If you are wondering what are the best things to do on Anna Maria Island, you are in the right place. This guide is prepared by a local and it is packed with very helpful information and tips, so you can take full advantage of your visit!
Anna Maria Island is a dream destination for sun, fun, and beach lovers. A quaint and picturesque town offering great things to do from the white powdery sand and turquoise watercolor beaches to amazing restaurants and tons of fun things to do!
Anna Maria Island is located on the western side of Florida’s Central Gulf Coast. It is divided into three cities: The city of Anna Maria Island in the North, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach in the South. Anna Maria Island is surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, Tampa Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
There are plenty of things to do on Anna Maria Island – from Enjoying the Best Beaches on Anna Maria Island to a fun and adventure time at an Island.
Anna Maria Island, or simple “The Island” (as the locals call it) is a fascinating small town, that preserves the best of Old Florida, with traditional cottages, very few chain restaurants, and the layback island style that you can only find here.
You will also love:
- 23 Top Things To Do On Anna Maria Island
- Adventure Things to do on Anna Maria Island
- Things to do on Anna Maria Island that the Locals Love
- Where to Stay at Anna Maria Island
- Essential Tips to Visit Anna Maria Island
- How to Get to Anna Maria Island
- Best Way To Explore Anna Maria Island
- Best Restaurants at Anna Maria Island
- Best Things to do on Anna Maria Island Conclusion
23 Top Things To Do On Anna Maria Island
1. Make a Beach day at the Holmes Beach
All the beaches on Anna Maria Island are beautiful, but my personal favorite is Holmes Beach. Actually, I am sitting now at the beach while writing this guide (yes, I feel really inspired to talk about Best Things to do on Anna Maria Island). I rented this house and had access to the beach from my backyard.
Here you can find fewer people, especially during the week – the sand is so soft, you can hear the sounds of the waves, collect some shelves, go for a run or walk and watch incredible sunrises and sunsets. Holmes Beach is a quitter, especially on weekdays, where mostly the locals come.
PRO-TIP: Check this site for the beach access in Holmes Beach or you can find the walking paths, but they have limited parking access.
2. Have an active day at Manatee Beach
Location: 4000 State Road 64 and Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach
Manatee Beach on Anna Maria Island is popular because it offers great parking spots, and amenities nearby, including lifeguard stations, cafes, a volleyball area, and showers.
Even if you are not staying in Manatee Beach, you can take the free trolley from one side of the island to the other all day. The Monkey Bus is a great option if you decide to stay out later than the trolley runs or you have a larger group that can fill one of their vehicles. The monkey bus is free and drivers work on tips only!
3. Visit Longboat Key Beach
Location: 2825 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key, FL 34228
Take a short 20-min drive from Anna Maria Island to the Longboat Key – here you can enjoy a serene seashore, combined with luxury shopping and incredible dining choices. I had the best pasta di mare of my life here, at the Venezia Restaurant.
Visit the St. Armands Circle., the aristocratic heritage of St. Armand and Ringling families resonates through quiet gardens and take some beautiful pictures. You can also visit the Ringling Circus Museum, an elegant legacy of art and architecture.
If you are looking for a quieter and more beautiful beach to just relax, this is the place for you. There are no amenities at this beach, which makes it perfect for a lounge and enjoying the day, with great views and a natural beach setting. Longboat beach has soft and powdery sand and only a few seashells, being a great place for setting up a beach tent and having a picnic and just relaxing, reading a book, and enjoying the day.
4. Rod & Reel Pier
LOCATION: 875 N Shore Dr, Anna Maria, FL 34216, USA
If you want to have the taste and feel of Old Florida, the Rod & Reel Pier is the perfect place to visit while on Anna Maria Island. Here you can see many locals fishing. The water is so clear that you can observe some wildlife from the pier – I saw a school of fish, dolphins, and many different species of birds. If you are lucky, you can also see manatees.
Here you can also find the unique dining offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an ocean view. Their specialty is fresh seafood dishes and the grouper sandwich. You can also have a draft beer while you watch a sunset or entertain yourself with the wildlife around.
PRO-TIP: Be sure to head out to the Rod & Reel during sunset hour for an unforgettable view! For a small feel, you can fish right off that pier. This is one of the few places on Anna Maria Island where you can take your puppies with you.
5. Enjoy the Anna Maria City Pier Landmark
LOCATION: 100 South Bay Blvd on the corner of Pine Ave. and bay Blvd.
