Anna Maria Island, Florida

"We're all going to die! We're all going to die!"

That was how our flight from Detroit to Tampa began, not an auspicious beginning to our Spring Break trip. Yet despite the wild caterwauling of a pre-teen girl, we didn't die, landing quite safely at TPA to begin an eight-day extravaganza of beach, water and sunshine.

The trip was uneventful, and we made great time thanks to an early afternoon arrival time, Google Maps and my wife's navigation skills. Well, it was uneventful until Bradenton. After stopping to get our first round of margarita supplies (there were several other stops - I wished Florida liquor stores had punch cards for tequila purchases), we ran into a long line of cars trying to get across the Manatee Avenue Bridge to Anna Maria Island. Traffic was a result of the perfect storm of Easter Sunday and Spring Break. We crawled our way north and, after reaching the island, north to our Air B&B oh-so-close-to-the-beach condo on Pine Avenue.

Anna Maria Island (henceforth known as AMI, as the local bumper stickers proclaim) is about 1 1/2 hours southwest of Tampa, a beautiful coastal island where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay. It is a wonderful spot for low-key vacationing that goes heavy on the beach life and easy going days rather than thrilling activities.

The island is lined with beautiful beaches. The most popular of them on the west (Gulf) side, such as Coquina Beach, Manatee Avenue Beach and Palmetto Beach. We didn't spend time at any of these, and only spent a short afternoon at the island's northernmost beach, Bean Point Beach, where a beach hundreds of feet wide separates the Gulf from million-dollar homes.

We chose instead the mainland-side beach at the City Pier. Narrow and short, the beach didn't provide room for the hundreds / thousands that visited the other beaches, which was perfect for us. The usually calm water of Tampa Bay were provided a stable floating area for our inflatable turtle, though he did try to run off once, but was caught up in the pilings underneath the pier. Sadly, the turtle was left at the condo, and I hope he is still happily floating on Florida waters.

Though beach time was the primary purpose of this trip, we did want a little variety in our day in the form of bikes. We rented them for a week from Beach Bums, a block away from us. All the north end locations were in easy range of our bikes, as were the shops and restaurants where Marina Drive meets Gulf Drive, the heart of commercial AMI. We happily pedaled our way around our neighborhood, and on a busy Spring Break week, it was a relief not to have to find a parking spot. Yep, bikes are the way to go, and if you get them from Beach Bums, they include a parrot squeaky horn, which I made ample use of for no good reason.