Florida coast to coast: Barefoot indulgence on Anna Maria Island

Florida coast to coast: barefoot indulgence on Anna Maria Island

As his sunrise to sunset drive across the Sunshine State comes to an end, Simon Calder reaches the Gulf of Mexico, where he finds bikes and kayaks make exploration easy

Simon Calder@SimonCalder
Thursday 22 February 2018 10:54

Head west from the Florida peninsula, and you leave behind the rest of the world to reach a seven-mile long strip of sand decorating the Gulf Coast.

Anna Maria Island is just 20 minutes from downtown Bradenton, yet has the feel of a tropical backwater; imagine France’s Ile de Ré meeting the Caribbean and you get the idea.

The newest place to stay is the Waterline, the island’s first full-service hotel. Opened at the end of last year, it has bikes for guests to rent. Two wheels allow you to explore the island at a gentler pace, ideal for appreciating a settlement where no building is allowed to be higher than a palm tree.

You can also explore aboard a kayak taking in the tropical mangrove forest, known as “the cradle of the sea”, and introducing you to some Florida wildlife.

Down at the end of Bridge Street there’s no longer a bridge: just a pier with the chance of seeing the occasional performing dolphin. Bridge Street, like the rest of Anna Maria Island, is really just a cul-de-sac.

But the beachfront is an ever-present draw. It faces west, and the sight of the sun sinking into the sea is always a joyful experience. Probably the most popular place on Anna Maria Island to watch the sunset is the Sandbar Restaurant. The customers are convivial, the cocktails colourful and the view entrancing.

Somewhere on the blissful way to nowhere: that sums up Anna Maria Island.

Stay at Waterline Marina Resort & Beach Club for 7 nights departing in May 2018 from £999 per person. Package includes return direct flights with British Airways from London Gatwick into Tampa, and a saving of £195 per person based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a suite.* To book or for more information call 020 3542 8888 or visit www.travelplanners.co.uk

Hertz car hire in Florida starts from just £21 per day. Visit Hertz.co.uk

Discover more at visitflorida.com @VisitFlorida #LoveFlorida

*Prices may vary, are subject to availability and correct as of 16 February 2018