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Old Florida feel with gorgeous Gulf views. Anna Maria Island has a new destination

After 18 months of renovations and redecoration, Kelley and Joe Varner reopened the Anna Maria Beach Resort as an modern, luxury destination on the beach, and have garnered nearly 200 five-star reviews.

Formerly known as the Blue Water Beach Club, the motel at 6306 Gulf Dr. first opened in the late 1950s. The Varners purchased the property in 2016 for $9.6 million and operated it as it was until September 2017, when they closed it for a major upgrade.

When the resort reopened in March, it had a larger pool area fronting onto a Gulf of Mexico stretch of beach and fresh, modern rooms — all while maintaining a bit of Old Florida feel.

The 80-foot zero-entry lagoon-style pool has multiple sitting/sunning shelves and a spacious sun deck with lounge chairs, umbrellas and pool floats. Pool deck area amenities include a tiki hut, lawn chess, corn-hole toss, fire pit lounging area, grilling area, private cabana rentals and vending/ice machines.

Joe Varner said the resort was successful before the renovations. It had its fans who were happy to see the two-acre property updated, rather than being demolished and replaced with something from scratch.

“We put our blood, sweat and tears into it, and we’re proud of it,” Kelley Varner said of the 31-room resort, which caters to short and extended-stay visitors.

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Kelley and Joe Varner, owners of the Anna Maria Beach Resort, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, bought the property in 2016, closed it for 18 months of renovations in 2017, and reopened it earlier this year. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

The Varners, natives of Ocala, also own Anna Maria Vacations, which helps place visitors in beach rentals. Seeing the demand for short-term rentals encouraged them to buy the Blue Water Club property.

“We felt there wasn’t anything available,” Joe Varner said of short-term stays.

Travelers want a nice place to stay that has modern amenities, but they also like the Old Florida look, Kelley Varner said.

She worked with Eric Krause Designs to develop new furniture for the rooms, and choose new fabric, art, flooring and paint to give each suite a comfortable, fresh look and feel.

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Kelley and Joe Varner, owners of the Anna Maria Beach Resort, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, bought the property in 2016, closed it for 18 months of renovations in 2017, and reopened it earlier this year. provided photo

Maike Essers recently joined the staff as resort manager.

Originally from Aachen, Germany, she brings years of hotel experience as well as the ability to speak several languages to the job, a virtue when it comes to hosting guests from near and far.

“People come here and want to have a wonderful time while also enjoying a feeling of being at home while away from home,” Essers said.

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Kelley and Joe Varner, owners of the Anna Maria Beach Resort, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, bought the property in 2016, closed it for 18 months of renovations in 2017, and reopened it earlier this year. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Each of the 31 California Coastal-styled rooms are west-facing, providing Gulf water and sunset views from the private balcony or patio in most rooms.

There are 13 over-sized one-bedroom suites with full stainless kitchens, 12 king rooms with full kitchenettes and six standard queen bed rooms that are equipped with mini fridge, microwaves and coffee makers.

For more information, visit theannamariabeachresort.com or call 941-202-1030.

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