Updates from January, 2012

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  • Best Places to Retire 2012 - 10 Great Sunny Places to Retire

    11:37 am on January 26, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: AARP, , Dr. Beach, , ,   Filed under: Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Retirement, Sarasota, Second Home Buyers, Seller Info, Siesta Key, The Gulf Islands, Tourism, Vacation

    If bright skies and warm temperatures are on your must-have list, these cities fit the bill

     from: AARP | January 2012
    Sarasota, Florida

    If you’ve ever dreamed of retiring on the best beach in the U.S., now might be your chance: Siesta Beach, of the dozens of waterfront strands in and around Sarasota, earned the top beach in the U.S. honors from Dr. Beach for the white sands, crystal water and wide area for sunbathing, playing or people watching.

    Sarasota, which sits south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is beach-centric but there’s more to this city of 52,025 people than simply embedding toes in sand.

    See also: Ten best states for retirement.

    Start with the arts scene, which includes a renowned Rubens collection at the Ringling Museum of Art, which is adjacent to John Ringling’s Ca D’Zan Mansion, an impressive, if somewhat gaudy, homage to Venetian Gothic architecture. Sarasota also has its own opera house, ballet company, symphony orchestra and multiple theaters, all in a modern downtown surrounded by water.

    The city’s historic neighborhoods include Towles Court art district, which harbors colorful wooden homes, galleries, shops and restaurants. Main Street is ideal for walking — and popping in and out of quaint boutiques and restaurants, along with lively bars. Towles Court hosts regular art walks, featuring works of local artists.
    For non-beach natural diversions, forge into Myakka River State Park, which offers hundreds of miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, cabin rentals and airboat tours. Wildlife here includes red-tailed hawks, otters, foxes and alligators. And for man-made diversions? Golf and tennis are big in Sarasota, with dozens of public and private courses and hundreds of tennis courts. For baseball fans, Ed Smith Stadium is the spring training headquarters of the Baltimore Orioles and home to a minor league franchise.

    Sarasota was hit hard during the housing crash and is still recovering. Foreclosures are a big issue here, but that also means you might pick up a house at a steep discount. Unemployment is above the national average and most jobs are in retail, tourism and hospitality, and thus don’t pay well. But prices of most goods and services are in line with incomes, thus the cost of living index is average.

    Crime is above average here but most residents say they are happy living here, and most are fairly healthy: The obesity rate is below the national average (although the diabetes rate is slightly above average). While there’s no science to prove it, good health and happiness may be linked to hanging around some of the world’s best beaches every day.

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  • Florida: Inviting, delighting Anna Maria Island

    11:37 am on December 6, 2010 | Comments:0
    Tags: , , , ,   Filed under: Anna Maria Island, Buyer Info, Communities, Second Home Buyers, The Gulf Islands

    Thursday, December 2, 2010 – Life With Lisa by Lisa M. Ruth, The Washington Times

    Anna Maria Island, Fl., 

    In our hectic, tense, sometimes even unpleasant lives, Anna Maria Island is an oasis. 

    Although the island is only seven miles long, it has an expansive heart.  It is a place where entrepreneurs value hand-cut, hundred-year-old logs and historic chimneys over bank accounts. Where real estate developer’s brag about friends and tropical plantings rather than profits, and world-class restaurateurs retain a sense of humor and whimsy.  Resort managers sincerely overextend themselves to calm nervous brides and exclusive galleries welcome elderly women who visit daily to listen to the music and talk. 

    Aerial view of Anna Maria Island. Photo credit: Bradenton Area CVB.

    In the City of Anna Maria, there are no mailboxes – residents walk to the post office to get their mail, and there are no chain restaurants or stores on the island.  Largess and generosity are the norm, whether you are a resident, a first-time visitor, or a repeat traveler.  Everyone is embraced on Anna Maria.

    This amazing culture is only half the appeal of the island.  

    Located on Florida’s west coast, only 1 hour from Tampa International Airport, Anna Maria boasts some of the most pristine beaches in the world.  Beautiful white sand meets clear aqua water, and it’s all clean. 

