Anna Maria Island is a charming barrier island off the Florida Gulf Coast with white sandy beaches, and a quaint, low-key vibe. You do not want to miss these 39 incredible things to do on Anna Maria Island!
About the Island
Anna Maria Island is a 7-mile-long barrier island off of the Florida Gulf Coast.
Bradenton and Sarasota are neighboring cities. Tampa and Clearwater are less than 1 hour away.
The island is surrounded by four different bodies of water. AMI can be accessed from Bradenton by 2 different roads/bridges – Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road.
Even though the island is fairly small, it is split into 3 different cities – the city of Anna Maria is on the north end of the Island, Holmes Beach is in the middle, and Bradenton Beach is on the south end of the island closest to Longboat Key.
I have been visiting AMI for the past 28 years to visit family. It is my favorite place on earth! We LOVE Anna Maria Island, and it feels like home.
One of the things that sets AMI apart is that there are no high-rise buildings and very few chain restaurants/stores on the island, giving it a charming, laid-back feel.
The island has become increasingly popular over the years and has gotten a lot busier, but despite this, it still has a peaceful, small-town vibe that makes it unlike anywhere else I have visited.
Tips for Visiting Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island has become increasingly popular, so it can get busy, especially during holidays, spring break months, and summer months.
If you want to beat the crowds, consider visiting in the fall (September-early December), in January-early March, or in May after the spring break rush, but before the summer crowds.
Summers are hot and humid, but the water is warmer for swimming. We often visit around Christmastime, and we typically have favorable weather (we had 50-60 degree temps one year which wasn’t fun, but typically it’s in the 70s to low 80s), but the water temperature is pretty chilly. Summer months often bring rain/storms, but the unfavorable weather rarely lasts all day.
If you need to drive anywhere on the island, you might want to try to do so before 9 or 10 a.m. because traffic can get really bad when everyone is trying to get to the beach around mid-morning.
39 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island
1. Visit the Beautiful Beaches
No surprise here – hanging out on the gorgeous beaches is our favorite thing to do when we visit. Whether you want to lounge in the sun, go swimming, build sandcastles, play beach games, or hunt for seashells, there is something at the Anna Maria Beaches for everyone to enjoy.
Emerald Gulf of Mexico waters and soft white sand will greet you as you approach any of the beautiful Anna Maria Island Beaches.
Anna Maria Island Beaches
- Coquina Beach
- Bradenton Beach
- Bayfront Park Beach
- Holmes Beach
- Manatee Public Beach
- Beach at Bean Point
- Cortez Beach
Any of the beaches on the island are wonderful, but our favorite beaches are Bradenton Beach (because there is a lot to do in that area), Holmes Beach (because it is a quieter, less busy option), and Bean Point Beach (because it offers incredible views and some solitude).
2. Explore the Island by Bike
There are numerous places to rent bicycles on the island. We have rented bikes from Ace Hardware in the past, but many companies across the island specialize in bike rentals.
Biking the island is one of the best ways to get around and to see and experience all that it has to offer. And the best part is that the whole island is as flat as a pancake, so you can easily get around on bikes without too much trouble.
3. Play Mini Golf at the Fish Hole
We always make sure to get in a couple of rounds of mini-golf at the Fish Hole whenever we visit Anna Maria. It is a fun and well-done course with beautiful plants, informative signs, and fish and turtles living alongside the course.
The Fish Hole is open daily from 9 AM – 10 PM. Click here for a $1 off coupon. I recommend playing one round early in the day and then going back later for a second round because the second round of the day is only $2!
4. Hunt for Sharks’ Teeth
Many people enjoy collecting shells from the beach, but we have a tradition of searching for sharks’ teeth. We have found hundreds of teeth on the Anna Maria Island beaches over the years, and it never gets old – it is super exhilarating every time we spot one!
You can often find sharks’ teeth right near the water’s edge mixed in among the shells. We have found sharks’ teeth on the island in many different sizes, from teensy tiny to up to 2 inches long.
Sure you can buy shark teeth from a gift shop, but it is so satisfying when you find one yourself! Give this fun challenge a try!