Anna Maria City Pier was originally built in the 1900s and it has become an Island landmark! You will notice that the pier’s planks are each engraved with messages commemorating family members, friends, and loved ones, making it very unique!
While strolling around you can have an ice cream cone from Two Scoops across the street and take a walk down the pier. An amazing fishing location and a great place to spot Tampa Bay’s marine life. You can also try delicious locally caught seafood at modest prices at the restaurant with some spectacular ocean views and sunsets.
6. Go shopping at the Pine Avenue
Pine Avenue combines shopping, the ocean, and local eateries all within one mile. Here you can go shopping for clothing and jewelry, You can also grab a quick bite to eat at Poppo’s Taqueria for authentic Tex-Mex and try the famous Donut at the Donut Experiment. The Avenue Pine Avenue also has many famous landmarks to visit. See below…
7. Visit the Landmarks at Pine Avenue
While you are at Pine Avenue, you also can visit some of the Landmarks on Anna Maria Island. They are some of the most visited attractions in this scenic and walkable part of the island. While you will see history in another part of the islands, here is where you dedicate some time –
Here you can visit the Historical Society Museum where you can get a glimpse of Florida’s history. You can find out how the first homesteader, George Emerson Bean established the community back in 1893. A must-stop is the Anna Maria City Jail, first built in 1927 and it actually didn’t have windows so the prisoners would be punished by being bitten by mosquitos! It’s funny….but a true story!
8. Go for a walk at the Coquina Baywalk
Coquina Baywalk is a one-mile stretch, located just across Coquina Beach, and it is the perfect way to enjoy Florida’s outdoors for free! This is a boardwalk trail that takes you close to Florida’s native plants and animals. The trails offer great views of the bay from observation decks hidden away in the mangroves.
You can walk or jog along the path shaded by the native trees. Discover the amazing mangrove tunnels and hidden coves in the nature preserve also known as Leffis Key. The Coquina Boardwalk.
PRO-TIP: Make sure to bring your camera, you can take some picturesque pictures from the boardwalk. Dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk. Park your car at the Coquina Beach public parking, and the park is just across the street. If you are riding your bike, they have areas to park your bike at the entrance of the park.
9. Picnic at Coquina Beach
LOCATION: 2650 Gulf Dr, Bradenton Beach
Coquina Beach is a great public beach, offering many amenities. Larger parking area, and here you can also park your RV or Motorhome. You can also find showers, bathrooms, a cafe, and plenty of picnic areas in the nice shade of many trees around this area.
PRO-TIP: If you are lucky, you can catch the Coquina Beach Market. From November – to Sundays only. December – March open Wed and Sun. April – July open Wed and Fri. All markets 10 am – 4 pm weather permitting. You can go shopping for fresh produce, local foods, jewelry, crafts, books, souvenirs, and more!
10. Stroll around the Historic Bridge Street
Visit the clock tower and the Historic Bridge Pier, with a fishing pier and you can see the harbor and bayside from it. This community is loaded with attractions such as Floridian-style restaurants, beachside boutiques, the local pier, farmers’ markets, and town events
This is my favorite area in Anna Maria Island to grab a happy hour or have dinner – with many options for great restaurants, and the feel of the Old Florida around, it makes a perfect spot for an end and fun day at the beach. You can even hop on a free trolley to go to Bridge Street!
PRO-TIP: One of the most well-known restaurants in this part of Florida is also right on the pier. The Anna Maria Oyster Bar is the place to get oysters on the island! They also have awesome fish and chips, shrimp, and plenty of other seafood options. Plus, the drinks are delicious, refreshing, and very cheap – around $6.50 for a cocktail on the island is not bad!
11. Meet some local wildlife at the Mote Marine Aquamarine
LOCATION: 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236 (on City Island)
If you’re curious about some of the sea wildlife in Florida, the Mote Marine Aquarium is a great opportunity to meet them! Here you will find135,000-gallon shark habitat, meet some manatees and sea turtles, and explore coral reefs and other ecosystem displays teeming with diverse fishes, cool crustaceans and gracefully drifting sea jellies
What I really like about this place, is that they are not only an aquarium but also an important research and wildlife rescue facility. Some of the research include marine conservation and immunology, recovery of coral reefs, and much more.
PRO-TIP: The tickets must be purchased online in advance and the general admission includes access to Mote Aquarium and its exhibits in the Ann and Alfred E. Goldstein Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center. Hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Monday.
