How to find the elusive sand dollar on Anna Maria Island.

Sand dollar on beach

Sea cookies, snapper biscuits, sand cakes, pansy shells, or cake urchins. It doesn’t matter what you call them, we all want to leave the beach with at least one perfect specimen to add to our shell collection.


While many visitors come to Anna Maria Island for the ocean breeze, the turquoise water, and the sunshine, you can also add shell collection to the list. The Florida waters are home to thousands of different forms of sea life that wash up on our shores, but few are more sought after than the elusive sand dollar. They adorn frames, vases, candles, necklaces and so much more. It is often said that the sand dollar is worth more than the real dollar.

I find the best beaches on Anna Maria Island for sand dollars is Bean Point. With some good detective work you can find them on Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach or Anna Maria City Beach and everywhere between.

Rule #1~ Know and love your tide chart. Sand dollars are often found just slightly beneath the mean low water line. In other words, the lowest level reached by the sea at low tide. They can be found on top, or just beneath the surface of the sand in those areas.

Rule #2~ Use your very best sleuthing skills. Scour the sand for round patches or depressions in the sand. The natural holes around petal shaped middle will allow sand to fall in, creating just a hint of a round depression.

Rule #3~ Gently dig to the very bottom of the natural piles of shells. When the shells aggregate on the shore there is usually at least one hiding in there somewhere.

Groups of live sandollars
And you thought your house was crowded!

Rule #4~ Look for the spare change. (That’s what my family calls the little broken pieces of sand dollars.) Living sand dollars love to hang out together. According to the brilliant folks at The Bishop Museum of Science and Art there can be as many as 600 in a single square yard. If you find a lot of broken pieces in the same place then look a little further out into the water. There just may be an intact sand dollar that hasn’t washed up yet.

Rule #5~ Never, EVER, take a live sand dollar (or anything else living for that matter) from the beach. There are many cities where it is illegal and the fines are substantial. The legality aside, it would be a poor environmental choice. The ocean is a very delicate ecosystem. The clear, clean water we enjoy is brought to you in part by the living sand dollars. Sand dollars feed on small food particles in the sand, typically microscopic algae and tiny fragments of other dead animals. You wouldn’t want to go body surfing in that! If the sand dollar still has spines and feet then gently place it back in the water.

Sand dollars can somewhat tricky to find, but that is why it is so exciting when you find one! Hopefully you learned a trick or two that will help you in your hunting. Worse case scenario~ you spent a great day at the beach!

Jessie’s Island Store in Holmes Beach Anna Maria Island

Jessie’s Island Store is located on the West side of Marina Drive in Holmes Beach, FL and is otherwise known as the Shell gas station.  Jessie’s is a convenience store that offers all the normal convenience store items.  Milk, chips, beverages including alcoholic, candy, maps, and other items that get you through one day or evening.

Obviously the store allows to kill two birds with one stone because you can pick up gasoline for your vehicle also.  Jessie’s offers very reasonable make to order sandwiches, pre-made sandwiches, pasta salads, potato salads, chicken salad, and hot pressed Cubans.
The central location  on Anna Maria Island offers easy access to pick up a quick lunch on your way to the public beach, Holmes Beach skate park, or one of the piers in Anna Maria city.  A quick picnic with the family is just what the doctor ordered!

5424 Marina Drive
Holmes Beach, FL, 34217
(941) 778-6903

Seafood Shack – Great Seafood just over the Cortez Bridge

If you’re looking for great food with a beautiful view of the Intracoastal, take a short ride over the Cortez Bridge from Anna Maria Island to the Seafood Shack.

Located on the western shoreline of the old Cortez Fishing Village on what is called Hunter’s Point, Seafood Shack has been serving up fresh off the boat seafood since 1972.

Today Seafood Shack is as popular as ever with a menu including something for any pallet, fabulous views, and a full service bar. The menu offers great fresh seafood such as bacon wrapped scallops, fish tacos and a grouper sandwich. If you aren’t a seafood fan try out their meat like the NY Strip or the Classic Burger.

Along with fresh caught seafood, local growers such as Geraldson Community Farms provide fresh sourced produce to this fine eatery.
Enjoy daily fresh catch specials, or have the chef cook up your own catch of the day with the “Hook to Platter” special. For just $14.99 bring in your own fresh caught and cleaned fish, and the Seafood Shack chefs will prepare it to your liking.

Seafood Shack offers three different venues for banquets along with catering services. Enjoy a gorgeous wedding destination with no detail overlooked at this gorgeous waterfront restaurant.