    Without the shadow of boring fast food looming over the skyline, small, individual establishments flourish and create high quality, interesting food. Restaurants are plentiful and extraordinary, from wonderful breakfast quiche to juicy hamburgers to perfect bouillabaisse. 

     There is also limitless opportunity in the “things to do” category.  Water sports include kayaking, sailing, boating, parasailing, and jet skiing, you can fish in some of the best fishing waters in the world, walk on the beach, ride bicycles, visit museums, attend dog costume contests, or large art festivals. 

    Visitors enjoy an abundance of water sports, such as paddle boarding, around Anna Maria.

    Shopping ranges from the usual beach-goer fare to eclectic and interesting. Where else can you find specialty olive oils and bulk herbs and a mural of Elvis as a saint within a few blocks of each other? 

    There are no go-karts, water slides, roller coasters, or extreme sports on the island.  No drive through fast food or cookie-cutter restaurant chains. 

    Anna Maria Island begs one to ask, “Who needs the mundane when you can have the extraordinary?”  Residents and visitors alike celebrate breathtaking sunsets with cheers and bell ringing.  Every day.  Out loud.  They talk to each other and smile and enjoy the day.

    From sitting on white sand beaches, to dining at the finest of white tablecloth restaurants, there is plenty to do at Anna Maria Island. 

    Although it lacks noise and bluster there no shortage of activities.  Foremost, there’s the beach.  It’s hard to be bored when you can spend the day frolicking in the water and the sand, finding shells and body surfing, or reading a book and relaxing.  Anna Maria also has a full-calendar of special events, including a major art festival (Arts Hop) and the always popular Bayfest, as well as several other festivals and parades throughout the year. 

    White beaches of Anna Maria.

    Anna Maria’s location, on the Gulf and the Bay, lend themselves to other water sports.  It has some of the best fishing in the world, and you can fish on the shore, from a boat, or from the beach.  The three Anna Maria piers, the Bridge Street Pier, the Rod & Reel Pier, and the City of Anna Maria Pier, are generally filled with anglers fishing and talking and spending the day.  Many private companies rent boats for half or full day fishing trips, shore fishing or deep-sea fishing.  You can also parasail, jetski, or tube.

    Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures has kayak trips for all skill levels allowing for solo or multiple guided tours including the South Lido Mangrove Tunnels, the Myakka River, the Siesta Key/Turtle Beach, the Longboat Key, the Anna Maria Island, the Egmont Key, the Fisheating Creek , the Rainbow Springs, the Cabbage Key, and the Cayo Costa tour. 

    Tour guides are Master Naturalists and avid kayakers, expertly narrating while pointing out flora and fauna and explaining the history of the location. 

    While all the tours are beautiful, the South Lido Mangrove Tunnels are a unique activity well suited for all ages.  The two-and-a-half-hour trip starts in Little Sarasota Bay, where kayakers are likely to see manatee, dolphin, pelicans, herons, and osprey, as well as other wildlife. 

    It then loops around to the South Lido Mangrove Tunnels, which originally were “mosquito ditches” dug in the 1950s to eliminate standing water which were breeding pools for mosquitoes.  The efforts were abandoned, but they created several “tunnels” through the red mangroves, where kayakers can see the complex root systems of the plants and the animals who live in the tunnels. 

    The tour is relaxing and quiet, a true up-close encounter with nature.  Because there is little currant, it is a perfect family kayak trip in an exclusive location.

    The easiest, best way to see all the island has to offer is by bike.  If you didn’t bring your own, you can visit Beach Bums Bike Rentals, where Diane and Lauren will happily rent you bike, Go-Pets, three-wheeled bikes, surrey bikes, or golf carts. 

    They also rent kayaks and baby equipment.  Diane and Lauren will also point you in the direction of interesting destinations and give you advice about what to see and where to go.  The island-colored store is conveniently located downtown and is a great place to start your tour of Anna Maria.

    Anna Maria oozes charm and elegance and embraces its history even as it moves forward. 

