As I take a bite of grouper at the Sand Bar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island Beach, I gaze at the beautiful seascape reminiscing about childhood moments spent here. It seems like yesterday when I was seven years old running down the beach towards the roaring ocean waves while my father films my family’s aquatic antics. My grandparents lounge in their beach chairs with one eye in a novel and the other delightedly watching us bounce playfully in the swirling surf.

Cackling seagulls chime in unison as they excitedly tackle morsels of bread or crackers from beach comers. The gentle sea breeze tousles my blond curls while I hunt for seashells, sand dollars and sea horses. My brother and I build colossal sand castles, using the spare sand to completely cover our bodies with all but our faces sticking out.

After an afternoon of sun and sand, my family and I dine on fish and chips at Fast Eddie’s Place, the Island seafood eatery. Filled with nautical treasures, it houses mammoth fish and lobster tanks, fish net wall hangings, and giant wooden anchors. Later, we walk over to the Anna Maria City Pier, watching dozens of avid fishermen reel in lines of fresh and saltwater fish.

We top the day off with a leisurely boat cruise along the canal behind my grandparents' house. Happily we wave at passing boaters and peer inside island houses while sailing the tranquil waters.

Although the Island has changed and grown over the decades, the memories of this sacred place will always be the same. I just close my eyes, listen to the roaring waves and feel the tepid ocean air as time stands still. For me, not even Disney World can compare to the historic charm and simple beauty of Anna Maria Island.

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