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I love warm weather, I love the sea.
I live in New England—inland.
SO, I try to book a vacation every winter. I try to make it as cheap as possible by using a mileage credit card for EVERYTHING in our day to day life to get as many travel points as I can. The points mean our trips are substantially cheaper. This year we went to Anna Maria Island, Florida. The flights on JetBlue direct from Bradley to Tampa were about $180. With our credit card points we paid $22 each—roundtrip. The pretty drive from the airport is just about an hour over lovely bridges with folks fishing on every pull off and some occasional kite surfers to keep you entertained.
Florida is not normally my cup of tea BUT, I have to say we were really pleasantly surprised! Anna Maria is a sweet little island that reminded me a bit of the Bahamas. Granted, it is more congested than that, but the beaches, the water, and the wildlife were truly remarkable and the island has an incredibly welcoming vibe! All the streets end at beautiful little public access paths and walkways to the powder-white sandy beach. There are lovely little benches sprinkled along every road, and many are trolley stops for the free open-air trolley that can take you from one end all the way past the other end of the island. There are pristine public parks that line the beaches. and two fishing piers (the rod & reel and the city pier) scattered with little kids fishing on their own, pelicans keeping watch, and a general laid back vibe. I loved that there are no railings, no signs that say keep away, and that you can get a beer for $1.50. If there are streets posted with no parking signs, just turn the corner and the next street practically says "please, park here!" "be our guest!" with just a little note asking to "keep your tires off the pavement", ..."please".
I would highly recommend it as a quick getaway. Here's some pics to give you a sense of the place:
We rented a boat from Keyes Marina and it was definitely our favorite day! We cruised out to Egmont Island. It was covered with birds, gopher tortoises, a light house, and walking paths The kids explored and discovered remnants of an old village from 1906. We were the only ones there and it felt like a scene from Robinson Crusoe.
We were lucky enough to have a herd of Manatees float under our boat along the way.
Before heading back we searched for a good happy hour. The Seafood Shack it was. What a great find! The food was excellent, as were the drinks. And turns out, Monday is Rumday!
We rented our house from Island Real Estate. They were super nice and helpful and the house was really clean. The prices listed on their site do not include the fees and taxes so they do cost more than your first impression. But we loved our house, particularly the yard. I highly recommend getting one with a pool especially if you have kids!
Surprisingly there are not many places to eat ON the water. We went to the "Sandbar" the first night because we arrived late. The meal was fine but the location was the reason to go. We went back during the day for a drink and I don't recommend that. I had the worst Pina Colada I've ever had, but I would go for lunch or a light dinner. It's a bit crowded but they don't blast the touristy music, and the people that work there are super nice (I loved our waiter Thaddeus!) and again, the location is what it is all about.
Katie Craig is available for travel writing (with kids, girls getaways and romantic escapes)
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