The Marina offers several first come first serve boat slips for both large and small vessels. The Marina offers fabulous amenities including shower/bathroom facility, free wireless, boat/trailer storage and nearby gas and diesel. If you aren’t arriving by boat, experience the area with one of Seafood Shacks suggested charters.

4110 127th St W, Cortez, FL 34215
(941) 794-1235

The Waffle Press

Anna Maria has a new walk up snack option with the Waffle Press, located next to Pineapple Junction at 425 Pine Ave. This cozy spot specializes in Liege waffles, a sweeter and smaller cousin of the well-known Belgian waffle. Liege waffles are dough based and yeast raised, caramelized on the outside and with crunch of pearl sugar throughout. Each fluffy, crispy bite is amazing!

Waffle Press has a few yummy creations to choose from such as the Grand Slam which includes peanut butter, chocolate and bananas yet you can still create your own masterpiece with any mixture of toppings. If you are a purist, order the aptly named Purist which is a simple waffle with a sprinkling of cinnamon or sugar. It may have a simple name yet the taste is anything but simple! During my visit I opted for the Canadian which had maple butter and bacon on top of the hot freshly made waffle. There are also savory options and my friend tried the Birdie which included turkey, bacon, avocado and tomato jam. Both were amazing!

Smoothies, coffee including espresso and cappuccino are featured as well. Nondairy mylk options are available plus a few locally sourced baked goods. The day I was there the bagels looked amazing and I was tempted to indulge yet resisted, knowing I can go back.

Stop in the Waffle Press next time you visit AMI for breakfast, a snack or maybe dessert after enjoying dinner at any of the island’s fantastic eateries.

Waffle Press wall menu
Specialty coffees available

Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina in the Cortez Fishing Village

Enjoy some of the best seafood in the local area while overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway at Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina. Tide Tables is located in Bradenton at the base of the Cortez bridge. This place is definitely a favorite among visitors and locals, and for good reasons. The food is always good, the beers are always cold, and the view is unbeatable.

Lets talk about the menu. For something on the lighter side, go for their soup. They have a delicious gumbo with chicken & andouille sausage, as well as homemade soup du jour. For starters, they offer peel & eat shrimp, grouper bites, conch fritters, etc. Their sandwich options include a shrimp po boy, mojo chicken, fresh grouper, and of course a burger. For the main course, there is scallops, corvina, fish tacos, and more! If you’re not a fan of seafood, go for the BBQ ribs or the mojo chicken entree. They also have a great selection of craft and local brews/ciders that are constantly changing.

Tide Tables is open for lunch and dinner everyday, from 11:30am – 8:00pm.

12507 Cortez Rd W
Bradenton, FL 34210

The Dollar Tree on Anna Maria Island Is Great for Cheap Beach Gear and Household Necessities

The Dollar Tree in Holmes Beach is located in the Benderson Plaza by the Island’s CVS and Ace Hardware. The Dollar Tree is super convenient for those on vacation. If you live here, or have visited AMI enough, then you know how crazy busy Publix Supermarket can be. Need some condiments but don’t want to deal with the crowd at Publix? Head over to The Dollar Tree just down the road. They should have what you need, and for only a $1.00 or less! Who doesn’t love saving a little extra cash, especially on vacation!

Another great aspect is that you can pickup some pool noodles and beach toys. There’s no point in spending a pretty penny on things you’ll only use for the week, so go here first for your beach/pool accessories. Of course they also have the typical household items, cleaning supplies, food, snacks, etc. The Dollar Tree in Holmes Beach is definitely worth stopping by and seeing what they’ve got before you go shopping anywhere else.

3260 E Bay Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217
(941) 242-6753

Fresh Fish Market on Anna Maria Island

The fresh Fish Market on Anna Maria Island in Holmes Beach is a great local shop to purchase really great, fresh local fish.  They offer a wonderful selection of fresh catches such as red snapper, salmon, shrimp, and much more.  The selection changes daily with the availability of the fish.  They only offer the  freshest fish, thus the name Fresh Fish Market!

When you order your fish, they fillet it for you right on the spot and also offer some really great recipe ideas. If you are unsure of the best cooking methodology just ask, they are pros and can give you plenty of ideas on how to cook your fresh Anna Maria Island seafood.

The Fresh Fish Market located in Holmes Beach often has several seafood recipe cards sitting out for ideas on what to have for dinner or lunch.  On our most recent visit the Ahi Tuna with Mango & Avocado recipe card caught my eye and will be our next seafood cooking adventure.

