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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stay-cation Close to Home- Anna Maria Island

Have you been thinking about a family vacation? Some of the best places are right here in Florida. We found that out this summer, as we took a near-cation or as some say stay-cation. We went just south of Pinellas County about an hour away to Anna Maria Island.
Even though it is on the other side of the Skyway, we felt like we were hours away. The island is beautiful and so relaxing. We stayed for about a week. We were fortunate to rent a friends vacation home down there. It was just perfect! Our girls loved the house because it had bunk-beds and a pool with a tiki hut and table inside it. A feature we took full advantage of when we grilled and ate outside or had our breakfast in the morning poolside.

Anna Maria Island is a hidden treasure with seven miles of beaches. The island is actually  three villages including: Anna Maria City on the northern end, Holmes Beach City in the middle and Bradenton Beach City on the southern end.

Before we got there, I looked up on the internet things to do and places to eat.  I also asked friends who had been there, what there was to do and where to eat.

We tried to pick restaurants with character to eat at. Some restaurants came highly recommended and some we just found.

One night we ate at the waterfront restaurant the Sandbar. It was really good and we could see the sunset from our table. Another fun place to eat was Mr. Bones BBQ. My husband loved this place. As a matter of fact, we were in Pinellas eating at a fast food restaurant and a person overheard us talking about going to Anna Maria Island and told us we had to stop at Mr. Bones. He said he drives from Pinellas just to get the bar-b-que.

There are quaint shops and restaurants all around the island. One we found was Ginny’s and Jane E’s Bakery Café & Store. The girls had smoothies.  My husband and I got a coffee. There we relaxed on sofas enjoying our drinks. While there my husband even found a vintage golf club as his souvenir. Another little café we stopped at that was fun was the Village Café. The girls said they had the best hot chocolate.

The island offers a free trolley service that goes around the island. We decided we would take the trolley one night to go get pizza at the local pizza shop Vinnny & Cheryl’s Italian Kitchen. It was a fun adventure. The pizza was outstanding! The pizzas are made on a wood burning brick oven.

We checked out both of the piers on the island. We ate at the City Pier. We could see the Skyway Bridge from our seats at window.  We watched people fish and decided the next day to take the girls fishing off the pier.

I think this was the girls favorite part of the trip. We rented polls for $3 a hour and bought the bait for a few dollars. Next time we will bring our own polls, but this was nice since we didn’t have them with us. It was awesome watching our girls catch fish. They caught about 20 fish. Not big fish, ones we had to throw back in the water, but the thrill of catching the fish was fun! We had hours of fun and our total bill was less than $30 for the polls and bait.

One of the highlights of our fishing adventure was a fisherman caught a six foot black tip shark off the pier. He was bringing it up to the shore. He was telling everyone on the beach to get out of the water just in case the line snapped. And the line snapped. No one was hurt, but it was our BIG fish story for the day.

Another night we went off the island to play miniature golf. The girls had fun. Everyone got a hole in one except me. After golfing the girls got ice cream on the island at Dips. Great ice cream! Other fun things to do on the island include:  renting paddleboards, kayaks and boats.  You can parasail or go horseback riding along the beach.

There are so many other places that we didn’t get to that we still want to try…so I guess we will have to go back again! We also thought since it is so close we can go for the day! It truly was a wonderful family trip in paradise!

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