5. Eat on the Water
One of our favorite things about going on vacation is eating a good meal outside with a view. Many restaurants on Anna Maria Island offer stunning water views.
Some of our favorite waterside dining options on the island include Rod & Reel Pier (casual, City of Anna Maria), Anna Maria Oyster Bar (casual, on the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach), The Beach House (fancier, Bradenton Beach), and Bridge Tender Inn (sports bar in Bradenton Beach).
The Sandbar Restaurant, Beach Bistro, and Waterfront Restaurant are other waterfront options that we don’t go to as often, but are still great options!
6. Watch the Sunrise Over the Water
One of the unique perks of Anna Maria Island is that you can watch both the sunrise AND the sunset over the water.
You can view the sunrise from various places along the north or east sides of the island.
Some of the best public places to view the sunrise include Bean Point, Anna Maria City Pier, or Rod & Reel Pier on the north end of the island, and Bridge Street Pier or Coquina Beach Boat Ramp on the southeast side of the island.
Talk about the perfect way to start the day!
7. Watch the Sunset Over the Gulf
A beautiful beach sunset over the ocean never gets old. You can catch one of the famous stunning sunsets on any of the gulf-side beaches on the island.
8. Rent Paddleboards or Kayaks
Rent a paddleboard or a single or double kayak to explore the waters around the island. Or opt for one of the guided kayak tours.
You can choose to paddle offshore in the Gulf waters, or cross the Manatee Ave bridge (heading toward Bradenton) and rent from the Robinson Preserve Surferbus or AMI Paddle Adventures. The latter options will take you through the mangroves and the Palma Sola bayou/bay.
9. Go to the Farmer’s Market
If you are on the island on a Tuesday, swing by the small Farmer’s Market on the north side of the island. You will find fresh produce, baked goods, jams, honey, and more. If Tuesday is toward the beginning of your trip, this would be a great way to stock up on some local goodies to enjoy during your vacation.
The farmer’s market is at City Pier Park on the corner of Pine Avenue and South Bay Blvd. It is open Tuesdays from 8:30 am- 2:00 pm from October-May.
10. Create Your Own Donuts at the Donut Experiment
This place gets very crowded (and for good reason), but it is worth the wait!
When you get to the Donut Experiment, grab an order form and choose your frosting, toppings, and drizzle for your custom donut.
Your donuts are made right in front of you, and when you get them they are fresh, warm, and delicious..yummmmm.
11. Rent a Golf Cart and Cruise the Island In Style
Many people rent golf carts rather than cars when staying on the island. Golf carts are street-legal on all roads under 35 mph speed limit (which is basically the whole island).
They are a fun and practical way to get around and tour the island in style. There are a variety of places to rent golf carts on the island.
The last time we visited AMI, we rented a house that had a golf cart included. It was a blast going for rides and the perfect way to get around.
12. Explore Bean Point
Bean Point is at the far northern tip of Anna Maria Island. Bean Point was the former home of Anna Maria Island founder, George Emerson Bean.
It is a peaceful, quiet, and secluded area compared to other beaches on the island. Bean Point is one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset.
We like to challenge ourselves each year by walking from Holmes Beach along the water to Bean Point and back, but you can also access Bean Point by bike or car.
13. Get Some Wicked Delicious Queso From Wicked Cantina
We always make sure to squeeze in a visit to Wicked Cantina in Bradenton Beach when we are on the island because we are obsessed with their chips & queso – so tasty! We enjoy the rest of the food and drinks on the menu at this Tex-Mex restaurant as well.
Wicked Cantina has an outdoor patio that is across the street from the beach, so you have a bit of a water view. They often have live music in the outdoor area, so there is a nice vibe in addition to good food!
14. Go Fishing
Anna Maria Island is a fisherman’s paradise. Whether you want to spend a day on a deep-sea charter or fish from the beach or one of the many piers, you are likely to catch something good.
Click here to learn more about the types of fish you might catch and the best places to cast your line on the island.
15. Watch Sports at Island Time Bar & Grill
We love watching NFL Sunday football at Island Time Bar & Grill in Bradenton Beach.