The Fresh Fish Market of Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island has more than just raw fish, they also offer a selection of fresh made soups such as New England Clam Chowder.   The Fresh Fish market also has a variety of fresh spices and organic foods provided by Front Door Organics.

If you are looking for a quick bite to eat they have a small spot to sit and offer fresh made to order salads that can have freshly prepared fish or shrimp added on top!  Wonderful selections of hot chocolate, vegetables, and fruit.

The Fresh Fish Market of Anna Maria Island is a must visit if cooking fresh seafood is on your list of things to do while on Vacation!

5604 Marina Dr.
Holmes Beach, Fl 34217
941-567-6130

Want more choices for fresh fish?  Two great options are both located in Cortez, Florida.  Just off Anna Maria Island in the Village of Cortez. Starfish Company is a great choice and just to the East of Starfish Company is the Cortez Kitchen.  Both sell raw seafood that you can grab and cook.

Anna Maria Island and COVID-19

BREAKING NEWS! ANNA MARIA ISLAND ISLAND IS NOW OPEN FOR SHORT TERM RENTALS! Visit our Island Real Estate Information Page for more information.

Our Island Real Estate office has reopened, taking extreme precautions to keep visitors, sales professionals and staff safe. Our office is open to the public Monday through Friday with staff in the office on Saturday answering any and all telephone calls.

Anna Maria Island restaurants are open to 50% capacity and hair-nail salons were opened May 11th. Vacation rentals continue to be closed to guests with under 30 night stays for the entire Island. We are seeing irresponsible management companies as well as vacation rental owners putting their guests at risk by allowing immediate arrivals less than 30 nights. Code enforcement IS actively pursuing guests checking in and ARE evicting guests. There are a great number of theories regarding when Vacation Rentals will be opened however one thing is certain, no one yet knows for sure. One additional challenge vacation rental owners are finding is their local management companies have no staff on hand and thus properties during this epidemic are not actively being managed. Of course Island Real Estate Vacations continues to have our full staff on hand to continue with monthly maintenance and any owner requests. Visit our newly formed property management information page if you are considering a change.

Surprisingly, Anna Maria Island Real Estate Sales continues to remain healthy. We have seen a few closing delays and cancellations due to COVID-19 but the lion share of contracts have closed. Real Estate professionals are beginning to hold open houses with lack luster results. What we are seeing is the serious shoppers are still viewing properties physically or reviewing a virtual walk through. New contracts on real estate property are occurring albeit at about a 60% pace. Look for our June/July newsletter which will provide statistics on the pace of real estate sales on the Island. March and April closings have remained steadfast and on pace for a normal 375+ real estate closing year.

For up to date COVID 19 information visit our Island Real Estate Information page. If you need anything give us a call. We are here and ready to help if you think we can. Stay safe!

Wind Mitigation Inspection: What is it & do you need one?

A Wind mitigation inspection (also called a windstorm mitigation inspection) is when a certified inspector looks over a property for specific weather withstanding features. These features can be anything from door/window coverings to the way your roof is attached to your home and how your roof is sealed to prevent water from entering. Though a wind mitigation inspection is not required to get homeowners insurance in Florida, it can result in substantial savings on your annual premium.

This inspection can affirm whether your home has features that drastically decrease the severity of property loss from hurricane wind. All the windstorm-withstanding features the inspector looks for may seem like minor details, but they make a world of difference when a windstorm or hurricane strikes. The appropriate wind mitigation features can be the difference between your home weathering the storm and a total rebuild.

Along our Anna Maria Island coast, savings can range from a few hundred to well over $1,000. Keep in mind that the average cost for a wind mitigation inspection is about $100. Though that may seem like an investment, the inspections are typically valid for five years.

After the wind inspection is complete, the inspector will offer suggestions that could improve the sustainability of your property. You can then make changes to your property or simply submit your wind mitigation report to your insurance agent. If you think you’ve had one done, you can look over your current policy and see if you received any sort of windstorm credits. If so, you can ask for a copy of the inspection from your current carrier.
You’ll likely receive the most savings if you take the inspector’s suggestions, which will also add to the value of your home and is never a bad thing! If you do decide to make structural changes to your home, make sure you work with a licensed engineer and contractor.
Keep in mind that the wind mitigation inspection has to be current. If it’s older than five years old, it’s time for a new one!

How to clean seashells: Anna Maria Island Insider Tips

seashells bradenton beach
Good day at the beach!

