Anna Maria Island lies off the Florida mainland just south of Tampa. It's about seven miles long, not very wide and consists of three small cities -- Bradenton Beach, Haynes Beach and Anna Maria City (note for the English: cities can be very small . . . smaller than villages. I guess it's a political thing).
The main route onto the island takes you through Bradenton proper along state road 64. It's probably best not to pay too much attention to Bradenton -- it'll put you off (or it might make the island seem a little more delightful!). There are two other routes on, one from Longshore Key to the south and another from the mainland.
Route 64 brings you in to the middle of the island -- around Holmes Beach. This is pretty much the business centre for the island with a concentration of offices and malls here. The area is also heavily residential -- they've tried to squeeze a lot of people onto this thin strip.
The drive north up Marina Drive takes you into Anna Maria City -- this leans heavily towards the residential. Many of the homes appear to be seasonally occupied -- either second homes or holiday rentals, judging from the signs. There isn't any serious shopping infrastructure within Anna Maria -- we didn't spot any malls other than Bay View plaza. This is a place to fish, rent boats, and hole up for the winter.
Driving south will take you to Bradenton Beach -- an area much more geared up to the tourist trade proper -- the ice creams, the food, the beaches with facilities. I didn't like it as much as Anna Maria -- you have to change the pace of your life to enjoy Anna Maria -- Bradenton has speeded up to suit the tourist. Having said that, the third of the island's historic fishing piers is located in Bradenton Beach -- these are charming structures -- the perfect place for a cool beer and a great view back to the island.
Bradenton Beach is also the home to a thriving artists’ community -- the paintings on sale around this area are largely colourful depictions and interpretations of coastal living -- well worth a browse.
Whether for a day trip or a seasonal let, this island has more than enough to keep grown-ups amused. The Blonde and I could see ourselves taking six weeks off -- living on the beach, swimming every day, catching up on those books you've been meaning to read, hypnotising ourselves watching the ceiling fan go round on an afternoon when it's too hot to move . . .