Bradenton Beach is Like the Youngest Brother of the Three Siblings on Anna Maria Island

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When you thought ahead to when you would have kids, didn’t you imagine they’d all be alike? Or at least look alike. Mine were all going to be white-blonds, love playing in the ocean, and tan easily.

 

kids-growing-up

 

I ended up with one white-blond, one strawberry blond, and one dark blond.  Only one loves the ocean and tans easily, and they all avoid the sun as to not be wrinkled like their mom.

Anna Maria Island has three towns, with distinct personalities, just like those kids of ours. Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach.

 

annamariaislandmapMap courtesy of NeoClassicalMaps, find this and many other glicee prints of hand lettered, watercolor originals; maps created in the style of the original mapmakers of long ago, here

 

Anna Maria is the oldest who wears Lilly and Vineyard Vines. She volunteers, shops local and rides her beach cruiser everywhere. Her husband made a modest fortune in the stock market and their kids are headed to Princeton and Vassar.

Holmes is that affable middle child; smarter than you and your spouse put together.  He has an infectious laugh. No one really knows what his job is and no one really cares: he brings the best craft beer to the party, can expound on any topic, and loves having people coming over at all hours.

Bradenton is the youngest who started out surfing when he was 4, almost left home to develop his surfing skills in Florianópolis, Brazil, at age 17, but went to Le Cordon Bleu instead. He’s opened three thriving restaurants, founded a beach cleanup non-profit and mentors young entrepreneurs.

I’m making all of this up. But when you visit, you’ll see what I mean. And in reality, the town of Anna Maria was settled first, then Holmes Beach, then Bradenton Beach. Same birth order.

We stayed in Bradenton Beach mostly because of the walk-ability but also because were were married on Anna Maria and our reception was in Bradenton Beach. Mom said it was the best party she’d ever been to. We decided to visit to celebrate our anniversary, and I brought those three kids of mine. (Everyone celebrates their anniversary with kids in tow, right?)

 

mom-dad-me-wedding

 

THE BEACH

Coquina Beach

1800 Gulf Drive South

 

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Ahhhh, THE BEACH. Florida’s gulf coast has some of the most tranquil, heavenly, utopian, let-me-lie-in-this-sand-forever-just-bring-me-wine beaches on earth. You’ve heard the effusive descriptions “baby powder soft” “purest white” “squeaky clean.” It’s all true and more. Read this  fun article on all the varied sands of Florida, on Visit Florida, “Battle of the Beach Sands.”

But the soft white sand is not the only draw; the sunsets are beyond description. Every night the must-see event is the sunset. Hundreds pour out of the beach front restaurants holding up their smart phones, all drawn together like old friends, and the unifying theme is the sunset. Talk about heavenly.

 

sunset-bradenton-beach

 

  • PARK/WALK:  Plenty of free parking in a large lot shaded by Australian pines. The walk to the beach is short and easy.
  • GO/RINSE:  Restrooms and showers are right there.
  • CROWD FACTOR:  This is the longest stretch of beach on Anna Maria Island, so there is plenty of room for everyone.
  • GUARDS:  Yes.
  • IMBIBE:  No.
  • BEST FRIEND:  No. Only service dogs are allowed.
  • WE LOVE:  You can walk to the beach from anywhere in this little town.

 

 

THE BAR

Bridgetender Inn and Dockside Bar

135 Bridge Street

 

bridgetender-front

We love ALL bars (you may have gathered that by now; who isn’t happy in a bar??) but when a bar makes you feel like family, even when you’re clearly not a local, you find yourself picking out your favorite barstool…  We did that here! The owner, Fred Bartizal is from Wisconsin and a huge Green Bay Packers fan, so when his team is playing everyone gets a Jello Shot! Hey, I can pretend to be a Packer’s fan!

And get this, all of our dog loving friends:  The Bridgetender supports Vintage Paws – www.vintagepaws.org – a senior dog rescue. “Adopt a Dog Who Already Knows the Ropes.”  Doesn’t that just pinch at your heart? Here at Beaches, Bars and Bungalows we’re considering adopting a senior dog, once our two rascally beloved yappers trot off this merry earth.

