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Watching the sun slowly sink into the Gulf of Mexico from my little piece of sand on Anna Maria Island I knew I made the right decision to take a spur of the moment flight to Florida. Just 10 days ago I was sitting at my desk and reading emails when I came across one advertising cheap flights to Tampa. Having had my fill of cold and snow the email came at a perfect time. I had a few days open in my calendar so I bought the ticket and packed my bags for a weekend of fun in the Sunshine State.
Landing in Tampa I knew the right decision had been made. I walked off the plane to temps in the high 70’s and sunny skies above. A stop at the car rental center and before long I was on my way to Anna Marie Island, located just an hour south of the airport.
Anna Marie Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico and is about 7 miles long and only a couple blocks wide. Home to three towns, it offers great eats, numerous lodging options, boutique shopping and unbeatable sunrise and sunset views. As a bonus, a free trolley-style bus runs north and south on the main drive so feel free to park the car and hop on and off the free trolley and let someone else do the driving.
I was staying with friends who had rented a cozy cottage that was neatly tucked behind the owner’s home and was conveniently located 1 block from the pier for sunrise views and 5 blocks from the beach for sunset views. After arriving and settling in my friend and I made our way down the street to grab dinner to go at Poppo’s Taqueria and carried it to the beach for a sunset picnic. Dinner was delicious and the sunset stunning making it a wonderful introduction to life on Anna Maria Island.
The next morning we made the drive to nearby Venice to beachcomb and hunt for prehistoric shark’s teeth. Venice is a hot spot for finding these teeth buried in the sand or, sometimes, sitting right on top of the sand. We arrived at Caspersen Beach and joined the other visitors already sifting through the sand on the hunt for the blackened teeth. A sand sifter works well (they can be rented at the pier next to Caspersen Beach) or use a simple pasta strainer to sift through the sand. Simply scoop up sand, shake it down and search the remaining items for sharks teeth. Of course, any visit to Venice would not be complete without a meal at The Sand Trap Bar & Grill for delicious Thai food (trust me).
My final morning on Anna Maria Island was spent relaxing outdoors and soaking up the sun. That is how vacation should be spent, kicking back and watching the world go by. I know why so many people flock to the south in the winter. The weather is beautiful and the temps are warm but not stifling. This visit may have been short, but I enjoyed every moment.
Anna Marie Island Dining Recommendations:
Poppo’s Taqueria (order to go for picnic on the beach)
Hometown Desserts (try the scones)
The Bridge Tender Inn and Dockside Bar (live entertainment, great views)
Sandbar Restaurant (perfect dining location to watch the sunset)