bike_rideWe’ve already covered where to stay and places to eat while staying with your family at Anna Maria Island, Florida. Now, we’re going to talk about all the fun things you can do with your family.

Paddleboarding is a new sport (technically it’s an old one that’s made its way back around) that’s making waves around the country these days and my family was eager to get a lesson on how to master this special sport. Native Rentals owner, Shawn Duytschaver (who just so happens to be an Anna Maria Island native) was a patient teacher as we hit the bay for our first experience with paddleboarding. Shawn has owned the shop for 15 years and handles everything paddle, bike or board on the island from rentals to lessons and tours (including eco-tours!). He’s not the only game in town but he’s the one paddleboardI’d recommend based on our adventure. He explained quickly how to jump up on the board and then stay up, then make your way across the water getting incredible views of what lays beneath. Within minutes all the kids were on boards, including my husband and five yr old sitting at his feet). He made us masters (ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get my drift) in just an hour on the water. I honestly want to go buy my own board now so I can go paddleboarding all the time…sort of a problem since I’m landlocked. It was that fun!


We also took a nice little bike ride on the island. We went by to pick out a cool set of wheels and ended up pedaling off with a family vehicle—something that only two people pedal but six people can sit on (if some of those six are little!). I felt a little like Fred Flintstone with my feet moving under the cart, but it was a great way to burn off some of the calories we collected from our incredible meals. It’s also something the children wouldn’t experience back home and I like it when they can try new things. It makes the trips more memorable in my opinion. And my kiddos are going to remember for a very long time how hard it was to stop that cart on wheels when we got to the stop sign, and how dangerous it would be if we had any real traffic on the roads around us. Lucky for us Anna Maria is not that kind of island. Bikes are perfectly acceptable on the roads and life just runs at a slower pace. It’s a nice change from my reality.

horsesurflandresizedThe highlight of the trip for my girls was the horse surfing adventure with Great World Nature Tours. Both girls love horses and jump on any opportunity to ride. Both girls also love the water, so this was the perfect combination of thrill for them. ‘What is horse surfing,’ you say? Well, it’s really horseback riding in the water, except at one point, if you have the nerve, you can actually stand up on the horse’ back and surf. The entire excursion is more involved than that, but that’s the highlight (at least in my opinion). You start with a ride down the shore, sending tiny little crabs scurrying as the horses stomp by. Then you go for a stroll into the water, eventually up to the horse’s sides. If you’re feeling confident enough you will be able to stand up to try to surf. It’s no big deal if you fall since you hit the water. There are times during the excursions when the horses will swim and you can jump off and hold on by their tail, almost being whipped around in the water. And when they’ve had enough, you’ll race back to shore. I asked about the horses and whether this hurt them at all and was told the horses they use are retired from polo and the water actually helped them. I didn’t ask for any scientific evidence to back it up, but I knew some of you would want to know, so I figured I should share. This is the excursion my five year old talks about most and wishes she could do again. Some day she will, I have no doubt.