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!

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!

Your guide to shelling on Anna Maria Island beaches!

Shell on Anna Maria Island Beach

It is storming on the island today. The kind of storm where the rain seems to be falling horizontally and the palms sway with such exuberance that you think they may snap. That is great news for anyone who is interested in shelling on any of Anna Maria Island beaches.

During a storm the wind and wave action can wash up all sorts of treasures. From fossils and bits of coral to some of the more rare specimens. The longer the period of time between storms, the more will wash up. When the waters are calm the shells accumulate on the edges of the sandbars. A good ole tropical storm will break up even the most dense aggregate and send them toward shore. If you walk the beaches hours, even a day, after a good storm you are in for a treat. More than likely you will wander across little hills of shells scattered on the sand. Spend some time gently sifting through the collection. Some of the best finds are at the very bottom!

The tide plays a significant roll in the amount of shells to be found on any given beach as well. You will often find more shells 2-3 hours prior to low tide or an hour or so after. You can access a simple tide chart for Anna Maria Island here. If you want to get really technical, the shelling may be even better if you can go the days closest to the full moon. With the full moon comes the increased gravitational pull that can cause tidal extremes. With those extremes comes the shells that are normally still under water.

Don’t be afraid to do the shell shuffle! I have made some of my greatest finds that way. Stand in the water at about waist high and slowly, gently dig around with your toes in the sand. Proceed with caution, some may be sharp!

While enjoying the bounty the ocean has provided, make sure you do your part to protect it. Any garbage is detrimental to the delicate ecosystem of our oceans. Bring two bags, one for shells and one for litter. Sometimes the litter can be its own treasure. You can make a game of it, like a trash treasure hunt. If you want to get really creative make a scavenger hunt list for each member of the shelling group and the winner gets a triple scoop of ice cream from any of Anna Maria Islands fabulous ice cream shops!

You will find shells on any of Anna Maria Islands fabulous beaches. Most people you ask will have their favorite spot. My personal favorite is the path less traveled, Bean Point on the northern part of the island. If you opt to stay in one of the Anna Maria Island waterfront rentals your favorite spot just may be your ‘front yard’. Happy Shelling!

Wicked Cantina – Tacos, Seafood, Burgers, and More in Bradenton Beach!

Wicked Cantina in Bradenton Beach is a great restaurant for everyone. Because they serve, well, everything! They serve breakfast, tacos, burgers, and seafood. And don’t forget about the margaritas!

Open everyday of the week from 7:30 AM to 10PM, stop by and enjoy a meal with a view of the Gulf on their patio! The patio is also where you can expect to find live music most evenings.
And you HAVE to come for Happy Hour, which is from 12PM – 5PM everyday, and all day Sundays! You can’t beat that!

For breakfast, Wicked Cantina serves classis dishes like pancakes and omelettes, but they also have a great Tex Mex breakfast options as well. There’s the Breakfast Taco Plate, Huevos Rancheros, and the Breakfast Chimi.

The lunch/dinner menu features a wide variety of different cuisine. There’s Enchiladas, Tacos, Quesadillas, Burgers, Salads, and more! Like, a lot more. Don’t forget to pair your meal with one of their popular margaritas, which are made with no mixers or fillers.

P.S. If you take your Wicked Cantina receipt to the Green Turtle, a gift shop across the parking lot, they will give you a necklace like the one pictured below.

Bridge Street Market in Bradenton Beach

If you have visited our wonderful little island of Anna Maria, then you have probably been to Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. If you haven’t, then you’re missing out on a lot!
Especially if you are on the Island anytime between November and April. Because that is when the Bridge Street Market takes place!

 

 

Bridge Street Market is held from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm every Sunday in November, through April. The market is located at 107 Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. Visit your favorite vendors and enjoy fantastic food, beautiful art and jewelry, great local musicians, fresh produce, and much more!

Address: 107 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach, Florida 34217
Contact Number: (215) 906-0668

 

Why Morning Walks are the Best on Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island – As someone who is typically not a morning person, I can say I don’t go for morning walks all that often. However, if I was waking up by the beach every morning I’d be up by the crack of dawn! Why you might ask? Here’s five reasons why morning walks on the beach are the best.

5 reasons morning walks are the best

1. Sunrise

If you’ve ever seen a Florida sunrise, you know how beautiful they are. But can you imagine what it looks like by the beach? While Anna Maria is known for it’s sunsets, it’s sunrises are equally as beautiful. A few good places to watch the sunrise would be Bean Point, the boat ramp at Coquina Beach, or the pier at Bridge Street.

sunrise on morning walk
Enjoy a beautiful sunrise on Anna Maria!

2. Look for shells

One of the best features of Anna Maria Island are the gorgeous seashells that can be found on the shoreline. While you can find shells at all times of the day, the morning is when you can find the newest and prettiest shells. This is because they haven’t had the chance to be stepped on or picked up by other people. You might even be able to find full shells from hermit crabs!

shells on your morning walk
Find shells on your morning walk!

3. Watch Coquinas burrow

Even though I have been a Floridian all my life, I still love watching coquinas burrow into the sand. These cool little creatures look just like any other shell, except they’re alive! Because there’s less people around in the morning, it’s easier to spot them digging through the sand, just look by the shoreline! However, we do ask for you to be gentle with them and return them to the ocean as they do need water to survive!

coquinas on your morning walk
Find Coquinas!

