When you’re looking into a getaway for blue waters and powdered sugar beaches, it’s only fair that the mind wanders towards the Caribbean or an island somewhere in the crosswinds. I agree I love me a Caribbean island, however I encountered a little slice of heaven on earth recently - right in our continental USA. Home to beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, friendly people, and a whole lot of fun and sun. Here’s a quick look at some of the best island vibes I’ve had this way north of the Keys.
Tucked into the crux of the Tampa Bay area is a beautiful little area that the locals do not want to share with just anyone. One of the locals warned us not to share the secret that is Anna Maria Island, so whatever you do - treat this little sweet spot with kindness, respect, and bring nothing but good vibes along with some good SPF. The sun was strong even if was a little breezy. The top of the island chain that runs along the western Florida coast boasts an easy ride from Tampa International Airport, offers a laid back vibe and friendly spot to rest ones weary head (and welcomes you to dig your toes in the sand). It’s easy to see why some people go and decide to stay: AMI is home to some of the best dining and people I’ve ever met. Walk around town, and make sure to check out Bridge Street for some art, shopping, and fun!
An essential to grab a drink and watch the sunset over the Gulf - Sandbar hosted a packed house most evenings we hung out to sample a cocktail or two and indulge in some fresh seafood. The stone crab was amazing - fresh and juicy, alongside some well mixed drinks from the bar staff. Bonus: they promote the non-use of drinking straws (sea turtle and bird lovers rejoice!) however, when a straw is requested, it is made of plant materials (corn) to ensure an environmentally-friendly breakdown if it does make its way into the waterways. Warning: don’t use it in hot drinks - our server joked it melted in her coffee!
The Donut Experiment
I mean, do you really need an explanation? The Fruity Pebble Donut made my day, but you can build your own OR pick off the pre-made menu. They also have donut specials, so make sure to indulge!
The Waterfront Restaurant
Their signature cocktails are amazing and their food was even better. We started with the baked brie and moved our way to fried oysters and pulled ahi tuna on rye. Their carrot slaw – a must try!
Try a scoop or two of the gelato from the Anna Maria Island Creamery & Bakery. SO GOOD!
Bortell’s Lounge (you’ll drink like a local)
Harry’s Grill (great patio and outdoor music)
Slim’s Place (if you love Philly, you’d love Slim’s!)
OTHER BEACHES / EXCURSIONS
There is so much to do and see. When we were down, there were two days the winds made it difficult to enjoy the sun (powdered sugar sand does not feel as soft when sandblasted at your face!) so instead, we decided to head over to Robinson Preserve to try our luck fishing in rented kayaks. It was a blast! The mangroves helped shield the waterways from the heavy winds coming from the bay, so we were able to check out the wildlife both under and around us comfortably! We rented our kayaks from Kayak Jack’s – which brings the kayaks to the Preserve for you!
We cruised down to Venice Beach Fishing Pier and on our way back to AMI, we stopped at St Armand’s Circle. Some great places to shop and grab a bite to eat! Check out this helpful restaurant guide via Trip Advisor.
Looking to get a line in the water? We took a half day fishing excursion with Captain Ryan and had a great day on the water. He set our bait, taught us some tricks, and cleaned our catch – fresh off the boat! Give him a follow on Instagram: @cptryankilloran and tell him Jenna and AJ sent you!
Right around the area he keeps his boat in is the quaint old fishing village of Cortez. We had some AMAZING laid back lunch at Tide Tables Restaurant. You are right on the water, surrounded by the boats in the marina. Fish tacos? DELICIOUS.
So you don’t have to tear apart the house for your passport if you’re in need of a quick (or not so quick) island getaway. We’re planning on going back since we didn’t get to eat at all the spots we wanted (like the Rod and Reel Pier). It's ok though, because we know there will surely be another weekend where we will be looking to escape and AMI is just the ticket.
Be prepared to want to stay!