Inspiring families to travel outdoors and enjoy what our planet Earth has to offer. 

Inspiring families to travel outdoors and enjoy what our planet Earth has to offer. 

Anna Maria Island: An Ultimate Travel Guide To Old Florida Beach Town

Anna Maria is a beautiful Florida destination located on the west central coast of the state. Our family has been here multiple times already and will continue to come back to the beautiful white Sandy beaches and island vibes. Anna Maria is a family friendly vacation spot as well as a perfect weekend getaway. It has a lot to offer as well as the surrounding areas.

In this travel guide I am going to share with you the best things to do at Anna Maria Island, where to stay, the best beaches and parks, where to eat and much more. I’m sure after seeing what all this Florida destination has to offer, you will be adding it to your bucket list!

Sunset view at the beach in Anna Maria Island. Posted and linked to Ultimate Travel Guide to Anna Maria Island.

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WHERE IS ANNA MARIA ISLAND LOCATED AT?

Anna Maria is located off the Gulf coast in between Tampa Bay and Holmes Beach. It is a few miles away from a few other popular travel destinations like Sarasota, Longboat Keys, and Bradenton Beach.

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT ANNA MARIA ISLAND

Anna Maria Island is not extremely populated with tourists. Though it is a touristy spot to visit, compared to other places that are popular, the overall feel of the island is great. You will never feel super cramped or crowded even at the beach.

Another reason to visit Anna Maria Island is the beautiful white sandy beaches and the perfect clear blue waters. I’m a sucker for beautiful beaches.

My girls looking for seashells at Bayfront Park beach.

TRAVELING TO ANNA MARIA ISLAND

There are various ways of traveling to Anna Maria Island. It all just depends on your location and preferred method of travel. Below are the best ways to travel to Anna Maria Island.

  • Tampa International Airport
  • Sarasota Bradenton International Airport
  • Uber or Taxi
  • Car Rental
  • Road Trip

TRANSPORTATION – HOW TO GET AROUND THE ISLAND

Once on the island there are different ways to get around. The island is not very big but depending on what you prefer, depends on what you can do. Please take note that Florida is known for their random moments of rain so keep this in mind when picking a best way to travel around the island. I would recommend always carrying a poncho or an umbrella with you at all times just to be safe.

  • Take the Free Anna Maria Island Trolley
  • Rent a bike
  • Uber
  • Car rental
  • Rent a scooter or moped
  • Rent a golf cart
  • Your own vehicle

BEST THINGS TO DO IN ANNA MARIA ISLAND

There is so much to do on Anna Maria Island (AMI) that you will never have a full moment during your visit. From beaches to shops and stunning sunsets, this island has it all. Here is a list of the best things to do around the island.

TAKE A LOCAL TOUR

You can make the most of your vacation to Anna Maria Island by taking a local tour or excursion. There are several top rated tours that you can take around the island. Some of these include:

VISIT LOCAL SHOPS

Visiting local shops is the perfect way to buy keepsakes or souvenirs from your trip. Anna Maria Island has a wide variety of shops for you to check out. From gift shops, boutiques, clothing stores, and more. Here is a list of the best places to shop at. 

  • Pine Avenue
  • Bridge Street
  • Corner of Gulf Drive and Marina Drive
  • Anna Maria Island Shops at East Bay Drive
A dad and his daughters fishing at the pier at Cortez Beach, Bradenton Beach, Florida.
My husband and daughters fishing at the pier at Cortez Beach.

GO FISHING

If you like to fish I would highly recommend bringing your fishing pole and trying out your fishing skills. Anna Maria Island has many piers and socks where you can fish from. There are also various bait shops located around the island. You can also take a charter like Anna Maria Island Fishing Charters to get out to sea and really get a good fishing trip in your vacation.

SPEND THE DAY AT THE BEACH

You can’t come to the island and not spend at least one day at the beach! The white Sandy beaches and clear blue waters are irresistible. You can’t miss out on a beach day here! Later on in this post I will talk about the best beaches for you to go too along with the best beaches for kids. Family friendly beaches is a must for us.

GO KAYAKING OR PADDLEBOARDING

Want to spend some time on the water? Renting or doing a tour on a paddleboard or a kayak is the perfect way to enjoy more of the water. You can even paddle alongside manatees and dolphins during your trip.

