Bradenton Beach, FL
It was early afternoon when we left Mixon Fruit Farm, so we took the long way back to the motor home. In this area, as there are so many places along the Gulf of Mexico, there are a series of narrow barrier islands that lie a short distance offshore. These islands form a network of beach-side communities and resort towns.
We drove west from Mixon's and crossed about a half-mile-long bridge to Anna Maria Island. At the southern end of the small island is the little town of Bradenton Beach. Bradenton Beach is also the main home of Wildlife, Inc. that ran the wildlife center at Mixon Fruit Farm.
The area of Anna Maria Island where Bradenton Beach is located is only about ¼ mile wide, and the town is only 15 or 20 blocks long. There are quite a few modest beach bungalows (many of them for rent), some tourist shops selling T-shirts and sea shells, and several places featuring bike and kayak rentals. Rather than large hotels and condos along the beachfront there were a few of the bungalows and some small bars like the one in the photo below.
Even the Bradenton Beach City Hall was modest.
As we drove by City Hall, we noticed a bunch of sand sculptures on the beach across the road. We found a place to park and walked over to check them out.
There were a couple dozen smaller sculptures that looked like they were done by amateur groups. There was this one with an octopus and sea shell with a pearl in it...
...and there was one huge sculpture with a recycling theme that was done by a professional sand sculpture group called Team Sandtastic.
We found out later the sculptures were all done two weeks prior as part of the annual Sandblast celebration at Bradenton Beach. Sand sculptures are sprayed with a dilute solution of glue to help preserve them. Drying from wind does more damage than light rain because the sand just soaks up the rain water, whereas the sand grains fall away when they are dried by the wind.
The area to the south of town on the beach side of the road is almost all public beach with plenty of free parking. We stopped and walked down to the water. The sand is as fine and as white as sugar but some spots are loaded with broken seashells which makes walking in bare feet hazardous. As expected, the water was cold.
From Bradenton Beach we crossed a short bridge to Longboat Key. Longboat Key is about 10 miles long and only about a mile wide at the widest point. In most places, it is less than half a mile wide. It was interesting to see the contrast between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key. Bradenton Beach has modest beach bungalows, tourist shops, large areas of public beaches and lots of free parking. Longboat Key has exclusive condos, high-end beach resorts and expensive seaside homes. There was little shopping. There were a couple of areas that had public beaches, but there was no parking. The beaches were intended for the condo residents who lived nearby. The next photo shows a couple of typical waterfront homes at the end of Longboat Key.
From Longboat Key, we crossed another short bridge to St. Armands Key, which is part of the city of Sarasota. Because St Armands Key is so small (less than a mile in each direction), we weren't there long. We just made a loop around the traffic circle in the middle of the island and headed back toward the mainland and toward the motor home. However, we could see St. Armands had yet a different personality from Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key. St Armands must be where the wealthy residents of Longboat Key go to shop because we saw lots of upscale stores and exclusive shops.
As we said, we headed back to the motor home from St. Armands Key. We still have more sightseeing planned, so stay tuned.