On the drive out to Anna Maria Island, my wife’s new favorite place, I always get a kick out of Palma Sola Causeway Park.
People splashing around with their dogs. People picnicking in the shade. People launching kayaks and Jet-Skis.
The road’s right there, but they don’t seem to care.
People turn away from the traffic. People admire the view across Palma Sola Bay. People enjoy the breeze rustling through the trees.
One afternoon, I finally stopped and talked to some Palma Sola fans. The first people I encountered were a Puerto Rican family from Kissimmee. They were on their way to Anna Maria, too, but pulled over on the causeway.
“We saw the water, so we stopped,” said Vionette Clemente. “And the shade.”
While the kids played in the shallow water of the shelly beach, the grown-ups relaxed beneath the Australian pines. No one looked in any hurry to head on to beach.
“We’re not really beach people,” Clemente said. “This is what the kids wanted.”
Scooby the shepherd
The first dog I saw at Palma Sola was Scooby, a big ol’ German shepherd. He belongs to Steve Wightman, a Bradenton home remodeling guy.
Scooby likes to chase tennis balls in the bay. His owner likes to stay on the shore.
“If I go ankle-deep,” Wightman said, “that’s enough for me.” He finds Palma Sola very relaxing.
Lots of dogs, families and kids wading in the water. Lots of Jet-Skis, too — Jet-Skis that often ride way to close to those dogs, families and kids. Wightman shook his head. “If they followed the rules,” he said, “that’d be good.”
Horses and kids
The Palma Sola Causeway is also the home of BeachHorses.com, which offers horseback riding in the bay. “HorseSurfing” is the company’s trademarked term. Shonnda Maracle stopped at the park because her 5-year-old twins, Jayke and Lilly, wanted to watch the horses. Her kids love dogs, too, and will talk to complete strangers about them.
“”What’s your dog’s name?” I heard Jayke ask this man. “Luna? Hi, Luna.”
Maracle likes to get outdoors with her children. They’ll drive north to Fort DeSoto State Park and south to Myakka River State Park.
Palma Sola is closer to home in Bradenton. Maracle likes the bay because the surf can be measured in inches, not feet.
“When it’s really windy, this is a good place to go,” she said.
“These guys are little and sometimes big waves’ll knock them down.”