RIDE A BIKE AROUND THE ISLAND

If you want to look at the island from a closer point of a view then renting a bike is the best way to go. Just pack your backpack with what you need, grab a hat and your sunglasses, and peddle your way around the island. Some of the top rated places to rent a bike at are:

  • Anna Maria Island’s Beach Fun Rentals – bikes, kayaks, cabanas, golf carts, scooters, and beach supplies, family items such as play pens, strollers, and high chairs, and more.
  • Beach Bums – bicycles, golf carts, paddle boards, kayaks, and beach supplies.
  • Fun and More Rentals – bicycles, golf carts, paddle boards, kayaks, and beach supplies.
  • Lazy Turtle Beach Rentals – bicycles, paddle boards, canoes and kayaks, scooters, fishing gear, and beach supplies. If you are needing family items, they also have kid gear rentals such as strollers, play pens, high chairs, etc.

GO SIGHTSEEING

One thing we love to do is take a drive around the island and just sightsee. It gives us an idea of what the island has to offer. We also get to familiarize ourselves with the local shops, beaches, and best views around the island. This can easily take 2 to 3 hours if you take your time and stop at the various places you see that catch your eye. It took us about 3 hours and that is stopping with the kids at a pier, a park, and taking pictures along the way.

Sunset from the pier at Cortez Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida.
Pier at Cortez Beach during sunset.

CHECK OUT THE PIERS

My husband loves to go fishing so one of the things that we did during our trip was check out the piers. You can find several piers around the island that are perfect for fishing and photography. Some of the best piers to stop at are:

  • Cortez Beach – South Pier off of 13th St. S. and off of 10th St. S
  • Rod and Reel Pier
  • AMI City Pier
  • Bradenton Historic Street Pier

GO HORSEBACK RIDING

Horseback riding is a great way to enjoy the island. Take a horseback riding tour and enjoy the sunset. This is perfect a couples getaway or even a date night during your vacation. You can book a tour with one of the three horseback riding beach tours below.

** Note: These horseback riding locations are located in Bradenton, FL which is a little south of Anna Maria Island but not too far.

TRY PARASAILING

Do a fun beach activity like never before. If you like to take the risk and not afraid of heights then parasailing is definitely one activity for you to add to your list of things to do on the island. You can book a fun parasailing adventure at Anna Maria Island with Yolo Adventures.

Manatees swimming in the ocean viewed from the pier in Florida.
A manatee swimming around the pier.

LOOK FOR MANATEES AND DOLPHINS

We were lucky to find dolphins and manatees during our beach day at Cortez Beach. They were both swimming and putting on a show for us throughout the day. We really enjoyed watching them and the kids had a blast too.

GO BEACHCOMBING

One of our favorite things to do as a family is go beachcombing. We never leave a beach without a few seashells in our pockets. The best time to find the best seashells in the early morning or when the tide is low. You can also find some nice seashells if you go snorkeling or free diving. I’ve even found some sand dollars on the sand bars. Just make sure that they are dead and to leave the live sand dollars and shells in the ocean to live a long and happy life.

Photos of leaves of a beach plant in Anna Maria Island, Florida.
A beautiful beach plant that I had fun photographing at Bayfront Park.

DO SOME PHOTOGRAPHY

If  you love to take pictures then AMI is perfect. From gorgeous beachviews, to scenic parks, and historical buildings. The views here will not disappoint.

A few key photography tips are:

  • Take photos right at dawn or dusk. The early sunrise light or sunset glow is perfect for pictures especially by the beach.
  • Photos of the historical buildings around the island are perfect.
  • Take pictures at the piers especially at the best times of day.
  • Just check out our Anna Maria Island map above for some of the best photos spots.

CATCH THE SUNRISE OR SUNSET

During our time here we always aim to catch the sunrise, sunset, or both. It is such a perfect way to end our day. We always Google the time that sunrise or sunset will be. This way we can arrive at least 30 minutes before the actual time sunrise or sunset will be. This will give us the time to admire the show that the sun and the sky puts on for us.

A lifeguard tower at Manatee Public Beach in Anna Maria Island.
Lifeguard tower at Manatee Public Beach.

BEST BEACHES TO VISIT

Anna Maria Island has so many beautiful beaches for you to visit. Each of them are unique and breathtaking. If you want to make the most of your trip I would highly recommend adding these beaches to your travel itinerary:

MANATEE PUBLIC BEACH

This beach offers a restaurant and a bar that you can go to for food and drinks. There is also a sitting area with umbrellas as well as plenty of space to set up a canopy. You can also find restrooms and a gift shop at by the parking lot. There are also outdoor showers for rinsing the sand off your feet and salt out of your hair.