Adventure Things to do on Anna Maria Island
12. Rent a Kayak
Anna Maria Island is a great place to bring your own, or you can rent a kayak to go on a mangrove tour. There are many places you can launch your kayak to the water and explore either the clear ocean water or visit some of the mangrove trees, that grow directly in the water and the tunnels built through these trees are so much fun to explore in a kayak!
You can go on a tour, where the guides can fill you in on the local wildlife and plant life you’ll see as you kayak through these tunnels. Bring your water shoes, sunblock, and camera for this tour, as Anna Maria Island is one of the best places to go kayaking in Florida.
13. Go on standup paddleboarding
Another great thing to do while on Anna Maria Island is to go standup paddleboarding. The Gulf of Mexico has calm waters and almost no waves, which makes it perfect to enjoy some time paddleboarding. If you don’t bring your own, you can always rent one from AMI Paddleboards – they offer paddleboard and kayak rentals with free delivery as long as you rent for a half-day or more.
14. Explore Anna Maria Island by Bicycle
This is one of the best things to do while on Anna Maria Island and the best way to “discover” the island in all of its glory. Some of my favorite things about the island are the peaceful neighborhoods, immaculate landscaping, and massive poinciana trees
You can really immerse yourself in the “slow lifestyle” of Anna Maria Island and find yourself cycling along the unbeaten path. A great option is to rent an electric bike for an easy way to get around the island.
15. Take a Private boat to go wildlife watching
If you are searching for adventure, the best thing to do on Anna Maria Island is to take a boat on a fun-filled day!
One of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island is to go on a custom Private Boat & Yacht Charter to explore this stunning region. Including Sunset, Sunrise, Dolphin Watching, and snorkeling. It is a perfect activity for the whole family while you are on your vacation.
16. See Anna Maria Island from above on Parasailing
Location: departs from Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
Another great thing to do on Anna Maria Island is to see the island from a different angle – especially if you’ve got a sense of adventure and if are not afraid of heights, parasailing tours offer the chance to see the island from a unique perspective. Enjoy the scenic island while flying through the air!
Things to do on Anna Maria Island that the Locals Love
17. Spend the day at the hidden-gem Bean Point beach
This place is incredibly beautiful and it is one of my favorite things to do on Anna Maria Island – Bean Point Beach is the most Northern tip of Anna Maria where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay and the lookout point is endless miles of turquoise waters. It is one of the best spots on Anna Maria Island to watch the sunrise and sunset.
Here you can find a wild beach feel and it is still most commonly known by the locals there are no obvious signs to get there and very limited parking, another reason renting a bike is the best option on Anna Maria Island. Once you find this hidden gem, you can have the opportunity to even see some manatees and dolphins splashing around in the water.
18. Have dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant
LOCATION: 111 S Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216
If you love fresh seafood, great service, and beautiful views overlooking the pier and the Skyway Bridge you have to dine at the Waterfront Restaurant.
This is one of the best restaurants on Anna Maria Island. The food is superb and the portions are very large, so consider sharing so you can have appetizers and dessert. Pets are very welcome here too, on the outside patio. There is a well-worse it waiting time, just like every other restaurant that is good on the Island. I had the spice margarita and the tuna filet and it was to die for!
19) Get your exercise done at the beach
One of the best things to do while on Anna Maria Island is to wake up early and watch the sunset while walking, running, or working out at the beach.
It is the perfect way to start the day, and actually, the highlight of my day is to go for a run at the beach, while listening to the waves, watching the sky changing colors from the sunset, and trying to beat the traffic of birds that also love to hang out in the sand in the morning.
The best beach for a walk or run, in my opinion, is Holmes Beach – it is nearly empty, especially during the week, and has soft sand and great views. I have also done plyometrics and HIIT exercises at the beach, and if you are looking for some serious workouts to do at the beach, I have done the video below to give some ideas and inspiration.
20. Take your horse to the beach (or rent a horse)
I took my puppies to the Palma Sola Bay and I end up meeting two lovely local ladies that took their horses to swim at the bay – yes, it is right! And I learned that horses absolutely LOVE playing on the water, just like dogs do!
But don’t worry if you don’t have a horse, or if you cannot bring your horse to your vacation on the island – you can have this experience by going on a tour with the Beach horse. While in the water with your horse, the trainer will teach you how to do some tricks on the horse.