Island Time doesn’t have the best food, in our opinion, but it is an awesome place to watch sports and enjoy drinks and appetizers.
They also often have live music, and the restaurant just has a fun vibe overall.
16. Look for Sand Art or Make Your Own
We love walking along the beach and looking at everyone’s sand creations.
You may even get lucky and happen to be visiting the island when there is a sand sculpture competition taking place (this actually happened to us once).
We often visit the island over Christmas time, so we have a tradition of making a sand snowman each year!
17. Get Drinks at the Daiquiri Deck
The Daquiri Deck is a new addition to Anna Maria Island. They offer oysters, seafood, and a variety of other food options.
The restaurant has a large outdoor deck overlooking historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, and of course, they have delicious daiquiris of all flavors. Happy Hour is from 3-7 pm daily.
18. Go Hiking
Walking along the beach is a great way to get exercise on your vacation, but if you are looking for more of a hiking experience, there are a few different trails and preserves both on the island and just off the island on the mainland.
Here are some of the area trails that we enjoy:
- Leffis Key Preserve – we will talk more about this one later!
- Grassy Point Preserve – in Holmes Beach on the island across the street from the Walgreens, Grassy Point has a shell and boardwalk trails leading to bay views
- Neal Preserve – About 1 mile off the island along Manatee Avenue, Neal Preserve has a boardwalk and shell-packed trails, along with a 20-foot tall observation tower
- Perico Preserve – Just a bit further down Manatee Avenue from Neal Preserve (about 1.5 miles off the island), there is a loop trail you can do that is about 1.6 miles long and takes you around a big pond and by the Perico Bayou; popular for birdwatching
- Robinson Preserve – On the northwest side of Bradenton, Robinson Preserve is about 7 miles off the island, however Robinson Preserve is much bigger than the previous preserves mentioned and offers a lot more/longer trail options; The 53-foot tower offers views of Tampa Bay
- Desoto National Memorial – Probably our favorite hiking area, Desoto National Memorial is not far from Robinson Preserve on the northwest side of Bradenton (about 6.5 miles off Anna Maria Island). This NPS site offers outdoor exhibits, small stretches of beaches, and a cool nature trail that winds through the mangroves, along the water, and past memorials and signs with information about the history of the area.
19. Get Ice Cream
Is there anything better than eating ice cream on the beach?!
There are a few different places to get ice cream on the island. We like Two Scoops on the north side of the island in Anna Maria.
Island Scoops (a yellow building with a big sign that says ICE CREAM) is another one of our favorite ice cream shops. Island Scoops is toward the south end of the island in Bradenton Beach.
20. Look for Wildlife
Anna Maria Island is home to a wide variety of land and sea wildlife. You will likely see lots of seagulls, pelicans, other types of birds, fish, geckos, and small lizards.
If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, crabs, stingrays, herons, and more!
21. Visit One of the Piers
Anna Maria Island has 3 main piers that stretch out into the open waters.
Anna Maria City Pier and Rod & Reel Pier are both on the north end of the island. Bridge Street Pier is in Bradenton Beach toward the south end of the island.
Each pier offers something different, and I would recommend visiting them all!
22. Browse the Beach Market at Coquina Beach
Check out the outdoor market at Coquina Beach Park to find unique vendors selling fresh produce, arts & crafts, jewelry, art, apparel, and other goods. Enjoy some yummy food as you peruse the beachside market.
The Coquina Beach Market is open Wednesdays and Sundays from December to March, Wednesdays and Fridays from April to July, and Sundays only in November. Hours are 10 am – 2 pm, weather permitting.
23. Grab Breakfast at Ginny & Jane E.’s
We visited Ginny’s & Jane E.’s Bakery Cafe for breakfast on our most recent visit to Anna Maria Island. Not sure why we weren’t going to this place for years – it is delicious!
We ended up walking there for breakfast most mornings of our vacation. We got coffee there every morning and rotated between their warm blueberry muffins, fresh fruit, and their famous gooey cinnamon rolls.
