"Mello Out" phrase on gold-and-white patterned wallpaper at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida

Mellowing Out: Mello on Anna Maria Island

pool at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
Mello on Anna Maria Island — technically, Holmes Beach — reminds me of mid-century Miami Beach.
Cathy Salustri

While I have many wonderful qualities, relaxing for more than, say, a couple hours is not one of them.

I do, however, love to plan trips on which I could, theoretically, relax. Last month, I had a work-ish vacation for one week, but left almost an entire week open for wherever my whims took me. (I’m fortunate to have a husband with remarkably similar whims.)

That’s how I happened upon Mello on Anna Maria Island. El Cap and I, sitting in a hotel room, wondering where we would head upon checkout. I had my criteria: I wanted to stay so close to the water I could hear the sound of the sea. I wanted something close to food, and I wanted to have the comforts of the indoors. Don’t get me wrong, I still love our camping trips, but every now and then I want to sink into a soft bed and shower in a full-size shower that isn’t part of a public bath house. This was one such time.

So, using the parameters “beachfront” and “dog friendly,” we started searching.

A sleek yellow chair and a sleek white chair on artificial turf, with a green round table between them. They are backed up against a hedge of autograph trees at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
Each room has its own “lawn” furniture, which is far more comfortable than it looks.
Cathy Salustri

At first, I went right past Mello.

Simply put, it looked too good to be true, especially for the price. A living room, bedroom, separate bath, kitchenette, and washer and dryer in the room? Pool on property, and the whole thing decorated in what I call “Mid-Century Florida Dream” (think sun-washed tropical colors, throwback decor, hints of Gary Monroe’s 1970s South Beach series)?

Exterior walkway at dusk at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
It felt a bit like I’d stepped back in time.
Cathy Salustri

We both assumed the photographer had used some digital trickery to make the rooms look less cramped than they were, but booked the stay nevertheless. After all, it was right on the Anna Maria Island beach, the dog fee wasn’t ridiculous, and it had a pool.

pool scene with beach chairs and gold-and-white-striped umbrellas at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
The pool was as inviting as the photos promised. 
Cathy Salustri

We assumed incorrectly. Look, these rooms aren’t as big as your house, most likely. But there was no photographic trickery; these rooms are decidedly lovely, and comfortable, and well-appointed. So much so that, although no one’s paying me to write this or giving me anything in exchange for doing so, I wanted to share this gem with fellow Florida-philes.

Two dogs staring at a floor-length mirror. Mirror has white lettered "stay Mello" phrase at the bottom at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
The hounds perfected the art of mirror-assisted begging in no time flat.
Cathy Salustri

And as for the dogs?

They settled in almost immediately, but they’re hounds, so it doesn’t take much to entice them to flop down and have a nap.

a galley kitchen at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
This is about twice the size of my first kitchen on St. Pete Beach. 
Cathy Salustri

The kitchen, too, was all we needed — and more.

It gave off some true “high-end IKEA” vibes, but it had a setup that made me long to style my kitchen as simply. Of course, Mello doesn’t have to have a kitchen that can handle Feast of the Seven Fishes, so it’s easy to streamline, but it did make for a delightful, breezy change.

While you wouldn’t call it a traditional beachfront hotel, it was actually better. Why? The fringe of Australian pines between our room and the beach. I realize there’s a lot of hate out there for Australian pines, but I’m not one of the haters (have I told you about Fred the Tree yet? The breeze through those pines sounds like pure Florida to me, and at Mello, I had that sound whenever I stepped outside.

Of course, we made it past the trees to the water every night, because there’s nothing on the planet like a sunset off the west coast of Florida.

Sunset outside the rooms, over the Gulf of Mexico, at at Mello on Anna Maria Island Florida
This photo doesn’t do the Anna Maria Island sunset justice.
Cathy Salustri

While on the beach, we noticed something else, too: The people who gathered here didn’t all look alike. They all did share one thing, though: They loved being at the beach. Kids played with each other and their families along the sand. Closer to the motel, families grilled dinner. People played catch, and some sort of kickball, and whatever else they could play with a ball. Anna Maria Island itself may have homes out of the average Floridian’s budget, but this stretch of public beach felt like a beach for everyone.

In between soaking on the pool, people-watching on the beach, and sitting in the water watching the sun go down, I forgot to think about relaxing, and I forgot to worry about the work I could be doing.

Which, actually, was kind of the point.