  • VIBE:  Vibrant, beachy, waaay laid back. You’ll see all ages, smiles and laughter all around.
  • ARRIVE: Right on the Bay; you can arrive by boat or by foot.
  • SIT:  Sit inside, or outside on the main deck, or at the Dockside Tiki Bar under the trees (our favorite.)
  • SIP:  Happy Hour is Monday through Friday, 3 – 6 p.m.  Try their Bloody Mary – “Tender Mary” – topped with pickled green been, round pepper, olive, pickled brussels sprout, baby corn and lime. Must be healthy, right?
  • NOSH:  Hello, Shrimpcargot! Four large shrimp set on a bed of creamed spinach and artichokes, topped with provolone, served with lemon garlic bread.  The black bean soup is the best, and even though we chose it as The Bar, they also have a full, gourmet entree menu as well. Roast Duck is a house fave. Check their site – click on their name, above – for more inventive choices.
  • LISTEN:  Live music every day, and often twice a day on the weekends.
  • WE LOVE:  We fell in love with this place! Our bungalow was one street away, and we visited the Dockside Tiki Bar more times than I am willing to confess. The view, the simplicity of the bar under the trees, the friendly bartenders.

 

view-from-bridgetenders

bridgetenders-sunset

 

 

THE BUNGALOW

Pelican Post

201 First Street North

 

cottage-exterior

 

  • VIBE:  So extremely quiet and relaxing. The busy vibrant downtown main street is one block away, but you’d never know it.
  • WALK:  EVERYWHERE. At the Pelican Post, the beach is a short walk away. A plethora of choices for shopping, all meals, live music, and get this – mini golf! – are one block away. (We always include the “walk” category because of Mom; in her later years it was challenging for her to walk a couple of blocks. Mom would have been fine here.)
  • DECOR: In The Cottage – vintage and comfortable. The Cottage reminded us of by-gone beach vacations when we were kids. The motel rooms have a more modern look and feel.
  • SLEEP:  The beds were ultra comfortable.
  • EXTRAS:  Fully equipped kitchenettes, free Wi-Fi, lounge chairs in the garden.
  • RATES:  The Cottage, in low season, is $170 a day. With a separate, private bedroom, a bed and a futon in the living area, The Cottage can sleep 5 people. The one room studios start at  $105. There are more options; check out their website by clicking on their name above.
  • WE LOVE:  The peace. The proximity to anything and everything. The history of The Cottage: built in the early part of the last century, The Cottage was transported here by barge to house construction crews building the original bridge which opened in 1921. If those walls could talk!

 

cottage-bed

cottage-bedroom

pelican-post-sign-and-rooms

 

Take a look at more of this small coastal town with the entrepreneurial, festive spirit:

 

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The Freckled Fin Restaurant and Public House

 

rainbow-ice-cream

Joe’s Eats and Sweets

 

blue-marlin

Blue Marlin Grill

 

bridge-street-bistro

Island Time Bar and Grill on the ground floor, Bridge Street Bistro on the top floor, and on the second, Sunset Banquet Room , click on each to visit their site

fish-hole-mini-golf

The Fish Hole Mini Golf, right on the main street

 

beachhouse-bradenton-beach

Quintessential beach bar:  Beach House

 

island-time-inn

Island Time Inn

 

the-rush-inn-surfboard-and-porch

The Rush Inn

 

blue-and-red-cottage

cottage-picket-fence

sparkly-harbor

coral-cottage

bills-fish-camp

Bill’s Fish Camp – 3 historic rental cottages, this pic and the one above, more info here

 

old-cottage-motorcycle

This tiny cottage, right across the street from the water, and its “tiki bar,” below

 

rudesville-tiki-bar

“Rudesville,” and “Your money is welcome, and you’re not.” If you know the story behind this, contact us!

 

So, what do you think? Have you been here? Is my fanciful description of the three towns cheerfully sharing this small paradise, despite their differences, legit? Or are you thinking I’ve either had too much coffee, or too much wine…..

Let me know in the comments below!

 

Bradenton Beach is on Florida’s gulf coast, 37 miles south of St. Petersburg and 17 miles north of Sarasota.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. My hubby and my Dec. 2015 vacation was to this beautiful island. We visited all three of the areas, but because of not being that familiar with it, we stayed in the Holmes Beach area in a Condo we rented for the week. We loved the area and the place we chose, but Bill’s Fish Camp was our #2 pick. I would love to try the Braedeton Beach area to stay next time, now that we have a feel for the island.
    We did eat in the patio area of your featured Tiki Bar/Restaurant on this blog post and took a walk along the extensive pier. No shopping was done :-(, but the sunset witnessed on the beach you mentioned was my best sunset experience ever. For more Anna Maria and Holmes Beach area photos readers can check out my Instagram photos of it here – (mimitorias)

    1. Bill’s Fish Camp intrigued us, too Gretchen! We’re so glad you loved this island as much as we do. We came upon it kind of by accident ourselves, years ago, driving up Longboat Key. I think my sunset experience there was also my best one ever as well! We’re enjoying your instagram feed, fellow beach lover!

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