It is so fascinating to watch the magnificent animals having so much fun. This is a great thing to do on Anna Maria Island, especially if you are traveling with kids.
21. Have a happy hour at the Beach House Restaurant
The Beach House Restaurant is in a beautiful location, the food is outstanding and it is a perfect place to have a happy hour with the best view. Today the location features a climate-friendly outdoor deck providing beautiful oceanfront vistas
The vision of the restaurant is to have a moderate-priced serving of great seafood, and they offer both indoor and outdoor sitting areas. It is a perfect place to grab a drink, watch the sunset, and if you are hungry, grab dinner – I recommend having the grouper tacos, it is just amazing and fresh!
22. Rent a Beach House
What is the best way to experience the beach lifestyle than to rent a house on the beach? I have stayed on Anna Maria Island many times, but nothing compares with having your feet in the sand for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or when you feel like you want to just go for a swim in the middle of the day at the amazing ocean, right in front of your door.
I really recommend renting a beach house on Anna Maria Island if your budget permits, the experience is so unique and it is worse for each penny to have the sand right at your door, and to watch the sunrise and the sunset from your porch.
23. Sunset at the Beach (any beach)!
Last but not the least, catching the sunset at the beach is one of the most amazing things to do on Anna Maria Island. I have watched many sunsets here, and they are all unique and surprisingly stunning.
I love seeing the locals going with their chairs, every end of the afternoon to watch the sunset and make it a routine in their lives. Just slow down, appreciate the vista, and feel revigorated at the end of a hard day on the island.
Where to Stay at Anna Maria Island
Most of the rental properties at Anna Maria Island are houses. After I had stayed in several different accommodations on the island, my personal preference is to rent a house – considering you have a whole place for you, with a full kitchen, you can choose a house at the beach and have your “private” beach backyard.
BEST OVERALL: Compass Hotel by Margaritaville Anna Maria Sound
Set in Bradenton, Compass Hotel by Margaritaville Anna Maria Sound offers accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. This hotel is rated as awesome by the guests.
MIDE RANGE: Bridgewalk, a Landmark Resort
Located in Bradenton Beach, 1.1 mi from Coquina Beach, Bridgewalk Resort features accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, and a bar. Rated as awesome on Booking.com
BEST-RATED: Playa Esmerald Boutique Inn
Rated as exceptional by the guests, Playa Esmeralda is located in Bradenton Beach, near Coquina Beach and Bradenton Beach Marina. Only a 5-min walk to the beach, with a hot tub, pool, and very comfortable rooms.
BEACH HOUSE WITH A POOL: Coconut Cottage #1
This holiday home features 3 bedrooms, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 2 bathrooms with a shower. It is located only in Holmes Beach and only 0.6 mi from Bradenton Beach.
Essential Tips to Visit Anna Maria Island
- Alcohol is NOT permitted on the beach
- Dogs are NOT allowed on the beach (bummer…my poor fur babies!)
- Bicycles are NOT permitted on the beach
- If you are planning to spend the day(s) on the beach, bring an umbrella or a pop-up tent
- I love my wagon to bring all my belongings to the beach
- During summer months, small stingrays occasionally come to the shallow, so just shuffle as you enter the water and you can also invest in water shoes
- I saw a lot of jellyfish in the ocean during my last stay in September, so be aware when you are in the water
- Turtle nesting season is from May through October and one is aware that they are protected by federal and state laws – the nests are marked on the beach, so be careful and help to protect them.
How to Get to Anna Maria Island
- SARASOTA-BRADENTON INTERNATION AIRPORT: Anna Maria Island is located just 18 miles – about a half-hour drive.
- TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: It’s also just 50 miles from the Tampa International Airport, about an hour-long journey.
- ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: is also an option, albeit a longer drive at about 2 hours.
If you are traveling to Anna Maria Island from Tampa airport, you will follow signs from the airport toward I-275 South. This is an easy and scenic drive, you will pass by the Skyway Bridge, which is a fantastic local attraction.
If you are traveling to Anna Maaria Island from the Sarasota airport, you will take the US-41 exit from the airport towards University Parkway, and follow the signs.
There are 3 ways on and off the island:
2-Palma Sola Bay Manatee Bridge
3-Longboat Key Bridge
Best Way To Explore Anna Maria Island
If you are planning to visit Anna Maria Island, it is also important to know what are the best ways to explore the Island. Keep in mind that the island has limited parking. I recommend renting a bicycle, or golf cart, or getting there very early if you have a rental car. And by “there I mean anywhere.
