By Kara Franker
It's no wonder that Anna Maria Island, featuring seven miles of picture-perfect sugar-sand beaches, has been named one of the best islands in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.
The popular travel magazine says Anna Maria Island is one of the best islands in the world and describes it as a, “narrow band off Florida’s west coast, this barrier island has some of the softest, whitest sand on the East Coast. And as it faces west, it’s a stunning place to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico." The island is just a 40-minute drive from Sarasota.
The family-friendly island is only a few blocks wide, so not only does it feature stunning sunsets, but if you're an early riser, you can also witness beautiful sunrises overlooking Tampa Bay.
This stretch of sand is home to the island's three cities – Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria. And all three cities provide access to great beaches, waterfront hotels, rustic rental cottages, seafood restaurants, eclectic boutiques and outdoor activities.
Go for a stroll along the beach, dine in one of the excellent waterfront restaurants and listen to live music by the pier. There's a free trolley that will take you anywhere you want to go on the island.
The beach is a great place to spend the entire day splashing in the waves and playing in the sand. And be sure to pack a picnic lunch like a local. Stop by one of the beachside shops like Olive Oil Outpost to get all stocked up on homemade bread, artisanal cheeses and international wine.
Every summer you won't want to miss turtle season, which runs from May to October. Mother sea turtles venture onto the shore to build their nests and lay their eggs. And the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch offers early morning tours at 7 a.m. that celebrate this annual turtle tradition.
In nearby Bradenton, Great World Adventures offers horseback riding on the beach and horse surfing in the gentle waves... yes, we said horse surfing!
The island hosts a spectacular Fourth of July celebration on the beach. On Anna Maria Island, the buildings aren't higher than three stories, which means 360 degree views of fireworks celebrations.
If you go...
For more info about Anna Maria Island, contact The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau or the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.
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