Think Florida and odds are you'll think Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and a string of other popular tourist hotspots. There's no doubt that these are great attractions, ones that pull in visitors in their thousands year round, but there's much more to Florida than the hubbub of Orlando and Tampa.
If, like me, you're a repeat visitor to the Sunshine State you might be craving something a little more relaxed than roller coasters and thrill rides. I discovered the quiet and refined Anna Maria Island a few years back and I haven't looked back since. With miles of pristine beaches and the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico lapping on its shores, Anna Maria is a world away from the tourist traps.
I recommend renting out one of the many breathtaking vacation rentals on the island and making Anna Maria your home away from home. Many vacation rentals have outstanding beach views and boat moorings.
Anna Maria Island is a beach lover's paradise and there are several beaches to choose from, each with its own distinct atmosphere. I'll let you in on my favorites.
If I'm in a quiet mood, and looking for somewhere to relax in relative quiet before enjoying a dip in the ocean then I head on over to Anna Maria Beach. This huge stretch of sugar sand runs right around the northern tip of the island and offers a perfect spot for sunbathing and beach combing ensuring a leisurely beach experience. There are no facilities to speak of, so this isn't the best beach to visit if you've got a rowdy brood who need entertaining and ice-cream on tap. If that's the case then my next pick will be for you.
Located in the City of Holmes Beach, Manatee Beach is the perfect location to take the family, or if you fancy something more energetic. With volleyball courts on hand you can get your blood pumping and do some socializing with the locals or other visitors. I find the playground a real gift when the kids are getting tired of building sandcastles as they can burn off some energy while I grab a much needed drink from one of the concession stands. With restrooms and showers provided and just a short walk into Holmes Beach itself, it's easy to spend the entire day here.
Down on the southern tip of Anna Maria lies Coquina Beach. Lined with lofty pine trees, Coquina offers some great surfing thanks to the tumbledown remnants of old piers and the natural break off-shore. Again this beach offers a full range of facilities, including grills where you can cook up some food for a picnic, but it's large enough to ensure that you can find some seclusion if you want to on the northern stretch of the beach. In many ways Coquina beach combines the best aspects of Manatee and Anna Maria beaches.
What makes staying in a luxury vacation rental on Anna Maria Island so alluring to me, and many others, is that no matter where you choose to stay on the island you're never more than a stone's throw from any of the glimmering beaches and clear blue water that is the island's trademark. Try a visit to this bastion of Old Florida and you won't be disappointed, in fact I guarantee you'll come back again and again.
To plan your vacation to glorious Anna Maria Island, visit www.annamaria.com/ to book your luxury vacation rental accommodation.