Mandatory Electronic System Travel Authorization for foreign travelers

In 2008 Congress enacted legislation to expand the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The new law required that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) develop an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to gather biographic information from nationals of the soon-to-be 34 VWP countries traveling to the U.S. in advance of their visit.

ESTA is mandatory for all VWP travelers beginning January 12, 2009. Information required through ESTA mirrors the data travelers already submit through the I-94W paper form currently filled out upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry; however, it simplifies the process by allowing visitors to complete the form online prior to arrival.

Question and Answers about the program

Crocodiles and Alligators, friend or foe

Anna Maria Island – Florida has an amazingly complex eco system home to everything from the Florida Black Bear to the majestic manatee, but a little known fact is that Florida is one of the only geographies that can support both alligators and crocodiles. So do these scaly reptiles pose a threat to the average vacationer?

Well let’s look at the facts; alligators are not naturally aggressive creatures. There were only 10 fatal alligator attacks in the US between 1970 and 2000 (compared to the 25 fatal attacks by house hold dogs just between 1970 and 1980). This works out to be about .3 per year and several of these reports were of people who started out with harassing or feeding alligators in their natural habitat. Crocodiles however claimed over 50 lives between 1990 and 1994. Having said that, NONE of these attacks occurred in the US furthermore these attacks were all credited to the freshwater crocs (like the one in the picture to the left) found in southern Africa and Australia, not the much more docile saltwater crocodiles found here in Florida.

In addition to this the American Alligator is known as a “Keystone Species” or one whose presence can affect the entire ecosystem. For example before the endangered species act alligators were hunted because local fishermen thought this would improve the numbers of game fish in the water. The outcome was an overpopulation of a type of fish called gar, and what is the meal of choice for gar? You guessed it, game fish and this caused a steep decline in their numbers. So at the end of the day the odds of an alligator invasion of your vacation rental is highly unlikely, if you leave them alone they’ll probably do the same. But if you find yourself yearning for an up close encounter they can be found at the Myakka State Park and viewed up close and personal from airboat tours.

Outdoor Dining Anna Maria Island – Dine and Drink El Fresco!

Outdoor Dining on Anna Maria Island is the quintessential way to hang out in beautiful tropical climate! There’s nothing better than when going out to grab a bite to eat or drinks, having the warm island breeze surrounding you. Some of the wonderful restaurants I’ve listed below have beautiful water views of either the crystal clear Gulf or Bay, or an open-air setting directly across the street from the beach.

The fresh air of AMI always makes your food taste that much better and your drinks that much tastier, bringing you relaxing vibes that will be sure to lift your spirit. I have suggested different places from smaller and more quant spots, to casual any-time spots, to romantic night spots.

Outdoor Dining Anna Maria Island

Sandbar – 100 Spring Ave, Anna Maria

Direct Gulf front

sandbar restaurant in anna maria

The Waterfront – 111 South Bay Blvd, Anna Maria
Bay views

Anna Maria Pier – 100 South Bay Blvd, Anna Maria
Out in the middle of the Tampa Bay

Anna Maria City pier

Bridgetender – 135 Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach
Direct bay front

Bridgetender inn Bradenton Beach

Island Time Bar & Grill – 111 Gulf Drive South, Bradenton Beach
Open-air setting, across the street from the Gulf

The Beachhouse – 200 Gulf Drive North, Bradenton Beach
Direct Gulf front

Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe – 4000 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach
Direct Gulf front

Rod and Reel pier in Anna Maria City is good eat’s

Rod and Reel Pier

The Rod and Reel Pier is an institution in Anna Maria City.   Ask a local on Anna Maria Island where to eat and just about everyone has Rod & Reel Pier restaurant in their top three.  The Rod & Reel Restaurant is located in Anna Maria City and is the most Northern eatery on Anna Maria Island.  The restaurant sits out on the end of a pier in Anna Maria City so it makes for perfect scenery.  I have personally seen fish, dolphins and manatee off the pier while waiting to get into the restaurant.  The pier also doubles as a great fishing spot for visitors and locals alike.  Just about every hour the restaurant is open you will see folks fishing from the pier.