    Change is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and it does happen, even in this protected enclave.  Part of that evolution includes newer shops aimed at meeting the needs of residents and tourists.  The downtown area recently benefited from a redevelopment project that maintained the cultural identify of Anna Maria while upgrading the shops and implementing “green” policies. 

    That effort highlights high-quality, interesting businesses, such as Kelly Karry’s Anna Maria Olive Oil Company.  You can also head back to Ginny’s and Jean E’s, where you can find a huge selection of gifts, or go toward the pier for more downtown shops.  Most stores have a beachy/nautical theme, and there are several excellent T-shirt shops where you can pick up Anna Maria souvenirs.

    Anna Maria Olive Oil Company.

    The Anna Maria Island Historical Society hosts a wonderful museum that includes three buildings, the museum itself, the Belle Haven Cracker Cottage, and the original City Jail.  The building narrates Anna Maria’s history in displays, photos, and historical items.  

    Director Betty Yanger had in-depth knowledge of the history of the island, as well as current day happenings, and is exuberant in sharing information.  Guests can walk through Belle Haven Cracker Cottage, famous for falling off the City Pier where it was originally built, and view the house the way it was originally set up with numerous period items. 

    As an added bonus, the historic society bakes fresh bread on certain days of the week.

    Just a few doors down from the historic museum is the Studio on Gulf and Pine, the cultural art center on Anna Maria.  Owner Rhea Chiles and curator Tommy Fagan have created an outstanding center, with artist exhibits from across the spectrum, classes, and lectures. 

    The breathtaking 8×12 “Myakka Fork” by Jake Fernandez invites guests to gaze literally for hours at the 24-panel wood mural, depicting the natural Florida landscape.  The surface of the wood blocks is uneven, reflecting light differently from every angle, giving it a sense of being alive. 

    Many of the other artists in the gallery, such as Ann Abgott, are local, and all the art is original.  Tommy Fagan has several bells on display in the gallery, which he makes from old dive tanks.  The former blacksmith heats the tanks to just the right temperature to create the perfect sound, making the pieces both beautiful and audibly pleasant. 

    The 5,000-foot gallery includes not only some of the best art on the island, but also one of the best sound systems on the island.  Tommy welcomes residents and visitors to stop in, enjoy the art, talk, listen to the music and relax.  The studio is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1pm to 5pm.

    Anna Maria is truly one of the last great unspoiled family vacation spots, welcoming, warm, and wonderful. 

    “People on Anna Maria are genuinely happy because they want to be here, whether they are residents or visitors,” says Bert Schaefer of Ginny’s and Jane E’s.  She adds, “I do see some sad people here — they are the ones at our Internet Café printing out boarding passes to go home…I feel so sad for them…they always look miserable.”

    To fully enjoy Anna Maria, you have to downshift.  There’s no room for frantic or exasperated.  Relax.  You’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with some of the nicest people in the world.  Take a minute to enjoy.


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  • Condé Nast Traveler:2010 Readers' Choice Awards

    1:12 pm on October 21, 2010 | Comments:0
    Tags: Longboat Key. agent information, , Top Islands,   Filed under: Agent information, Longboat Key, The Gulf Islands, Tourism

    Pictured: Maui. Photo: Paul Costello, Condé Nast TravelerTop Islands
    The world’s top 50 islands hide a big secret: There are actually more than 3,300 of them, stretching from the South Pacific to the North Atlantic. Consider Bermuda, the top-rated islands in the Western Hemisphere—yes, islands. Comprised of 138 isles, it is, like many winners, an archipelago. There are 3 Caymans, 41 Tuamotus, 115 Seychelles, and a whopping 1,185 Dalmatians. The No. 1 winner (for the 14th time), Maui is the only island to score above 90 this year. Closer to home, several North American islands make their top 10 debut: Victoria, Florida’s Longboat Key, and St. Simons. (More …)
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  • Island Style as seen in Sarasota Magazine, October 2010

    9:32 am on October 11, 2010 | Comments:0
    Tags: , , , ,   Filed under: Communities, Luxury, People, Sarasota, The Gulf Islands

     A spectacular West Indies design breathes new life into a historic Siesta Key property.
    Author: Carol Tisch 
    Photographer: Matt McCourtney

    More than 100 years ago, one Sarasota family’s dream of a water-oriented, outdoor lifestyle on then remote Bay Island was realized by barging in a tiny wood frame bungalow from Tampa. Now a similar dream has led a young Sarasota family to build a grand new home on the property surrounding that historic 1905 cottage.

