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Anna Maria Island: Low-key pleasures rule on this slice of Old Florida
Written By: Diane Bair and Pamela Wright
Published: February 5, 2012 in Boston Globe
...Even by Sunshine State standards, Anna Maria is one mellow joint. There is exactly one high-rise building here, which somehow sneaked past the town planners, but otherwise, three stories is the limit. Fast-food franchises are few. Mom-and-pop-type motels and cottage colonies rule. Stores sell such vacation necessities as inflatable alligators and purple Slurpees. “This island is 40 years behind the times,’’ resident Linda Haack told us. “It’s like the rest of Florida used to be, just beaches, palm trees, and pelicans.’’
True. Once you’ve crossed the drawbridge from Bradenton to Anna Maria, you feel the decades fall away. And stress? What stress? Within minutes of squishing our toes in the sand, we were seduced by the slo-mo rhythm of this easygoing island.
Hit the beach. It’s all about the beach. Luxuriously wide, and fringed by sea oats and Australian pines, Anna Maria’s crushed-coral beach is as soft as powdered sugar.
Strictly by accident, while looking for a place called Beer Can Island, we discovered a great walk: the Coquina Baywalk at Leffis Key. A rustic footbridge and boardwalk traverse tidal lagoons and shallows rich with birdlife (it’s one of the spots along the Great Florida Birding Trail). A closer look reveals a medley of sea creatures such as blue and fiddler crabs, whelks, and ruffled, snail-like mollusks called ragged sea hares.
Dining out was a happy surprise. Who knew this tiny islet would have some of the best fine dining in the state? We splurged on great meals at the widely-acclaimed Beach Bistro, and at Euphemia Haye, on Longboat Key, but the island’s casual, cheaper restaurants won us over, too.