Jimmy Buffett with the volume turned down -- just a bit

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The Compass hotel in Bradenton is the first in a new brand created by Margaritaville Holdings.
The Compass hotel in Bradenton is the first in a new brand created by Margaritaville Holdings. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Hammocks by the pool? Check. Thatched-roof bar? Check. Coconut palms? Check. Boat drinks, loud music and a theme-park vibe? Not so much.

Compass, a new hotel brand from Margaritaville Holdings, is the smaller, calmer version of the Margaritaville resort named for one of tropical pop singer Jimmy Buffett's signature tunes.

I had a chance to stay at the first property in the brand, the Compass Anna Maria Sound in Bradenton, one of Florida's more sedate coastal communities.

If the Margaritaville resorts are "Cheeseburger in Paradise," then Compass would be more like "License to Chill."

Buffett, now 73, has matured since he launched his career in 1970, something he alluded to years back in one of his hits, "A Pirate Looks at 40."  Compass reflects a similar maturation in the Margaritaville company's lodging portfolio. While open to Parrotheads of all ages, Compass is a good fit for pirates looking at 40. And back at it.

The Compass hotel shares some features found at Margaritaville resorts, such as these gliders in the lobby, but the Jimmy Buffett theming is less prominent.
The Compass hotel shares some features found at Margaritaville resorts, such as these gliders in the lobby, but the Jimmy Buffett theming is less prominent. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

For one thing, there's a marina alongside the property where a pirate can dock a boat. It features an area of wet slips, a big shed for dry storage and a store for marine supplies. There's also a large condo operation adjacent to the hotel that goes under the name One Particular Harbor (another Buffett title).

The 123-room hotel itself is casually tropical with a few hints of Buffett for the initiated, but nothing that stands out. For example, there are those glider chairs with trellis overhangs found in the Margaritaville lobby, but only two of them.

• Related: Margaritaville moves ahead with new resorts

My room was light, bright and uncluttered. The art work had a "Road Less Traveled" theme. I really liked the rainfall fixture in the shower and the fact that the controls were on the opposite end of the shower from the shower head, keeping me dry until I actually wanted to get wet.

The lobby is expansive, with plenty of room to socialize near the Compass Bar & Chill (the area doubles as the breakfast space in the morning). There is a decorative bookcase with board games, colorful pottery and actual books.  One I found was "The Bucket List -- 1,000 Adventures Big and Small," which fits the older-but-intrepid ambience Compass is aiming for.

Also nicely sized is the pool and deck, with enough space and depth for laps but plenty of loungers and hammocks, too. It has a prime view of Anna Maria Sound and the expanse of Tampa Bay to the north.

The pool separates the hotel from Floridays Woodfire Grill & Bar, the signature restaurant at Compass.

The Floridays Woodfire Grill and Bar features this thatch-roof, outdoor dining area with water views of Anna Maria Sound.
The Floridays Woodfire Grill and Bar features this thatch-roof, outdoor dining area with water views of Anna Maria Sound. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Floridays has a separate entrance and parking for the public and is several notches above the typical hotel restaurant. Dining there I naturally tried the gumbo, a culinary theme in several Buffett songs. It had tang and good texture.

The server recommended the corvina special, so I had that grilled and was happy I did. The fish had a grilled flavor that indicated the woodfire in the restaurant's name was more than just for show. The lemon to season the fish was also grilled, a nice touch.

Floridays has indoor seating, but no doubt the place to be is the large, covered deck with its water view. There's a separate bar (with a huge shark suspended over it), televisions to watch the game, plenty of fans and festive lighting all tucked beneath a vaulted thatched roof.

As I finished my meal, I watched the sun slide beneath the horizon, one of the treats of waterfront dining on Florida's west coast.

In the morning I picked up a few Margaritaville-style souvenirs for the family in the Provisions grab-and-go retail store.

Compass is a two-mile straight shot to Anna Maria Island, the most popular beach in the Bradenton area. It's a nice option for anyone who wants to be close to the shore but not to the commotion and the sand of a beachfront property.

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