Rod and Reel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Their breakfast is very good as well as their lunches and oh yah, their dinners too!  Every meal at the Rod and Reel is great!  The restaurant has an old Florida diner charm.  It seats about 20 inside and seats about 15 outside.  The 20 seats inside are made up of tables for 4-5, tables for 2 and one table that can seat about 6-8.  There are about 4 tables that sit along the Bay so you can glance out at the water while you enjoy your clam strips, fish & chips, grouper Reuben sandwich or grouper any way you like it.  The 15 seats outside face towards the West so you can get an early glimpse of our Anna Maria Island Sunsets as well as the pier below.  There are a flight of steps up to the restaurant so if you have someone in your party that cannot do steps it is best to skip this restaurant.

One insider secret is the small bar under the restaurant.  It is back behind the stairs up to the restaurant and is considered on the ground level.  They will serve food at the bar although it can get tight on popular nights.  The seating is a tight 10-12 but the beer is cold and cheap.  Last time a “friend” had a beer there it was $3 for a draft.  (Yes, I have updated this in 2019 and it is still $3 for a domestic draft)  I recall the first time my “friend” got a beer down in the bar area.  The bar tender said “Three dollars please,”  My friend said “What?”  The bartender quickly said, “I know, I know, we just raised our draft beer prices from $2 but we had too.”  Of course we were surprised with how reasonably priced the draft beer was.  If you are looking for “insider” secrets then swing by the bar and pull up a seat.  There are plenty of locals that have a drink or two at the bar.

Now for the meals.  The lunch and dinner menu’s are one in the same.  The restaurant has plenty of sandwiches to choose from, grouper any way you like it, a Reuben grouper which is just like a Reuben but with Grouper as the meat and about four other choices of sandwiches.  My son loves the clam strips or the fish & chips.  If you are looking for a meal on the bigger side then the Mexican grouper is your ticket.  Of course they serve plenty of fish any way you like it.  The most recent night I visited they had several specials, Mahi Mahi, Sword Fish, and a few others.  They do serve bottled beer up in the restaurant as well as wine.  Their coleslaw is great as well as their desserts.  If you still have room try their Key Lime Pie.  You won’t be sorry!

Another great feature of the Rod and Reel pier other than the awesome food?  If you get window seats you can take in the Tampa Bay, maybe see some dolphins and take in the gorgeous Sunshine

Rod & Reel Pier – Anna Maria, FL
Address:
875 N. Shore Drive
Anna Maria, FL 34216

Cuisine: Gulf Coast Seafood

Price Range: $-$$
Takes Reservations: No

SEE VIDEO BELOW –

Updated: March 2018

Minnie’s breakfast and lunch restaurant in Holmes Beach

Minnie’s is a great breakfast and lunch restaurant.  The diner like restaurant plays oldies music that the waitresses sometimes sing to.  It is seat yourself so if you see a table free sit-on-down.  There is a very large table close to the cashier which is used mostly for single diners.  Minnie’s is very local as you often see lots of folks stopping and catching up with each other.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s they serve breakfast all day, and normal days up until noon.  They have some great lunch and breakfast specials.  Be sure to bring your CASH as they do not accept credit cards.  I have had lunch and breakfast there several times and Minnie’s of Holmes Beach has always satisfied my hunger and the prices are very reasonable.  For breakfast they have Pancakes, eggs, breakfast sandwiches, as well as a few breakfast specials.

For lunch they have sandwiches as well as bigger meals with soup or salad.  The atmosphere is fun and in a central location in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island.  Stop in and tell them Island Real Estate sent ya!

Sorry no outside seating except for a few seats for a quick smoke.  As mentioned cash only so keep your credit cards at home.  Breakfast and lunch only.

Minnie’s restaurant
5360 Gulf Drive
Holmes Beach, FL, Anna Maria Island
34217
(941) 778-4140

Need a few more choices for breakfast on Anna Maria Island?  We provide a great list of potential perfect fits for breakfast on Anna Maria Island.

