Experiencing Anna Maria Island, Florida

Advisor - Sara Sandman
Curated By

Sara Sandman

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  • Anna Maria Island

  • Florida

  • Family Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Island

  • Foodie

  • Sightseeing

The heart of Florida is in Anna Maria Island.
Curator’s statement

If you want to experience true island life right here in the United States, look no further than Anna Maria Island. Anna Maria Island is a seven-mile island on Florida's gulf coast. It boasts white sand beaches, gorgeous sunsets, fantastic water sports activities, charming boutique shops and amazing dining experiences. No car is needed as you can easily experience all the island has to offer by foot, bike, golf cart or trolley. After my first visit to AMI almost twenty years ago, the island stole a piece of my heart.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay in Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria Beach Resort

A quiet beach destination comprised of 31 rooms with a large pool, cabanas, and complimentary beach set-ups.

Anna Maria Island Inn

A resort hotel made offering eight different locations from beach front luxury accommodations to poolside family suites.

Anna Maria Vacation Homes

Your perfect getaway awaits on Anna Maria Island, offering a selection of beautiful vacation rentals with stunning ocean views and a serene beachfront ambiance.

Advisor - Sara Sandman

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Things to do in Anna Maria Island, Florida

The beaches on Anna Maria Island are incredible.

Beaches

The white sand beaches are the true draw to the island. Since the island is made of up three small towns, there is no shortage of beach experiences. For a more serene beach day, head to the north end of the island. Be sure to walk the beach to Bean Point, where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay.

Holmes Beach, which is the town in the middle of the island, is home to Manatee Beach where you can find a more active scene, with volleyball nets, a cafe, gift shop, restrooms, picnic areas with grills and a playground.

Finally, Bradenton Beach, the town furthest south on the island, also offers restrooms, picnic areas with grills, volleyball nets, concessions and lifeguards.

Top ways to experience Anna Maria Island

Explore the island on bike or golf cart. Beach Bums is a great rental store and will even have your bikes or golf carts delivered to your home prior to your arrival. Or hop on the free trolley that will take you from City Pier all the way to Coquina Beach. These are fun ways to get around and to see every inch of the island. Be sure to walk out on City Pier after dark for a spectacular view of the Skyway Bridge.

The island is full of boutique shops worth exploring. Pine Avenue is the popular strip on the north end but don't forget about Sun & Surf Beach Shop in Holmes Beach, where you can talk to the parrots. Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach is also a must for shops and also the home of the Fish Hole, a great mini golf course.

If you want to explore the water more, I highly recommend renting a paddleboard or kayak to use on your own for a day. AMI Charters also offers a variety of fishing charters, sunset cruises, and boat or kayak tours. AMI Excursions also provides good options for fishing charters, eco and sunset cruises and dolphin tours. Egmont Key Adventures are known for their snorkeling trips. The crystal blue waters are optimal for any of these adventures. You can also fish on the City Pier or the Rod & Reel Pier, where they also rent fishing rods.

Places to eat & drink in Anna Maria Island, Florida

Sipping some cocktails while enjoying the nice beach view.

Favorite Dining Experiences For All Times Of The Day

Waterfront Restaurant: Once a cottage built in 1922, this restaurant speaks old Florida charm. Excellent lunch and dinner menu with local seafood, steak and more. Be sure to go early, as they do not take reservations. While you wait, enjoy one of the craft cocktails at the bar. I highly recommend the Smoked Margarita and the Snowbird followed by the Shrimp & Grits.

Rod & Reel: This unique restaurant sits at the end of the Rod & Reel Pier. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, known for its fresh, local fish and seafood options. Be sure to try the Key Lime Pie. Besides outstanding dishes, the panoramic views of Tampa Bay will not disappoint. You will likely see dolphins or manatees while you enjoy your meal. No reservations are accepted, but while you wait, you can grab a cheap beer in the bar and watch the local fisherman throw lines off the pier.

Sandbar Restaurant: Located directly on the gulf side beach, the Sandbar is an all-time favorite. The lunch and dinner menus offer great options for every taste. Local fish and seafood are the heart of the menu. Here, you can sit with your feet in the sand while you enjoy a cocktail and a great meal. When in season, the stone crab is a favorite. This is also the perfect place to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset over the Gulf. You may even see a sunset beach wedding, as they host them daily.

Anna Maria Oyster Bar: Located on Bridge Street Pier, the Anna Maria Oyster Bar overlooks the intercoastal waterway. With amazing views and many oyster options, this is a local spot worth visiting.

Pizza Social: If you're looking for something casual or to go, the wood-fired pizzas at Pizza Social are a great choice. The AMI pizza is top of my list. Take it to go and eat it on the beach at sunset for a romantic twist.

Donut Experiment: This is an experience! When you enter the shop, you will pick up an order form and create your own donut. All orders start with a fresh cake donut, and then you pick your icing, topping and drizzle. You can watch in awe as they make your creation in front of you. If you aren't feeling too creative, you can choose a favorite flavor, such as the key lime pie. It won't disappoint!

Two Scoops: Although they also have breakfast and lunch sandwiches, it is the ice cream that draws me here. There are 32 flavors of homemade ice cream to choose from! Toasted Coconut and Sea Salt Caramel are my go to flavors.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Deana Christiano’s guide, Travel Guide to Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Advisor - Sara Sandman

Travel Advisor

Sara Sandman

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Florida.