Written by jaybroek on 14 Jul, 2003
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 .…Read More
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 . . .
Written by Laura Z on 17 Mar, 2004
I’m always looking for a great beach vacation - somewhere with soft sand, clear water, good restaurants, some fun things to do, and nice, clean accommodations. Anna Maria is all that and more! The island is carefully zoned to keep out high rises…Read More
I’m always looking for a great beach vacation - somewhere with soft sand, clear water, good restaurants, some fun things to do, and nice, clean accommodations. Anna Maria is all that and more! The island is carefully zoned to keep out high rises and offers a tropical beach-town atmosphere. There aren’t many timeshares. Exchanging into them is difficult but not impossible.
I’ve stayed at one resort, Umbrella Beach Resort, and toured all of the others. I’ve spoken to the management, looked at rooms, and walked on their beaches. Here is an overall assessment from my perspective.
The only two timeshares that are located directly on the beach are Via Roma and Resort Sixty-Six. These are both Bluegreen Resorts. They are very similar in type and units. If you are looking for a beautiful beach and convenience and not interested in a lot of amenities or deluxe luxury, either of these would be suitable. Both have nice pools. The rooms are not five-star quality. They more resemble converted motel rooms. However, for that inconvenience, you get the most beautiful beach right outside your door. It seems that most people don't trade these weeks. Why would they?
Via Roma offers one- and two-bedroom units. The one bedrooms can be directly gulf-front or across the road. What a difference! If you can snag a beachfront, you’re lucky. Across the road isn’t as nice. Two-bedroom units have a distance gulf view beyond the pool. Another fortunate trade.
Smuggler's Cove, Gulf Stream, Penthouses at Gulfstream, and Umbrella Beach Resort are all affiliated with VacationProperty Management. Activities are held at one resort or the other for all guests.
Penthouse units are directly across a two-lane road from the beach, with nothing in front of the building. You can definitely see the beach from these units. You couldn't be closer unless you were on the beach.
Smuggler's Cove and Gulf Stream are adjacent but continue all the way to the bayside. A walk to the beach could be a few feet or a block depending on your unit. More of Smuggler’s Cove is bay-front and two-bedroom units. The pool is very small at these resorts. They do, however, have a fishing dock off the back. I wasn't as impressed with these units as, some seem to have a lousy parking-lot view, particularly at Gulf Stream. However, the resort is well maintained and goes out of their way to please.
Umbrella has the largest units of these, but it is a half block from the beach, with the public beach next door. If you want comfort and room to spread out, then this would be your ideal exchange. Each unit is a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium residence that comfortably sleeps six. There is a washer and dryer in each unit; other resorts don’t offer this convenience.
So, each resort has its own attributes depending on your preference.
Prefer direct beach access and gulf view? Via Roma and Resort Sixty-Six.
Prefer large two bedrooms, a garage, and a washer and dryer? Umbrella
Prefer two bedrooms with a gulf view? Penthouses
Prefer bay view and fishing? Smuggler’s Cove
Prefer a clean one-bedroom to use as a home base? Gulfstream
Oh, one last thing, you can rent loads of houses on the island, and there are a few bed-and-breakfast-type places and inns, too. I looked into these, too. One of the biggest realtors that specializes in vacation rentals is Mike Norman Realty. They aren't cheap! You can also get a small room at one of the inns on or somewhat off of the beach. There are no big, fancy hotels anywhere. In my opinion, the timeshares are some of the nicest accommodations.