Sea World is a great Orlando day trip from Anna Maria Island

SeaWorld is the perfect Anna Maria Orlando day trip for visitors.  In addition, United Kingdom visitors typically hit Orlando for about 3-5 days then come to Anna Maria Island for a week long REAL vacation.

Sea World is just a short drive from Anna Maria Island making it a great Orlando day trip destination.  If you can get the family up and ready to leave by 8:00 AM you should reach Sea World

by 9:30 AM and walking through the front gates of Sea World, Orlando by 10 AM.  We like to leave a little earlier and stop at the Denny’s just across the street from Sea World for a strong breakfast to start our day.  It starts us off on the right foot after the quick 1.5-hour ride to Orlando and seems to help the kids calm down since they can see the entryway to Sea World just across the street.  Most parking in Orlando is NOT free and Sea World charges to park.

Sea World has a ton of stuff to do for all ages.  They have an amusement park outfitted with a roller coaster that any adult would love.  Tea Cups for those of you that have strong stomachs, swing rides, twirling rides, you name it.  Of course, Sea World is not as large as a stand-alone amusement park but it has plenty to get you past your roller coaster “fix.”   Sea World also has the classic water log ride and you can see a portion of the ride in the video shown below.

SeaWorld also has a large play area for children.  Huge climbing nets will keep your children playing for hours and nearby is a water play area if they get bored of nets or other play areas.

Of course, we cannot forget the shows.  The biggest show of all, “Shamu” will not disappoint.  Plenty of jumps, dives, and splashes.  Another great show is a dolphin show where more than 5 dolphins jump in unison all throughout the water.  A high diving show lets your children watch as parrots buzz by just over your heads as well divers dressed in costumes dive into the water from about 30-40 feet above.   One last show which is great for kids.  The Sea Otter show is filled with blunders, clean jokes, and a few animals that perform tricks that even the toughest critic will be impressed with.

There are lots of sea life to view at Sea World.  There is a great penguin exhibit where you see a great variety of penguins.  There is sea life tunnel where sharks and other sea life swim throughout the tunnel overhead.  The tunnel provides plenty of Oohs and aahs.  After one of the shows, there is a neat spot where the floor below is made of glass and right above is a glass ceiling both outfitted with plenty of sea life.  Children love to run around and chase the fish in the floor.

Be sure to bring your sunscreen, some cash, and a little patience and Sea World will offer a lifetime of family memories.  For more great theme park info, be sure to visit our theme park/water park page!

SeaWorld Orlando
7007 SeaWorld Drive,
Orlando, FL, 32821
888 800-5447

The Ringling -The John and Mable Ringling Museum

The Ringling museum is a great day trip from Anna Maria Island into Sarasota. The museum is located right off Sarasota Bay just a short 30 minutes drive away. This is truly an amazing museum, and a must visit for art lovers!

John and Mable Ringling built their home and museum in 1927 and left their beautiful grounds and buildings to the State of Florida. The museum opened to the public in October of 1931. The history behind this gorgeous waterfront property is incredible, to read more please go to www.ringling.org.

The museum includes the Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, Rose Garden, Ringling Courtyard, and the Ca d’Zan Mansion.

Exhibits at The Ringling

You will fall in love with the historically significant art found here. Works from Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens fill an entire room. These pieces are huge and astonishing. Additionally many other famous names decorate the walls.

The Circus Museum is fun for everyone! Yes, this is the John Ringling of Ringling Circus. You will find interesting circus history, and fun things to see.

Ca d’Zan is the summer home of John and Mable. It’s like visiting a palace on Sarasota Bay. This mansion is one of a kind. You’ll never see anything like this luxurious home. The Ringlings held amazing balls and also loved entertaining here.

One of the galleries at the museum is for rotating exhibits. This is an excellent place to catch traveling shows.

The museum offers complimentary tours with admission of the Ringling Museum and the Circus Museum.

Saturdays at the Ringling Museum are family fun days with story time, exploration stations, family friendly exhibition tours and more all with paid admission.

Also located on the grounds, Banyan Café and the Treviso Restaurant are great for dining.