    Bay Island is a sliver of land separated by a canal from northern Siesta Key; today, you drive over the North Bridge to Bay Island and then cross another bridge to Siesta proper. But a century ago, visitors—who included celebrities and U.S. presidents, most friends of John Ringling—arrived by boat at Bay Island’s Hamilton Hotel and then traveled across the bridge by horse and cart to Siesta’s beaches. (More …)

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  • Sarasota County beaches are safe, clean and oil-free

    10:14 am on September 28, 2010 | Comments:0
    Tags: , , , ,   Filed under: Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Sarasota, Seller Info, The Gulf Islands

    Sarasota County has been diligent in its efforts to monitor for any impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The BP oil well has been capped for several months now; however, calls from citizens concerned about the safety of our beaches continue.

    Sarasota County beaches are safe, clean and oil-free. Sarasota County remains proactive by local testing of water, sediment and shellfish, specifically looking for measurements of petroleum-related products. These efforts are ongoing and results will be reported when the testing has been completed.  (More …)

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  • LBK’s sand, surf still as clean as before

    4:01 pm on August 25, 2010 | Comments:0
    Tags: , , , , ,   Filed under: Communities, Consumer news and advice, The Gulf Islands, Tourism

    Guest Columnist

    As this edition of the Longboat Key News goes to press, the last chapter in the ugly saga of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is being written. After a summer of depressing headlines and grim images of the spill’s effects on beaches, marine life, businesses and tourism along the northern Gulf Coast, the latest dispatches from the disaster site bring much welcomed relief.

    The Macondo Well has been successfully capped from above; and a more elaborate procedure involving pumping mud and concrete down its casing—called “static kill”— was declared a complete success by the officials, scientists and engineers involved. Over the next few days, the long-awaited relief well will intersect the damaged well at its base and pump in additional mud and concrete from below. Once the concrete hardens, as it already has from above, the well will be declared officially dead and recovery along the affected areas of the gulf Coast can truly begin in earnest. Thankfully Southwest Florida is nowhere near the affected areas—those being certain beaches and waterways along coastal Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and a small sliver of Florida’s far western panhandle (which has already been cleaned-up). (More …)

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  • In The Gulf, Enough Islands to Match Any Personality

    10:16 am on November 11, 2009 | Comments:0
    Tags: , , , , Lido Key, , , , , , , ,   Filed under: Bradenton, Sarasota, The Gulf Islands

    By Andrea Sachs  – THE WASHINGTON POST
    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    LittleGasparilla-04Anna Maria Island: Low-key and all-natural

    Anna Maria Island is Florida as a living diorama, with no chain hotels, a speed limit that never exceeds 35 mph and a building limit of three stories. It is also home to a genteel first lady.

    “We are loath to go the route of Longboat Key, with condo high-rises,” said Rhea Chiles, the wife of former Florida governor Lawton Chiles, whose family has owned property here since 1958. “The look of the place has been passed down from one generation to another. It’s all of those words: quaint, neighborly, natural.”

    Chiles was the visionary behind the Studio at Gulf and Pine, a multi-use space that exhibits local artworks, including a painting of her own, and holds classes, such as the book club I was making her late for. So I left Chiles to her plot twists for the turns of a kayak.

    Shawn Duytschaver, whose family opened the first gift shop on Anna Maria, owns Native Rentals, where he rents boats and preps guests before pushing them off to fend for themselves. He suggested that I paddle Robinson Preserve, a 400-acre mangrove and salt marsh reserve that opened last year and is buffered from motorized traffic. (By comparison, he said that around nearby Lido Key, kayakers must contend with the din of boats and cars.)

    (More …)

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