4. Watch the scampering birds

If you’ve seen Finding Dory, you know that little short film called ‘Piper’. Well, those birds are actually real and we have them right at our beaches! These little birds called sandpipers are known for scampering around and finding clams on the shore to eat. You can especially see them in the morning when they have more room to run around! Here’s a snippet of the short film if you didn’t get the chance to see it:

5. Help clean the beaches

As a good civilian, it is everyone’s duty to help keep our beaches clean so we can continue enjoying them. By waking up early, not only do you have the chance to do everything listed above, but you can help out our environment at the same time. A great way to do this would be to bring a bag with you on your walk so you can pick up litter. Even just cleaning up behind yourself helps a lot more than you may think!

pick up litter on morning walks
Help out our beaches by picking up litter on your walk!

Coquina Bike Path ~ Bradenton Beach – Anna Maria Island’s Best on The Beach

Anna Maria Island is a great place to take a family walk, bike ride, or just enjoy the breath taking views of the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t let the name fool you, the Coquina Bike path is not for just bikes but includes patrons strolling down the Gulf Waters.  The Coquina bike path is paved and stretches between Coquina beach and Cortez Beach.  Located in Bradenton Beach just south of Bridge Street, you will find Cortez Beach.

This beach offers free parking and lots of it!  As you move further south into Coquina Beach, you will find public restrooms, picnic tables, beach showers, and lifeguards on duty.  Coquina beach also has a café that serves burgers and hot dogs right on the beach.

One of my favorite things to do is take a nice, easy bike ride through Coquina Beach. I start at the south end of the island under the Long Boat Key Bridge and head north towards Cortez Beach along the paved path. Take the time to enjoy island wildlife as you are greeted by squirrels, native birds like the Blue Heron, and if you are lucky, you may see dolphins or manatees enjoying their Florida lifestyle.

If you can’t bring your own bicycle, there are lots of places to rent them on Anna Maria Island.   Most folks love Bradenton Beach because there are plenty of accommodation choices as well as dining and shopping within a stroll away.

Anna Maria Island FALL weather

Grab your beach chairs, pack up a cooler and spend the day at the beach. It is eighty six degrees outside, it’s Anna Maria Island Fall weather and the average water temperature this time of year is eighty five, and the sugar sand beaches on Anna Maria Island have never been more beautiful. Pristine beaches as far as my eyes can see, and everyone is enjoying their favorite outdoor activities.

Continue reading Anna Maria Island FALL weather

Eat Anna Maria Island Oysters While Vacationing

Anna Maria- When vacationing on the coast eating fresh seafood is a must, and Anna Maria Island Oysters are no exception. With countless restaurants on the island, finding some delicious oysters to eat is easier than ever!

Anna Maria Island Oysters

Many people believe humans have eaten oysters since the Roman times from evidence of oyster farms in France and the United Kingdom. Crazy right?

Oysters can be found in all of the world’s oceans. They are bivalve mollusks that have rough irregular shells. While most oysters are edible, there is a difference between food oysters and pearl oysters. Even though it is possible, most food oysters don’t produce pearls. Both are also in two different families of bivalves.

Surprisingly enough, oysters breathe much like fish, using both gills and mantle. They can be both male or female, and can change genders one or more times throughout their life.

Health Benefits

Oysters are one of the most nutritionally balanced foods because they have proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids in them. Just eating four or five medium sized oysters supply the recommended daily source of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus!

Where to celebrate!

With so many restaurants on the island, there’s plenty of options for eating Anna Maria Island Oysters! Here’s a few to think of going to:

AMOB on the Pier– Located in Bradenton Beach, enjoy delicious oyster platters such as Grandma Georgie’s Chipotle Oysters, Rockefeller or an oyster sampler.

Anna Maria Island Oysters
Eat at AMOB on the Pier!

 Island Grill– Serving baked oysters with toppings such as cheese, bacon, and jalapenos, there’s no way to go wrong here! You can find Island Gourmet on Holmes Beach.

Anna Maria Island Oysters
Enjoy yummy oysters at Island Gourmet!

Island Fresh Market– Specializing in locally caught and grown food, the Fresh Market serves oysters caught right around the island! You can order them cooked or raw. You can find them on Holmes Beach!

Be sure to enjoy Anna Maria Island Oysters on your next visit!

Respect our feathered friends while relaxing at the beach

Anna Maria Island – Anna Maria Island birds and wildlife are very important to locals, and the success of our environment. Bird nesting season is here and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC for short, is asking beachgoers to watch out for and avoid disturbing nesting shore birds. With nests built out of sand, respecting local wildlife is especially important during high traffic times like Spring Break. A lot of these birds face conservation challenges and taking into consideration a few do’s and don’t can go a long way towards helping preserve our local ecosystem.

Anna Maria Island birds and wildlife

Rules for beachgoer’s

Keep your distance, whether on the beach or paddling watercraft along the shore. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly and dive-bombing are giving signals for you to back off.

Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. They use up energy they need for nesting, and eggs and chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat or predators. Teach children not to chase shorebirds and kindly ask fellow beach-goes to do the same.

Respect posted areas. Avoid posted nesting sites and use designated walkways when possible.

Do not take pets to the beach.

Keep the beach clean and do not fee wildlife. Food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows, which can prey on shorebird chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.

Rules for wildlife photographers

Remain beyond the posted area, with no part of you or your camera equipment extending beyond the string or signs.

Restrict photography to no more than 10 minutes. Too much time photographing near the nest may stress birds.

Don’t “push” birds around the beach. Stay far enough away so the birds do not change their behavior in response to your presence. They need to feed and rest without disturbance.

If you see someone disturbing nesting birds report their behavior to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC(3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone or by texting Tip@#MyFWC.com.