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Anna Maria Island highlighted as one of best Under-the-Radar Florida beach towns

Pod of manatees delight visitors to Rod & Reel Pier

A pod of manatees made visitors stop and watch as they visited the Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island Thursday morning.
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A pod of manatees made visitors stop and watch as they visited the Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island Thursday morning.

With more than 8,000 miles of shoreline in Florida, it can be difficult to pick the best spots in the sand.

Whether you prefer the beaches of the Panhandle, West Coast or East Coast of Florida, each beach is a little different and special.

But there are some that are just plain hidden gems, and if you’ve ever been to Anna Maria Island, you know those beaches and others around the Tampa Bay area would qualify for that designation.

Fodors, a travel resource website, highlighted 11 “Under-the-Radar” Florida beach towns to visit this winter. Three Tampa Bay-area beaches made the list, including Anna Maria Island.

Coming in at No. 7, “Anna Maria Island activities are as good as Florida’s Gulf Coast beach life gets,” Fodors noted. Restaurants, beach rentals and quiet residential neighborhoods are just some of the draws to the island mentioned in the listicle.

Fishing Captain Russell Schnering of bradentonfishing.com usually brings home happy anglers toting their catch. One trip off Anna Maria Island brought something else; a great white shark sighting.

Cedar Key, a group of islands about 130 miles, or more than two hours, north of Tampa, was No. 5 on the list.

Pass-a-Grille Beach, at the southern end of St. Pete Beach, was destination No. 8.

Just south of the Tampa Bay area, Gasparilla Island was mentioned atNo. 10.

See the full list of 11 Under-the-Radar Florida Beach Towns to Visit this Winter here.

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Enrique Rivera and daughter, Lexee, 4, play in the water at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island in this file photo. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald TIFFANY TOMPKINS ttompkins@bradenton.com

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