finally we popped into the Olive Oil Outpost, where more delicious coffee could be had, along with, of course, a variety of olive oil, cheeses, wine and other delicacies could be found.
Dinner at the Beach House Restaurant
We had some amazing meals on this trip, and our dinner at the Beach House Restaurant was no exception. Located on the South end of Anna Maria Island, just west of the quaint Cortez fishing village in Bradenton Beach, this waterfront restaurant offers more delicious Anne Maria Island seafood in a more upscale setting with an incredible beach view. We started our meal with their brand new appetizer, fried chicken and caviar, the perfect combination of fancy and downhome. For our mains, we dined on Wild Boar and the Seafood trio (stuffed grouper, stuffed shrimp and sea scallops), two wildly different meals that perfectly showcased what Anna Maria Island has to offer. And for dessert, chocolate cake and, as you do in Florida, divine key lime pie. We washed our food down with a little bit of everything – yummy cocktails, craft beer, wonderful wine, and coffee with dessert. Nearly everything we ate and drank was locally sourced, everything prepared to perfection. The only thing that made all this better was indulging in it while the sunset over the gulf.
Stay fit on a surfboard
If you’re looking for a fitness challenge in a beautiful setting (because who isn’t?) then Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga is for you. I got a chance to try it, and it was an amazing experience, albeit one that I was actually incredibly nervous about going in. But thanks to Rachael and Cindy, the amazing teachers from Island Yoga Space, I felt safe secure and supported throughout the whole thing. The ladies in my class were wonderful as well, with one even bringing mangoes, freshly picked from her mother’s yard for an after class snack. Together, we paddled through mangrove tunnels into a sunlit clearing, where we dropped our anchors and worked our way through a gentle flow yoga practice, using the gentle movement of our Stand Up Paddleboards. There’s no better feeling than laying in Shavasana with your hands floating in the turquoise water, beneath you, the shining sun above you and palm trees all around you.
*photos by Www.RachaelLynnYoga.Com
In conclusion? GO. Book your Anna Maria Island vacation asap. Trust us, you’ll love it.