Day 3 at your Anna Maria Island rental and it is starting to resemble a seashore in its own right. Bags of moon snails, calico scallops, kittens paw, and banded tulips spill out onto the kitchen table as though they are trying to escape. You even managed to find a few of the elusive sand dollar and even one sea fan skeleton. There are at least two bags dedicated to the coquina shells because your daughter says “they look purply and I want to make necklaces for my friends”.

It is a beautiful day and you have the window open to enjoy the smell of the ocean breeze when something less pleasant catches a ride on the air. After a moment of investigation you realize that it is the bags of beach bounty that seem to be the source of the offending odor.

Have no fear, the pool water is here! I learned this on my first vacation to Anna Maria Island before we moved here. We had so many shells from Bradenton Beach that I think we paid twice the baggage fee on the way home!

That same bucket you used to make the epic sand art earlier in the day can come in handy once again. Start by brushing most of the sand out, then rinsing with water to not get sand in the pool. Fill half way with water, then simply add shells so that they are all completely immersed. Leave overnight and voila most of that ‘not quite the beach smell you like’ is gone! No pool because you went for a direct waterfront property? No worries. Some hydrogen peroxide and water from your local Publix at a 10:1 ratio in the same multipurpose bucket will also do the trick.

Fast forward to unpacking the luggage after the flight home. You now have your own personal collection of bubble shells, fighting conch, tritons trumpet, and yes, even lightning whelk. Because, as your son astutely pointed out, you didn’t have those ones yet.

As you sort through your treasures you find some perfect specimens. Alas, more often than not they have a bit of a green tinge and a crusty, leathery outer coating in places. That simply won’t do! You have big decorating plans for those shells. The good news is that there are simple ways to get those shells back to their former luster.

Conch
Crusty!

The eco friendly ways~

1~The miracle of Vinegar! Simple, easy and cheap. Poor a small amount of vinegar into a bowl or cup. Use a soft toothbrush saturated with the vinegar and gently scrub the shell. You may have to do this several times. Then wash with soap and water. Don’t soak in the vinegar though, it will cause a reaction between the acid in the vinegar and the calcium carbonate of the shells. The shells will actually dissolve. It is kind of fun to watch it happen to at least one though:-)

2~ Another cleaning wonder is hydrogen peroxide. Simply put the shells in a bowl and poor enough peroxide to sufficiently cover the shells and let soak for several hours or until a film covers the top. The peroxide has invasive properties making easy work of any bacterial cleanup. Rinse thoroughly and place to dry on a towel.

The not-so eco friendly ways~

1~ Soak your seashells in a 50/50 solution of bleach and water. The length of time depends on the type of seashells and the number of seashells being cleaned. Just be sure to remove them when the periostracum (that crusty, leathery covering that I mentioned earlier) is gone. I am not a huge fan of bleaching because the shell can absorb the smell. It can also lighten the color. If you try bleaching your shells, try not to leave them in the solution too long.

2~ Without question muriatic acid is the fastest and easiest way to clean your shells. It will almost magically strip the shell of any barnacles or algae and bring the color to back to life! Use only glass jars and plastic tongs due to the caustic reaction with muriatic acid and metals. Wear gloves and eye protection. In your first jar place 3/4 of a cup of water and 1/4 of muriatic acid. Fill the second jar with plain water. Take the plastic tongs and dip in the first jar for about 3-4 seconds then immediately place into the jar with water and place on paper towel or rags to dry. Be careful not to splash any of the liquid onto your skin. It can cause a nasty little burn. You can pick up muriatic acid at a local hardware store or pool supply company. Some states won’t allow you to flush hydrochloric acid unless you neutralize it first. Neutralize hydrochloric acid with baking soda. Wearing your protective garments and working in a ventilated area well away from children, pets, heat and metals, prepare a base mix. Mix 1 lb of baking soda with plenty of water. Slowly add the hydrochloric acid. The mixture will fizz. Add more baking soda until the fizzing stops. This means the hydrochloric acid is neutralized and can now be flushed down the sink with large quantities of water. I have only used this method once. It made me extremely nervous to work with such a strong acid.

There seem to be about a million and one ways to clean shells. My neighbor uses ants to remove any decaying material. I have heard that boiling works well. Some sites will tell you to bury them or freeze them. One of my friends puts her shells in the dishwasher. I have not tried any of those yet….. but you never know. If you know of another effective way please let me know by commenting below.

Now that you have a treasure trove of clean shells check our next blog at islandreal.com for suggestions on how to preserve them and some fabulous costal design tips using your new collection!