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September 2004

Bungalow Beach Resort
2000 Gulf Drive
Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island, FL 34217
800-779-3601

Bungalow Beach Resort Home Page

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at the Bungalow Beach Resort on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Our Pictures


Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips



Accommodations

Bungalow Beach is a rare gem – unspoiled and laidback, yet modern and up-to-date. It is a collection of 14 single-story bungalows and a beach house (across the street) with its own pool. The complex is well-maintained, with lots of tropical foliage and sand-strewn paths, and beach chairs that invite relaxation.

We stayed in #104 (a gulf-front king studio). We found the pictures on the website to be extremely accurate representations of the accommodations. Our unit had white washed flooring and white wooden walls. There was a very comfortable king-size bed with fine linens on it. The kitchenette contained an under-the-counter refrigerator, a microwave, sink, toaster, and coffee maker. There were plates, glasses, silverware, and other odds and ends that came in handy. The bathroom contained a single Jacuzzi tub/shower, toilet, and sink with a long counter that gave us plenty of space for our toiletries. It also had a hair dryer. The furnishings were in white wicker. There was a cable TV near the bed, and an armoire to hold a large suitcase and clothing. Beyond the bed was a sitting area with a love seat and table and two chairs. The wall was essentially a large sliding glass door that led to a deck overlooking the beach. There were two chairs and a table on the deck. Steps from the deck led to the beach. The overall feel of our unit was casual and beachy. There were plenty of windows to let in light (even in the bathroom) that all had blinds for privacy (and to keep out the sun). There was a wall-unit air conditioner by the bed that kept things reasonably cool and ceilings fans over the kitchen and sitting area. There was a cathedral ceiling on the end where the kitchen and bathroom was, so the walls of the bathroom did not go all the way up, but simply acted as partitions (so you’d want to make sure you are traveling with someone you’re fairly comfortable with!). The reason for this was simple – if the walls had gone all the way up to the ceiling, it would have been difficult to cool off the bathroom, and it gave the bathroom an airier feeling. It was perfect for us for the several nights we were there.

Bungalow Beach offers several different sizes of accommodations to meet varying needs.

Resort Amenities

Bungalow Beach has a very cute pool area. It is a small pool – 10’ x 20’. It is obviously a custom-designed pool, as there are some seating areas along one side and steps in two corners. The pool is 4’ deep throughout and the temperature water temperature was warm enough yet also refreshing. There was a convenient bathroom by the pool and an ice machine for guests. The pool area was surrounded by palm trees and plantings. There are a myriad of plantings along the sand walks throughout the property, which is clearly well cared for. Outdoor barbeques are available. Extra towels and pool towels can be obtained from the front desk.

Resort Food

Bungalow Beach does not have food service.

Resort Bar/Lounge

There is no bar at Bungalow Beach (we brought our own beverages).

Resort People/Service

This is the sort of place where they leave you alone so you can relax. They don’t clean the rooms every day, and frankly, they don’t need to. It’s nice because you don’t have to worry about walking in while the cleaning person is there. You can put your trash out and they will take it. They provide each room with a large basket for towels and if you want any replaced, you simply put them in the basket and set it outside your room, and they will replace them for you. The people at the front desk were helpful and gave us whatever we needed. There were several women who worked there every day, cleaning, sprucing things up, and maintaining the grounds. They also took care of the cats. There were a few adult cats (although they were on the small side) and several kittens. All were gray tabbies and were well-behaved, not begging guests for anything. The kittens were downright adorable and one let us pick him up. The women would feed them and care for them as they were going about their work. They were also nice and friendly to us as well and made us feel welcome.

Area/Attractions

Anna Maria Island is a laid-back barrier island about in the middle of Florida on the Gulf Coast. The island is mainly comprised of three towns: Anna Maria to the north, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach to the south. It is very quiet and the main attraction is the beautiful beaches. Many people also go there for the fishing. The island works very hard at preserving the existing quality of life and does not permit buildings over three stories in height. You won’t see flashing neon signs. The loudest sounds you will hear are pelicans, seagulls, someone strumming a guitar at an outdoor restaurant, or occasional thunder over the Gulf of Mexico. We were fortunate to see dolphins swimming close to shore as we sat on the porch of our unit one morning. On nice evenings, go somewhere you can watch the sunset over the water.

Dining

Beach Bistro - 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach 941-778-6444
Beach Bistro Home Page
We saw an ad for Beach Bistro in a local paper and when we saw it had the highest Zagat rating in Florida, we decided to give it a whirl. The restaurant overlooks the beach and is perfect for watching sunsets through its wall of glass. The restaurant is small but is decorated in such a way as to minimize that fact. The tables are set in white linen and the walls alternate between holding bottles of wine and colorful paintings. There appeared to be silk over portions of the ceiling, much like a parachute type covering. It is romantic and the service was excellent. Reservations are highly recommended. Of course, we say that now, but we were brazen enough to go in there without one. It was early on a Thursday evening and – with the looming threat of a hurricane due any day – the island had fewer people than normal. When the host asked our name, we admitted we had no reservation and he smiled and showed us a decent table anyway.