View of Tampa Bay and the Skyway Bridge in Tampa from Bayfront Park in Anna Maria Island.
View of Tampa Bay from Bayfront Park.

BAYFRONT PARK

We stopped here during our drive around the island. There is a playground and restrooms making it perfect for families. Though we didn’t go for a swim, we did enjoy walking up and down the beach and also finding turtle nests along the seashore. Please keep in mind that if you see a turtle nesting area keep your distance and protect them.

COQUINA BEACH

There is a casual café at the beach along with picnic tables, cabanas, a play area for the kids, and public restrooms.

Sunset at the beach at Cortez Beach, Bradenton Beach, Florida.
Sunset views from Cortez Beach. Loved watching all the birds flying around.

CORTEZ BEACH

The parking area is right off the road and easy to get in and out of. There are public restrooms available and outdoor showers for rinsing off. There are multiple piers as well to go fishing at. This is one of the beaches that we went to quiet often cause it was a short walking distance from our vacation rental.

BEAN POINT BEACH

This one is a little more secluded but provides beautiful clear waters. You can find beach access on the intersection of Gladiolus Street and North Shore Drive as well as Fern Street and North Shore Drive.

All of the beaches mentioned are kid friendly beaches. They have low tides, white sand, and perfect for a family beach day.

Note: Red tide is common in this area of Florida. Please be aware of red tide and avoid swimming or being around the beach when red tide is present. To learn more about Red Tide in Florida go here.

The pool at Captain's Quarters Anna Maria Island Vacation Rentals.
Pool at Captain’s Quarter of Anna Maria Island

BEST PLACES TO STAY AT ANNA MARIA ISLAND

There are many places for you to stay at at Anna Maria Island and they range from luxurious locations to affordable prices. During our most recent trip to AMI we decided to stay at Captain’s Quarters at Anna Maria Island (actually located on Bradenton Beach). We absolutely loved it here. They had a pull out couch where my mom slept with our daughters and a master suite that my husband and I stayed in with our 1 year old son. There was also a fridge and fully stocked kitchen which was convenient for our family. It helped save us money on the cost of eating out. However, if you are needing something more spacious or with more rooms or beds, there are different options for you to choose from as well.

No buildings over two stories are allowed on the island so you will not find any sky scrappers or large buildings on the island. For this reason you will most likely be renting small resorts or vacation homes as these are the most common forms of accommodation on the island for visitors.

Here are some of the top rated places to stay at in the area:

You can also book a vacation rental through Booking.com and VRBO.

** Pro travel tip: If you are looking to rent a vacation place and looking to save some money, you can look for slightly cheaper options in the area of Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

You can search below for other affordable locations in the area of Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach.

Booking.com

BEST PLACES TO EAT AT ANNA MARIA ISLAND

My family and I are always looking for the best local restaurants to try. While we do try to save money by making food or taking sandwiches to the beach, we also like to eat out or get carry out at least a few times during our trip.

When visiting the island you can find a good variety of places toe at at but keep in mind that their best restaurants on Anna Maria Island serve a good selection of seafood.

Here are some of the best restaurants to eat at IN AMI:

Photo of the entrance of Rod and Reel Pier and Restaurant.
Image from Canva Pro. Photo of Rod and Reel Pier that leads to The Rod and Reel restaurant at the end of the pier.

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS IN ANNA MARIA ISLAND

  • The Ugly Grouper – Serves a wide variety of seafood dishes along with pastas and delicious appetizers. You can also find a drink menu for cocktails and liquor. Don’t forget to enjoy the live music. Check their website for more details.
  • Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier – Eat at the pier with a waterfront view. This restaurant is known for their oyster bar but also serves a good variety of seafood and other dishes. Boat docking is also available at historical Bridge Street.
  • Bridge Street Bistro – Get the best of both the ocean and land at this delicious restaurant. Besides their delicious seafood, they also serve steak and several other dishes. Perfect for a change of taste during your visit.
  • Hurricane Hanks at Holmes Beach – If you are looking for a restaurant with a wide variety of dinner options then Hurricane Hanks is the place to go. From chicken, steak, seafood, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, and much more.
  • The Rod and Reel Pier – Enjoy a waterfront meal at this delicious and highly popular restaurant. Go towards the sunset time and enjoy one of their delicious seafood dishes.
  • Beach Bistro – This award winning surfside dinning experience is one that you definitely want to experience. From their delicious foods to gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico, this restaurant is for sure going to be memorable. Pro-travel tip: This spot is perfect for a date night!
  • Blue Marlin Seafood Restaurant – Another highly rated seafood restaurant that has live music as well. They serve salads, soups, sandwiches, and delicious entrees.

