People ask us all the time when they are looking at vacation rentals online, "what is that 'Old Florida' feel?" Growing up on the Island it wasn't something that was unique to me. The Island has always been some place special to me. I didn't realize that the area I was fortunate to grow up in was unique in many ways.
First I will say that the people are remarkable! Friendly, easy going, creative, colorful and enjoying their life to the fullest. Anna Maria Island is a 7 mile stretch of beautiful white sand beaches. That may seem like a pretty small amount of space to house year round residents as well as the growing tourist market. Yet, this 7 mile island is home to 3 cities:
Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria with a combined population of roughly 8,800 people in 2012. There are families of all size and age groups, single women and men, professionals and retirees all living on our remarkable island. The localsare friendly to each other and visitors alike. The "welcome join us" attitudes make you want to come back for more fun and good times year after year.
A portion of the Old Florida feel is certainly attributed to the locals.
Art and Architecture definitely add to the feeling you get on the Island. The artists on the Island create unique artwork on simple materials, like old driftwood, scrap metal, roofing tin, old furniture, "junk" as some people might think. By the time these creative minds have their chance to revitalize these materials, some of the pieces take on a whole new life. These artists simply add that Old Florida feel to previously considered "trash" and instantly becomes artwork locals and visitors love!
It says a lot about any dining establishment when you walk in and see locals sitting at the bar or enjoying their lunch. Anna Maria Island has a variety of restaurants and dining establishments. When you walk in you will be greeted by a smiling face and see local residents enjoying local food favorites. Nothing gives you that Old Florida feeling like a Fresh Grouper sandwich, iced cold beer and the magnificent sunsets of Anna Maria Island.
I guess the best answer to the question what is the Old Florida feel? In one word I would say Charm. This beautiful Island full of Community, Events, Laughter, Families, Shopping, Fun and Leisure is packed full of Charming people, participating in Charming events. As a visitor-turned-resident once said to me, "I came to Anna Maria Island on Vacation and when I got home I realized that I still had a little sand in my soul"