Just a heads up, if you want to try one of the famous cinnamon rolls, you might want to order ahead or arrive early because the line is often out the door in the mornings and the cinnamon rolls sell out very quickly!
24. Go Shopping
Need a new swimsuit or some cute beachwear? Want to shop for souvenirs or gifts to take back to people at home? There are many fun and unique shopping options on the island.
Pine Avenue on the north side of the island in the City of Anna Maria is lined with cute shops. Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach has many shopping options as well.
There is a shopping center in Holmes Beach that often has parrots and other exotic birds outside that you can view. And of course, there are a variety of gift shops scattered throughout the island as well.
25. Ride the Free Trolley
The Anna Maria Island Trolley is a free and easy way to get around the island. Trolleys typically run at 20-minute intervals from 6 am – 9 pm, and 30-minute intervals from 9 pm – 10:30 pm.
There are trolley stops every 2-4 blocks, making it convenient to get anywhere you want to go on the island. Click here to view the trolley stops and schedule
26. Enjoy a Drink on the Beach at the Kokonut Hut
The Kokonut Hut is a full-service beach bar with island breezes and ocean views. The Kokonut Hut is part of the family-friendly Gulf Drive Cafe, a casual beachside restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We have never had this problem, but many TripAdvisor reviewers mention a rude owner who charges $20 if you try to park in their restaurant parking lot. If possible, try to find alternate parking or take the free trolley to this restaurant/beachside bar.
27. Visit the Anna Maria Jail
A popular photo-op spot with an interesting history! The Anna Maria City Jail was built in 1927 and was actively used until 1940. It was used to detain local troublemakers.
The open-air jail left prisoners to swelter in the hot sun and be bitten by mosquitos. The fear of being stuck in jail in those conditions kept most people from getting into trouble.The remains of the jail can be visited by anyone today.
28. Go Parasailing
Many of my family members have gone parasailing off the shores of Anna Maria Island, and they all had a great time. I’ve been saying I want to do it for years, and I just need to make it happen!
Parasailing is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the island, and if you’re lucky, you can spot wildlife from above, including dolphins, fish, stingrays, sharks, and more!
29. Stargaze on the Beach
A dark section of the beach is a perfect place to do some stargazing while listening to the soothing ocean waves.
Anna Maria Island is not as commercialized as most other beach communities in Florida, so it has relatively low light pollution, which makes for better stargazing.
You can visit this website to determine sunset times, moon phases, and which planets will be visible in the sky during your stay.
30. Dolphin Tour
We recently did a 90-minute boat tour with Paradise Boat Tours in Bradenton Beach.
They guarantee that you will see dolphins, and we sure did. The boat ride itself was beautiful. We saw TONS of dolphins and learned a lot about the area as well.
The guides recognized every dolphin we saw and called them by name. They told us all about each dolphin and gave us the low down on the family dynamic of the pod.
There are many different tour companies and packages to choose from. I don’t know much about the other companies, but Paradise Boat Tours was the least expensive option, and we thought they were great.
31. Pack a Beach Picnic
Order some food to go or pack a lunch and picnic on the beach! This is a great way to maximize your time at the beach, and you will have some pretty sweet lunch views.
Just make sure to keep your food close by when you are eating, otherwise, you might have some unwanted seagull guests joining your picnic. 🙂
32. Check Out Leffis Key Preserve
This preserve is on the south end of the island in Bradenton Beach.
At the preserve, you will find picnic tables, viewing platforms, and 0.65 miles of shell-packed trails and boardwalks. There is even a 26-ft hill you can summit for panoramic views!
33. Play Beach Volleyball
Manatee Public Beach typically has two volleyball courts up at all times. Assemble the whole family for a fun game of beach volleyball!
You can play sand volleyball at Coquina Beach as well.
34. Play at One of the Island Playgrounds
Take the kids to play at one of the many island playgrounds!
Here are a few of the top choices:
- Coquina Beach Playground
- Herb Dolan Park
- City Pier Park
- Bayfront Park
35. Get BBQ at Smoqe House
Smoqe House is another one of our go-to restaurants on the island. It’s located in Bradenton Beach – look for the smokin’ longhorn out front. BBQ is a nice change on an AMI vacation after eating lots of seafood.