 Located at the end of University Parkway on beautiful Sarasota Bay.

For more things to do in Sarasota, visit our top ten list.

Anna Maria Island and Bradenton, Florida area golf courses

Visiting Anna Maria Island provides for a great vacation.  We do see a few golf vacations however the Anna Maria Island area is still unfound territory in regards to golfing holidays.  Island Real Estate and vacation rentals can assist your group in finding the perfect large home holiday villa or several vacation rentals in the same village or condominium complex.

Buffalo Creek Golf Course
Open to the Public
8100 Erie Road
Palmetto, Florida, 34221
(941) 776-2611

IMG Academies Golf and Country Club
Private golf course
4350 El Conquistador Parkway
Bradenton, FL, 34221
(941) 758-1466

Imperial Lakewoods Golf Course
Semi-Private Golf
9680 Buffalo Road
Palmetto, Fl, 34221
(941) 747-9432

The links at Greenfield Plantation
Open to the Public
10325 Greenfield Plantation Blvd
Bradenton, Fl, 34202
(941) 747-9432

Manatee County Golf Course
Open to the Public
6415 53rd Avenue West
Bradenton, FL, 34210
(941) 792-3288

Pinebrook/Ironwood Golf Club
Executive Golf Course
4260 Ironwood Circle
Bradenton, Fl, 34209
(941) 792-3288

The River Club
Semi-Private Golf Course
6600 River Club Blvd
Bradenton, Fl, 34202
(941) 751-4211

River Run Golf Links
Open to the Public
1801 27th Street
East Bradenton, Fl, 34208
(941) 708-6331

River Strand Golf Club
Semi-Private Golf Course
7155 Grand Estuary Trail
Bradenton, Fl, 34212
(941) 708-3617

Stoneybrook at Heritage Harbour
Open to the Public
7900 Stone Harbour Loop
Bradenton, Fl, 34202
(941) 746-2696

Terra Ceia Bay Country Club
Executive Golf Course
2802 Terra Ceia Bay Blvd
Palmetto, Fl, 34221
(941) 729-7663

University Park Country Club
Semi-Private Golf Course
7671 The Park Blvd
University Park, Fl, 34201
(941) 359-9999

Waterlefe Golf and River Club
Semi-Private Golf Course
1022 Fish Hook Cove
Bradenton, FL, 34202
(941) 744-9771

Hurricane Hank’s On Anna Maria Island

Holmes Beach – Looking for some good pub grub?  Maybe your favorite team is playing, and you wanted to catch the game. I know a place in Holmes Beach where you can find both! While on Anna Maria Island make sure one of your stops is Hurricane Hank’s Bar & Grill.  You definitely have to try the BBQ burger or the black-bean quesadilla. Those are two favorites of the agents in my office. Also on the lighter side they have some mouth watering salads. The Grilled Sesame Chicken Salad or just a Classic Caesar being the top picks. They are also family friendly with great kid’s baskets of chicken fingers, fried shrimp or fish all served with french fries.

Hurricane Hank’s offers a full service bar, and offers a package store directly next to the restaurant where you can purchase beer, wine, liquor and island souvenirs.

The atmosphere is island style with bright colors and beach memorabilia. The dress code is “come as you are” whether that be in a business suit or bathing suit. This may turn into one of your favorite island hot spots.

Hurricane Hank’s
5346 Gulf Dr.
Holmes Beach, Fl. 34217
941-778-5788

Garbage Schedule Changes for Holmes Beach, Florida residents

Garbage days changing in Holmes Beach, FloridaAttention owners in Holmes Beach, Florida, the garbage pick up days have changed to Tuesday and Friday’s.  Unfortunately, recycling continues to be on Monday’s and organic waste pickup remains on Wednesday’s.  Looks like the only day Holmes Beach residents on Anna Maria Island leave their trash alone will be Thursday’s.

Due to the Manatee avenue drawbridge closing for repairs your trash, recycling, and organic waste pickup should be curbside by 6 AM.  Once the bridge is open and back up running the normal pick up time of 7:30 AM should resume.