If you’re staying on the island for a week or a few days, you don’t really need a rental car. You can rent bikes, a golf cart, or use the free trolley to get around the island from 6 am to 9 pm.
You can get a 15% off your rental car when you book through this site. I use and recommend RentalCar because it is the most reliable rental car source, and it allows you to compare the prices of different places.
Best Restaurants at Anna Maria Island
Best Restaurants on Anna Maria Island for Breakfast
GINNY’S & JANE’S CAFE: With AMAZING reviews on Trip Advisor, I decided to give it a try. This is really the best breakfast spot on Anna Maria Island. I am a coffee snob and the coffee here is really good – try the egg and cheddar sandwich and the toast with fresh avocado – just yummy! Also, the seating and atmosphere are fun with an eclectic feel.
LOCATION: 9807 Gulf Dr, Anna Maria, FL 34216
THE DONUT EXPERIMENT: You need to try this place if you are a donut lover. They have lots of variety and you can choose your icing, your topping, and your drizzle – but if you are confused about all the options, you can also choose some of the most popular combinations. Keep in mind that this place gets super busy in the morning.
LOCATION: 210C Pine Avenue
Best Restaurants on Anna Maria Island for Lunch
POPPO’S TAQUERIA: I read the great reviews of this place, and I visited it with high expectations. The reviews were right – here you can find amazing tacos, with very fresh ingredients, and it is an explosion of flavors. They make everything from scratch. I had the two tacos with carnitas, and I have to say that I placed another order – yes, it was that good!
LOCATION: 212C Pine Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216
UGLY GROUPER: A classic while you are in Anna Maria Island. I was staying very close to the Ugly Grouper and by the time I passed by this place was packed! They have a great outdoor seating area, as well as an indoor one. The best thing on the menu is the giant and fresh groper sandwich, and there was nothing ugly about it. It was AMAZING!
LOCATION: 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, FL
Best Restaurants on Anna Maria Island for Dinner
WATERFRONT RESTAURANT: They serve excellent grouper tacos with fresh salsa and jicama slaw. If you want to hang out where the locals go, this is the place to have fresh seafood, unique and great drinks, great service, and stunning views. They offer daily specials, craft beer, and a great selection of fine wines.
LOCATION: 111 South Bay Blvd. Anna Maria
BLUE MARLIN: One of the best local seafood and offers fine dining without being stuffy. The cute building from the 1920s was restored, and the best place to dine is outside in the courtyard where there is a covered deck and live music on the weekends by different local acts. Reservations are required on Fridays and Saturdays.
LOCATION: 121 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
THE OYSTER BAR: While you’re on the Historical Bridge, be sure to visit the clock tower and the pier. It’s a great fishing pier and you can see the harbor and bayside from it. One of the most well-known restaurants in this part of Florida is also right on the pier. The Anna Maria Oyster Bar is the place to get oysters on the island! They also have an awesome selection of seafood and plenty of amazing cocktails for only $6.50!
LOCATION: 200 BridgeStreet,BradentonBeach
Best Restaurants on Anna Maria Island for Drinks
DOCTORS OFFICE: If you like craft cocktails, this is the best place on Anna Maria Island. This place was opened by two long-time residents and restaurant owners. It literally used to be the Doctor’s office on the island hence the name and they kept with that theme. They also serve food with a great menu option. I recommend having the Mai Tai, it is the best on the island.
LOCATION: 5312 Holmes Blvd. #B, Holmes Beach, FL 34217
DAIQUIRI DECK: They claim themselves to be the world-famous Daiquiri Deck – go figure! Here you can find the best Frozen Daiquiris on the Island and during happy hour, they offer half-off – what a deal not to be missed! They also offer food, with amazing selections for seafood lovers
LOCATION: 107 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
Best Things to do on Anna Maria Island Conclusion
Anna Maria Island offers many things to do – from pristine beaches to lots of outdoor activities, and great restaurants with the best seafood options it is a great place to spend a vacation with the family, a romantic gateway, or just friends get-together.
Here you can really find the Old Florida style – a quench town with a slow lifestyle, making it a perfect spot for your next vacation. I have been coming back to Anna Maria Island for the past 15 years, and here is my paradise place when I need to just slow down and relax.
I hope you enjoyed this guide with the best things to do on Anna Maria Island, and if you have been to the island before, and want to add any recommendations, please feel free to leave me a comment below.
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