Although I have never actually eaten in the restaurant (we always take it to go), everything I have ordered has been delicious!
36. Visit the Anna Maria Historical Museum
If you want to learn more about the history of the island, visit the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum.
The museum is located on Pine Avenue (same location as the historic Anna Maria City Jail). The building the museum is in was built in the 1920s and was originally an ice house. It was also a sea turtle hatchery at one time!
37. Swing at the End of the Bradenton Beach Pier
Another one of the top things to do on Anna Maria Island is to sit back, relax, and take in the beautiful scenery from the swings at the end of the Bridge Street Pier.
The swings are a great place to watch the boats and drawbridge and the perfect place to spot local wildlife, especially pelicans, herons, and other birds.
38. Listen to Live Music
You can find all types of live music on Anna Maria Island. Enjoy some good food while listening to local musicians!
Here are some of the top spots for live music on AMI:
- The Ugly Grouper
- Blue Marlin
- Wicked Cantina
- Bridge Tender Inn
- Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe
- Island Time Bar and Grill
- Freckled Fin Irish Pub
39. Go Swimming
No trip to Anna Maria Island is complete without a little bit (or a lot!) of time spent swimming!
Whether you are hitting the pool or catching some waves in the gulf, going for a swim is definitely one of the top things to do on the island.
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As an expert and enthusiast, I have personal experiences or feelings, but I can provide you with information related to the concepts mentioned in the article about Anna Maria Island.
Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a 7-mile-long barrier island located off the Florida Gulf Coast. It is surrounded by four different bodies of water and can be accessed from Bradenton by two different roads/bridges - Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road. The island is split into three different cities: Anna Maria on the north end, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach on the south end. Anna Maria Island is known for its charming, low-key vibe and lack of high-rise buildings and chain restaurants/stores.
Tips for Visiting Anna Maria Island
- Best Time to Visit: Anna Maria Island can get busy, especially during holidays, spring break months, and summer months. To avoid crowds, consider visiting in the fall (September-early December), in January-early March, or in May after the spring break rush but before the summer crowds.
- Weather: Summers are hot and humid, with warmer water for swimming. Christmastime can have favorable weather, but the water temperature may be chilly. Summer months often bring rain/storms, but unfavorable weather rarely lasts all day.
- Traffic: If you need to drive anywhere on the island, it's recommended to do so before 9 or 10 a.m., as traffic can get congested when everyone is trying to get to the beach around mid-morning.
Things to Do on Anna Maria Island
The article mentions 39 things to do on Anna Maria Island. Here are some highlights:
- Visit the Beautiful Beaches: Anna Maria Island offers beautiful beaches with soft white sand and emerald Gulf of Mexico waters. Popular beaches include Coquina Beach, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Manatee Public Beach, Beach at Bean Point, and Cortez Beach.
- Explore the Island by Bike: Renting bicycles is a popular way to get around the flat island and explore its attractions.
- Play Mini Golf at the Fish Hole: Enjoy a round or two of mini-golf at the Fish Hole, a well-done course with a fun atmosphere.
- Hunt for Sharks' Teeth: Search for sharks' teeth along the water's edge. It's a thrilling activity, and you might find teeth of various sizes.
- Eat on the Water: Experience waterside dining at restaurants like Rod & Reel Pier, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, The Beach House, and Bridge Tender Inn.
- Watch the Sunrise and Sunset: Anna Maria Island offers the opportunity to watch both the sunrise and sunset over the water. Popular spots for sunrise include Bean Point, Anna Maria City Pier, and Rod & Reel Pier. For sunset, any of the gulf-side beaches on the island provide stunning views.
- Rent Paddleboards or Kayaks: Explore the island's waters by renting paddleboards or kayaks. Guided kayak tours are also available.
- Visit the Farmer's Market: If you're on the island on a Tuesday, check out the small Farmer's Market on the north side of the island. You can find fresh produce, baked goods, jams, honey, and more.
