By Fred Mays ~
Florida is a big, populous state with lots of tourists. Consequently, finding a little peace and quiet on the beach gets harder all the time. But here are places where you can get away from the crowds and enjoy some sand-dune solitude.
The attractions on Cabbage Key have a quiet, laid back atmosphere, with a great bar and a fine dining restaurant at the Cabbage Key Inn. The bar’s “wallpaper” is made up of hundreds of dollar bills stuck up by customers. There are eight cottages and six rooms in the inn for overnight stays — a perfect setting for a romantic getaway weekend. Prices range from $100-$145. If the cottages sell out, there is the co-owned Tarpon Lodge across the Intracoastal Waterway on Pine Island. There’s not much sandy beach, but the Key makes an excellent spot for bird watching and fishing. There is a short hiking/nature trail around the island.
$$$ Moderate to Expensive
While not precisely secluded, Navarre Beach is out of the way on the Florida panhandle and relatively uncrowded. Navarre is on the eastern edge of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, about an hour east of Pensacola. The Florida panhandle has some of the best sand found anywhere. The beach is across a short causeway from town. Public parking and beach access are both right at the foot of the causeway. You can walk to access the Navarre pier for fishing or to enjoy the sunset. There are several hotels/resorts on the island, and rates are pretty reasonable, starting around $115.
$$ Affordable to Moderate
Anna Maria Island
Located on the south side of Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Island is accessible via causeways in Bradenton and Cortez. There are three communities on the island. I recommend the sleepy Anna Maria village, located at the island’s far north end and a six-mile drive from the causeway. The town of Anna Maria has fine dining at the Sign of the Mermaid, and casual beachside dining at the popular Sandbar restaurant. There is also the very affordable fresh seafood at Rod and Reel Pier. In the village, there are small “Mom and Pop” hotels. My choice is the pet-friendly Anna Maria Motel on the north end of the island. There are no high-rise condos.
Life is so laid back and slow-moving, here, that folks in Cedar Key say it takes them two hours to watch “60 Minutes.” Once a forestry center, the sleepy town evolved into a fishing community, and today is a popular secluded getaway. The top place to stay on Cedar Key is the historic Island Hotel on Second Street, which features an excellent dining menu in its restaurant, and a balcony overlooking the street where Jimmy Buffett once serenaded crowds. Check out the King Neptune painting in the bar.
$$ Affordable to Moderate