We enjoyed a Cakebread California Chardonnay. As a first course, we split a cheese plate that contained sampler sizes of several different kinds of interesting cheese, accompanied by flatbread, fruit, and candied walnuts. We were served complimentary “shots” of the tomato bisque with blue cheese on top. Keith had a Caesar salad with Maytag blue cheese, and Lori had the Perfect Blue Crab Martini. As the menu describes it, the martini is lump crab lightly seasoned, tossed with champagne vinaigrette, with roasted red pepper coulis and Key Lime-chive puree (hungry yet?). As an entrée, Keith ordered what was actually one of the special appetizers that evening and claimed it was delicious. It was pieces of beef tenderloin with a savory ginger sauce over mashed potatoes and cheese served in a bowl. Lori had the “kicker” grilled shrimp, a slightly spicy sauce along with Grand Marnier and ginger-citrus reduction. Even the bread and olive oil that accompanied the meal were fabulous. We had no room for dessert and settled on Sambuca (Lori) and grappa (Keith). If you are a foodie, this place is a must!

Sandbar Restaurant – 100 Spring Avenue, Anna Maria Island, FL 941-778-0444
Sandbar Restaurant Home Page
The Sandbar has a nice open-air deck area for dining. It was a nice (although somewhat warm) evening, so we sat outside. To our delight, a couple was getting married on the beach barefoot (they were holding the reception under a tent at the Sandbar’s special events facility nextdoor) and as we sipped large, tasty margaritas, we watched the ceremony, reminiscing about our own wedding on the beach at Sunset 5 ½ years earlier on Lido Key (about an hour south).

Keith has the spinach and artichoke dip, which is a creamy blend of spinach, artichokes, and cheese, along with tomatoes and scallions, served in a bread bowl. Lori had peel-and-eat shrimp. We went with a casual dinner – Keith had a buffalo burger and Lori had the steak burger. Both were excellent, but obviously enhanced by the setting.

Chuck Caudill, a frequent entertainer at the Sandbar and its sister restaurant the Beachhouse (see below), sang and played guitar. We had purchased his CD of originals (Time to Play) when we visited Anna Maria in 2003. The Sandbar is a great, relaxing place to have a meal.

Beachhouse Restaurant – 200 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, FL 941-779-2222
Beachhouse Restaurant Home Page
The Beachhouse is admittedly a favorite of ours. We visited several times in 2003 and saw some great sunsets. We actually went to the Beachhouse for a bite to eat before checking in to Bungalow Beach. It was a hot mid-afternoon, so we ate in the air-conditioned dining room overlooking the beach. Lori had the spinach and artichoke dip (see Sandbar, above) and Keith had a club sandwich. We also downed a couple of much-enjoyed Coronas with our late lunch.

We returned to the Beachhouse a couple days later for dinner. A brief storm had moved through and although there were still ominous clouds, we opted to dine outdoors on the expansive deck (our server told us they’d move us under cover if it began to rain). We had a prime table in front of the small stage where (guess who!) Chuck Caudill was once again playing. He was shoveling off sand from his perch (remnants of Hurricane Frances, the back end of which hit the island a few days earlier). We had some drinks and Lori enjoyed some more peel-and-eat shrimp, while Keith had a dinner-size sunset chicken salad. Lori followed up her appetizer with crab quesadillas (a special that evening). Since the cold front had blown through, the temperature had gone down several degrees and there was a nice breeze, so as the sun went down, we split a bottle of champagne and a very large brownie with ice cream. Chuck played several sets and people got up to dance.

Gulf Drive Café – 900 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, FL 941-778-1919
We had breakfast one morning at the Gulf Drive Café. They have good, fresh food at decent prices. There is an area on the beach that overlooks the water, but expect to wait for seating there. It was a hot day, so we were happy to eat indoors. This place is sort of an island institution and has been there for some time.

The Sun House Restaurant and Bar - 111 Gulf Drive South, Bradenton Beach, FL 941-782-1122
Sun House Home Page
We went to the Sun House late on a Sunday afternoon to catch some football at the bar. This is a casual yet upscale restaurant that bills itself as serving Floribbean cuisine. The bartender was very friendly. Lori had two helpings of peel and eat shrimp and the bartender confided that he preferred lots of Old Bay seasoning (he was from Maryland) and when Lori requested more, he provided a small bowl of the seasoning for her to spice up her shrimp. Keith had the Sun House’s version of salsa and chips, which consisted of boniata, plantain, malanga, and yucca chips served with mango papaya, avocado, and pico de gallo. We each tried some Key West lager, which was tasty. This place is located directly across the street from the beach (at the circle) and on the top (3rd) floor of an upscale hotel, accessible by a small elevator they call the Sunshine Express. We’ve only had appetizers there so far, but the menu looks adventurous, and one of these days we’ll go for dinner. The décor is very plantation-like.

Nightlife

There are bars where local bands play. We mostly avoided those because the establishments that don’t serve food allow patrons to smoke. Florida recently went non-smoking so we thoroughly enjoyed being in bars where we didn’t end up smelling smoky afterwards. As for our nightlife, we were content with watching the sunset over the water and a late night lightning display over the Gulf of Mexico.

Weather

We were on Anna Maria Island the second week of September and it was definitely hot – usually in the low 90s during the day with a heat index of nearly 100 degrees F. We spent our afternoons submerged in the water to stay cool. September is also hurricane season in Florida, and after 4 hurricanes hit the state within about 6 weeks, we realized how lucky we were to miss the storms. While it is a humid time of year and brief storms may occur, there is a lot of sunshine as well. Although it was hot, the weather was fairly beautiful while we were there.

Tips/Suggestions

The website of Anna Maria Island has many useful links. Take sunscreen and use it. We generally sprayed our legs with bug spray before going out in the evening (if we planned to sit outside). We took jackets but did not end up needing them in September. This island is a laid-back place and the locals are fighting hard to see that it remains that way, by limiting development. Be sure to experience as much of the local flavor and culture as you can while you’re there and pick up after yourself. You may be rewarded – as we were – with a show put in by frolicking dolphins in the surf as we sat on our deck! We can’t wait to return.