- Create Your Own Donuts at the Donut Experiment: Visit the Donut Experiment and customize your own donuts with various toppings and drizzles.
- Rent a Golf Cart and Cruise the Island in Style: Rent a golf cart to tour the island and enjoy a fun and practical way of getting around.
- Explore Bean Point: Visit Bean Point, a peaceful and secluded area at the far northern tip of the island. It's an excellent spot for watching the sunset.
- Get Some Wicked Delicious Queso From Wicked Cantina: Enjoy Tex-Mex cuisine, including delicious chips and queso, at Wicked Cantina.
- Go Fishing: Anna Maria Island offers excellent fishing opportunities, whether it's from the beach, piers, or on a deep-sea charter.
- Watch Sports at Island Time Bar & Grill: Enjoy watching sports, live music, and drinks at Island Time Bar & Grill.
- Look for Sand Art or Make Your Own: Walk along the beach and appreciate the sand creations made by others. You might even come across a sand sculpture competition.
- Get Drinks at the Daiquiri Deck: Visit the Daiquiri Deck for seafood, oysters, and a variety of daiquiri flavors.
- Go Hiking: Explore the island's trails and preserves, including Leffis Key Preserve, Grassy Point Preserve, Neal Preserve, Perico Preserve, Robinson Preserve, and Desoto National Memorial.
- Get Ice Cream: Indulge in ice cream at places like Two Scoops and Island Scoops.
- Look for Wildlife: Anna Maria Island is home to various wildlife, including birds, fish, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, crabs, stingrays, and more.
- Visit One of the Piers: Check out the three main piers on the island: Anna Maria City Pier, Rod & Reel Pier, and Bridge Street Pier. Each offers a unique experience.
- Browse the Beach Market at Coquina Beach: Visit the outdoor market at Coquina Beach Park to find unique vendors selling fresh produce, arts & crafts, jewelry, and more.
- Grab Breakfast at Ginny & Jane E.'s: Enjoy breakfast at Ginny & Jane E.'s Bakery Cafe, known for its delicious baked goods and cinnamon rolls.
- Go Shopping: Explore the various shops on Pine Avenue, Bridge Street, and throughout the island for beachwear, souvenirs, and gifts.
- Ride the Free Trolley: Utilize the free Anna Maria Island Trolley to conveniently get around the island.
- Enjoy a Drink on the Beach at the Kokonut Hut: Visit the Kokonut Hut, a full-service beach bar with ocean views, as part of the Gulf Drive Cafe.
- Visit the Anna Maria Jail: Take a photo at the Anna Maria City Jail, a historic spot that was actively used to detain troublemakers in the past.
- Go Parasailing: Experience a thrilling bird's eye view of the island by going parasailing.
- Stargaze on the Beach: Take advantage of Anna Maria Island's relatively low light pollution and enjoy stargazing on the beach.
- Dolphin Tour: Take a boat tour to see dolphins up close and learn more about the area's wildlife.
- Pack a Beach Picnic: Order food to go or pack a lunch and enjoy a beach picnic with stunning views.
- Check Out Leffis Key Preserve: Visit Leffis Key Preserve in Bradenton Beach for beautiful trails, picnic areas, and panoramic views from a 26-foot hill.
- Play Beach Volleyball: Have fun playing beach volleyball at Manatee Public Beach or Coquina Beach.
- Play at One of the Island Playgrounds: Take the kids to one of the island's playgrounds, such as Coquina Beach Playground, Herb Dolan Park, City Pier Park, or Bayfront Park.
- Get BBQ at Smoqe House: Enjoy some delicious BBQ at Smoqe House, a popular restaurant in Bradenton Beach.
- Visit the Anna Maria Historical Museum: Learn about the island's history at the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum, located on Pine Avenue.
- Visit the Swing at the End of the Bradenton Beach Pier: Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery from the swings at the end of the Bridge Street Pier.
- Listen to Live Music: Experience live music at various locations on the island, such as The Ugly Grouper, Blue Marlin, Wicked Cantina, and more.
- Go Swimming: Take a dip in the pool or the Gulf waters. Swimming is a must-do activity on Anna Maria Island.