BEST RESTAURANTS FOR BREAKFAST AND LUNCH IN ANNA MARIA ISLAND

  • North Shore Cafe – You can find everything from a delicious breakfast with coffee to sandwiches for lunch and even smoothies, teas, acai bowls, pastries, bagels, and adult drinks. This place is the perfect beach day spot to eat at.
  • Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at Manatee Beach – This beachfront cafe is perfect when visiting Manatee Public Beach. They are located right on the beach and have an outdoor dining option. Perfect to grab your delicious drink and munch on some food while enjoying the ocean waves. This is one of our favorite places to eat at during our trip. Plus don’t forget to check out their cute tiki styled bar. They have some very delicious drinks there.

BEST RESTAURANTS WITH VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN OPTIONS ON THEIR MENU IN ANNA MARIA ISLAND

  • Beach House Restaurant – This is another award winning restaurant providing top of the line experience to all of their guest. With a delicious menu, a team for events, a farm fresh market, and more, this restaurant is for sure to check off everything on your dining bucket list. Note: They offer events for weddings and reunions with a beachfront view. Pro-travel tip: This spot is perfect for a date night! Vegetarian options available.
  • The Sandbar Restaurant – Eat a delicious meal with your toes in the hand and stunning ocean views. This delicious restaurant has a wide variety of food. Vegan options available.
  • The Waterfront Restaurant – They serve a variety of seafood dishes. They also have a children’s menu and a 21+ drink menu as well. Vegan options available.
Aerial view of Manatee Public Beach in Anna Maria Island, Florida.
Image from Canva Pro. Aerial view of Manatee Public Beach in Anna Maria Island.

TRAVEL TIPS AND FAQ FOR A.M.I.

Just like anyone who is traveling, you want to know of all the details. I went ahead and answered some of the top frequently asked questions below about the island.

1. ALCOHOL ON THE BEACH. DON’T DO IT!

Alcohol is NOT allowed on the beach! Don’t even try to do it. They will give you a hefty fine of over $500. Manatee Public Beach has an area where you can buy alcoholic beverages at along with an area to drink them at so keep that in mind if you are looking to grab a drink followed by a swim.

2. WHAT’S THE CRIME RATE ON THE ISLAND?

Anna Maria is a pretty safe place to travel too with a crime rate that is 86% lower than the national average. You can feel safe during your travels around the island.

3. WHAT ARE THE COVID-19 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AT ANNA MARIA ISLAND?

Since most of the things we did were outdoors we didn’t have to wear a mask. There is no current mask or vaccine mandate on the island (10/25/2021) but always bring your mask to be safe and keep others around you safe. Always make sure to keep your 6 foot distance from other people when indoors or in line at outdoor places.

4. IS THERE RED TIDE AT ANNA MARIA ISLAND?

Yes there is a red tide at AMI so always check the waters and surrounding areas. If you see dead fish on the shore make sure to do a quick Google search for “Red Tide in Anna Maria Island map” to see if there is a red tide in your area. To learn more about Red Tide in Florida go here.

Photo of the dock view towards the canal from Captain's Quarters vacation rental homes - Anna Maria Island.
Photo of the canal from the dock by our vacation rental, Captain’s Quarters – Anna Maria Island.

5. IS ANNA MARIA ISLAND A PET FRIENDLY PLACE TO VISIT?

I didn’t see a lot of pets around the island but you can bring your own pet. However, they are very dog friendly. We did see various dog bowls and dog drinking areas around. Sadly though, the beaches are not pet friendly so please keep this in mind when traveling.

6.  IS ANNA MARIA ISLAND A BUDGET FRIENDLY LOCATION?

Anna Maria Island can fit any budget. You just have to find the best restaurants and accommodations to fit your budget. Booking.com and VRBO has several affordable and also luxurious options for places to stay at. However, the island does offer many free things to do so you can take full advantage of that and save your budget on things you really want to splurge on.

LOOKING FOR MORE FUN FLORIDA TRIPS? CHECK THESE OUT!

RECAP OF ANNA MARIA ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE

There are so many things to do at Anna Maria Island and with it being such a paradise to visit I sure hope this Florida destination has made it’s way on your USA bucket list.

Have you ever been to Anna Maria Island? What were your favorite things to do during your trip? If you haven’t been, what things would you like to do if you visited? Let me know in the comments below.

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