Here’s what we loved about Anna Maria Island

During shoulder season, Anna Maria Island, Fla., is a quiet little town. And that’s exactly how most people like it.

It didn’t stay that way for long.

✓ We jumped right in with a tour of Anna Maria Historic Green Village and Village Café at Rosedale. The restored buildings in this complex are on track to becoming Florida’s first LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy retail park.

✓ Then we headed over to Native Rentals, where we grabbed tandem kayaks and took a self-guided tour of Robinson Preserve. Owner Shawn Duytschaver turned us on to an app called EveryTrail that allowed us to track our adventure with maps, photos and commentary. How cool!

✓ We had an awesome three-bedroom cottage only a few steps away from the beach from Anna Maria Gulf Coast Rentals. Owner Bill Burnley was nice enough to take a little time out of his schedule to talk with us about how technology is changing the vacation experience. We totally had to share our EveryTrail trip with him. Later, we took a walk on the beach and recorded it.

✓ Did you know you could ride a horse on the beach — and bareback, no less? We didn’t until we tried something called horse surfing with Great World Adventures. Not only can these horses wade through the waters of the bay, but they actually swim while you ride them. It’s an unbelievable experience. (If you don’t mind getting into the water, you can also try something called horse skiing. That’s where you hold a horse’s tail while it gallops through the surf. Whoa!)

✓ We had to return to the South Florida Museum to see Snooty, the Manatee. Kari kept referring to him as Snooki, but we are told this Manatee is a lot smarter. The museum has an amazing planetarium, where we caught a special presentation on high-powered telescopes.

✓ The kids got to tour Gordon Turner’s workshop in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, a quirky community where sculptors, painters and artisans ply their trade. Turner makes eclectic clock and other sculptures, which the kids absolutely adored. We had lunch at the just-opened Sweet & Savory Bakery Cafe, which made a really outstanding quiche and pizza for the kids. And don’t forget the cookies — they’re great!

✓ We ended our trip with a tour of Mixon Fruit Farms, an historical farm and wildlife refuge. Janet Mixon was nice enough to show us around and explain how everything works. Mixon Farms also has a more formal tram tour that lets you interact with some of its rescued animals. Here’s our annotated tour on EveryTrail.

Anna Maria Island was an incredible experience. We’re grateful to Access America, Florida Vacation Auction, The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, The Vacation Rental Managers Association and Travelpro for sponsoring Away is Home. And a big shoutout to our friends at the Bradenton Area CVB and the good folks at Anna Maria Gulf Coast Rentals, for their help in pulling this segment of our trip together.

Tomorrow, we move on to the Palm Coast!