A barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Anna Maria Island is everything that comes to mind when you picture a pristine island getaway. Its wide, white sand beaches are beautiful, while its resort city, Anna Maria, has a lot to offer by way of family-friendly activities. If you’re looking to truly experience one of Florida’s best, then follow this list of must-see and must-do attractions:
Head to the Beach
Anna Maria Island has several amazing beaches from which to choose, but the favorite is Manatee Beach. It’s ideal for every type of beachgoer, from the active to the ultra-relaxed. Ride your bike and store it at one of the many bike racks, or bring a volleyball and get a game going. There are also parks with picnic tables, which provide respites from the hot Florida sun. This is a clean, beautiful beach, and while it can get a tad crowded, there’s more than enough room to share.
Anna Maria Public Beach, Coquina Beach, Bean Point Beach, and Bayfront Park. A quick scan of their online reviews will show that many consider these beaches the most beautiful in Florida, if not the entire country! All of them are family-friendly, have swimmable water, and have top-notch facilities. These are the beaches of dreams!
Anna Maria City Pier
The Anna Maria City Pier is a hot spot for waterfront fun, especially after a long day at the beach. You’ll find a few delicious restaurants, including Waterfront Restaurant and Two Scoops Ice Cream. At Waterfront, sit outdoors and enjoy dishes from both land and sea, like the shrimp & grits or the pork tenderloin. They also have a long list of refreshing craft cocktails, which pair well with the pier’s live music. If you just want to have a seat on the pier and enjoy the views, there are plenty of picnic tables. You’ll likely see people fishing off the pier’s side, so be careful not to get in the way of a hook!
Bicycles are the best mode of transport for Anna Maria — they’re a healthy way to see beautiful sights! Most of the island is covered in bike paths, or are at least bike-friendly. Bradenton Beach has a particularly straightforward path to navigate, which makes for easy transport to and from the beach. If you need to rent a bike, there are many on-island options from which to choose. Beach Bums rents bikes, canoes, and kayaks, as does AMI Beach Fun Rentals.
Historic Bridge Street Pier
Another island pier worth checking out is the Historic Bridge Street Pier. It’s in Bradenton Beach, and while it began as a rickety wooden bridge, it recently underwent a major restoration project. Today, it’s a highly walkable area with shops and restaurants worth exploring. Fishers line up to get the day’s best catch, while kids enjoy watching the many pelicans that land here. For a bite, head to the Anna Maria Oyster Bar. It’s a family-friendly joint that has a long list of seafood, appetizers, and entrees. They also offer $5 off of lobsters on Lobster Tuesdays! Overall, the Bridge Street Pier is an ideal way to experience “Old Florida.”
The Bradenton Beach Shops
Bradenton Beach is a hotspot for shopping, thanks to its walkable streets and varied selection of retailers. You’ll find specialty gift shops full of beach accessories, jewelry, clothing, and more. The Uptown Lot and Bridge Street Bazaar are two very popular options. For handcrafted souvenirs, check out The Hive. They have a global array of goods that make perfect gifts for everyone on your list.
The Farmers’ Markets
Anna Maria’s farmers’ markets, such as Bridge Street Market, are arguably the island’s most popular attraction. In addition to fresh produce and other gourmet foods, Bridge Street Market has an impressive art and photography collection. From November until April, you can count on this outdoor extravaganza to act as your go-to stop.
On Tuesdays from 8:30 am until 2 pm, head to City Pier Park to purchase the freshest produce Southwest Florida has to offer. Colorful fruits and vegetables, fresh-baked bread and pastries, and perfectly sweet jams are just some of the things with which you can fill your basket.
If you’re interested in a less crowded market experience, we recommend Beach Market at Coquina Beach. The beach is reachable via a trolley, which is a fun way to travel (especially if kids are in tow). Explore the market’s food options, as well as its homemade beauty items, jewelry, and crafts. (November through July).
Take a Boat Tour
Anna Maria Island is largely known for its exciting wildlife, which is best explored via boat! Renting canoes or kayaks and venturing through the mangrove trees makes for an exciting day of exploring. Sign up for a guided tour. Your guide will help you navigate the beautiful mangroves, and will point out all of the wildlife along the way. Bring your camera!
If you’d like to explore the open ocean, then a boat tour is your best bet. Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours offers several different options, ranging from dolphin tours to sunset cruises to private snorkeling adventures. All of these tours will offer you breathtaking views of the Gulf, as well as up-close-and-personal interactions with wildlife. In addition to friendly bottlenose dolphins, you’ll also likely see sea turtles, manatees, eagles, and osprey. Bring your binoculars and get ready to experience Florida’s best.
Interested in learning more about Anna Maria Island, and potentially exploring its real estate scene? Contact Alexis Smith-Frady Real Estate.
*Header Image Credit: Anna Maria Island Beach Rental