Vista Grande Luxury Gulf Front Vacation Rental

Holmes Beach - Anna Maria Island, Florida

Vista Grande on Anna Maria Island - Pool & Beach view at sunset.

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Anna Maria Island Attractions

 

Anna Maria Island is a 7 1/2 miles stretch of sand, beach, surf, and sun that encompasses the cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and the City of Anna Maria. This laid back island vacation destination is for all the ages. Anna Maria Island is home to some great formal and casual water front restaurants. Activities on the island include back water and offshore fishing, sailing, kayaking, biking, site seeing, shopping, or just laying on the beach and watching fantastic sunsets.

 

Wanda McKinney's "Beach Magic" Southern Living March 2009 article listed below says it all about this tranquil laid back vacation getaway destination.

 

Beach Magic - Southern Living - March 2009

By Wanda McKinney

 

I dreamed that I had escaped to the perfect getaway. As I slept, I visualized swaying palms, beautiful beaches, and not a high-rise condo in sight.

 

Colorful shops and local restaurants added charm, and a laid-back vibe erased all cares. I awoke smiling but shook my head. Surely there was no such piece of paradise left. Then I discovered Anna Maria Island.

 

About the Island

Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and the Intercostals Waterway, Anna Maria Island is an easy 1 1/2-hour drive from Tampa.

 

It's only 7 1/2 miles long and less than a mile wide and, for starters, boasts not a single towering condo. (No building over three stories is allowed.) Chain restaurants? Very few of them. The restaurants are delightfully local and extremely good. In other words, you’ve stepped into the Florida of decades ago, with one major difference: New amenities enhance the old charm for a winning combination.

 

Favorite Restaurant: Rod & Reel Pier Restaurant

A girl's gotta stop for food (thank goodness). My favorite was Rod & Reel Pier Restaurant at the end of the pier. I learned to go early to beat the crowds, which consist of locals and visitors. While I dined on fresh grouper just pulled from the Gulf, I watched a stunning sunset, along with a grand view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, festively alight at night. My evening entertainment was a more serene version of Vegas acrobatics, consisting of manatees and dolphins putting on a show, while people fished off the pier, pulling in redfish and mackerel.

 

Contact Information: (941) 778-1885, 875 North Shore Dr, Anna Maria, FL 34217

 

Restaurants With a View

For toes-in-the-sand dining, the Sand Bar Restaurant wins out. Everything tastes better if you’re sitting at a table on the beach, with waves gently splashing nearby. No reservations are accepted, but you’ll dine on such delightful entrées as freshly caught grouper and top sirloin, starting at $14. Contact information: 100 Spring Avenue; www.sandbar-restaurant.com or (941) 778-0444.

 

The Waterfront Restaurant. Ask to sit near the porch, and you’ll have a grand view of the bay. If the white chocolate-raspberry cheesecake shows up on the menu on your visit, give in. Contact information: 111 South Bay Blvd.; www.thewaterfrontrestaurant.net or (941) 778-1515.

 

Most Colorful (and Tastiest) Breakfast Spot

Ginny’s & Jane E’s At the Old IGA. The cinnamon rolls are Frisbee-size but taste much better.

Contact Information: 9807 Gulf Drive; (941) 778-7370

 

Best Burger Joint/Dive

Skinny’s Place. They serve Coke in frosty 8-ounce bottles and make a mean grilled chicken sandwich.

 

Contact information: 3901 Gulf Drive North; (941) 778-7769. (Cash only.)

 

Boutique Shopping

No malls here. But I found delightful buys in dozens of spots dotting the island. My favorite shopping area is Bridge Street on Bradenton Beach (the southernmost city on the island). There’s another pier here and a shopping street with Bridge Street Jewelers (I didn’t resist the beautiful silver bracelet adorned with a palm tree.) And the winner of my Most Kitschy contest is Bridge Street Bazaar. This charmer features fun wall plaques and pink flamingos galore, plus pirate and other nautical items. Any wife would love the sign reading, “Old fisherman lives here with his best catch."

 

Shopping Information: Art Attack, The Sailor’s Knot, Bridge Street Jewelers, Bridge Street Bazaar. All located on Bridge Street.

 

Explore the Island

After a couple of days of living my dream of sanctuary and sun, sun, sun, I wanted to see more of the island. Hopping on board the free trolley (which circles every 20 minutes) was a terrific way to get an overview of Anna Maria. I watched people bicycle in pretty Bayfront Park, located next to Anna Maria City Pier. And I jumped off to visit the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, with its long-vacant and amusingly graffiti-covered City Jail.

 

Day Trip: Village of the Arts

One day I took a little side trip off the island to Bradenton to explore Village of the Arts. This artists’ colony covers several 1920s Crayola-colored cottages, each featuring a variety of artsy offerings, most open Friday and Saturday. My favorite was Dancing Crane Gallery, with its sculpture, jewelry, and ceramics. I especially loved the gem shop inside, where an artist designs your own piece of jewelry on the spot. I also enjoyed Village Voices & Eclectic Art Emporium, with its Florida author-written books, an art gallery, and local woodwork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vista Grande  -  5622 Gulf Drive  -  Holmes Beach (Anna Maria Island)  -  Florida  -  Tel: (941) 201-2182

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