Anna Maria Island was our target today. The plan had been made to lunch there with old friends at Rod and Reel Pier. As we traveled late this morning from Longboat Key through Bradenton Beach the atmosphere graduated from the gated communities of the Bourgeoisie to the subtropical beach milieu of Anna Maria Island. Suddenly we were surrounded not by secluded vast compounds behind guarded entries but quaint colourful homes with white picket fences overtaken by palm trees and ferns. It forced me to reconsider who in fact is living the caged existence.
Unquestionably Anna Maria Island has an historic presence which far surpasses that of Longboat Key. Though both Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island have their connections with native Americans, early European explorers (Spanish and French) and Cuban fishermen, Longboat Key was primarily developed in the 1970s as an upscale and predominantly residential area. Anna Maria Island on the other hand profited by the Safety Harbor culture area for many centuries before the arrival of Europeans in Florida. Both the Narvaez expedition, in 1527, and the Hernando de Soto expedition, in 1539, entered the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of Anna Maria Island, passing the island by to make their landfall on the mainland.
“In 1892, George Emerson Bean became the first permanent resident on the Island, homesteading much of what is now the City of Anna Maria. After Bean’s death in 1898, the land’s ownership transferred to his son, George Wilhelm Bean, who partnered with Charles Roser, a wealthy real estate developer from St. Petersburg, to form the Anna Maria Beach Company in order to develop the area. The company laid out streets, built sidewalks and houses, and installed a water system.“
The reality of vacationing (which like it or not is the heartbeat of commerce on any of the barrier islands) is that people respond to the traditional indicia of the sun and the sea not mere residential seclusion – unless you’re committed to showing off your Bentley convertible, yacht and diamond earrings. Certainly there is room for both idioms but the natural experience has an inarguable authenticity.
As much as I adore my favourite personal possessions, as much as I relish a well-prepared meal, as much as I swoon to a great book, a moving piano performance and a magical painting or photograph, none of them competes with the indescribable allure of an emerald sea and a sandy white beach under an azure dome and yellow sunshine.
Combine this irrefutable attraction with the tingle of the sun and the salt of the sea, what succeeds is a refreshing state of being for which there is no alternative or replacement. There is as well a very agreeable soporific effect which affords an ideal conclusion to any day. Anxiety and depression are pushed aside at least temporarily. The incomparable beauty of nature replenishes the toxins of life. A day at the beach!