Anna Maria Island Travel Guide
Table of Contents
Anna Maria Island is located in Manatee County, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico nearby Bradenton and Sarasota. The island is known for its charming Old Florida style, stunning, white-sand beaches, and clear water. It is one of the most beautiful destinations that I have visited in the United States! My family and I have been visiting Anna Maria Island (or AMI for short) for about 10 years now. I have relatives in the area that we visit often so I have learned all of the best spots. I’ve written this Anna Maria Island travel guide because I want to share one of my favorite places on earth with you, and let you in on all of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island during your trip!
*Disclaimer: Anna Maria Island is “open” right now, but masks must be worn in restaurants and stores. Please check on hours and closures due to covid before your visit.*
Things To Do On AMI
Best Outdoor Activities To Do On Anna Maria Island
So what are the best things to do on Anna Maria Island? I’ll share a few of my favorite activities to experience during your beach vacation in this Anna Maria Island travel guide!
Go To The Beach
Obviously, if you’re taking a vacation on an island, you will want to spend lots of time on the beach! But which beach is the best on Anna Maria Island? I’ll go into more detail later on all the lovely beach options there are to choose from on AMI.
Suffice it to say, there’s a little something for every beach-goer’s style! You can always explore a few different beaches as well. That way, you can see all that Anna Maria Island beaches have to offer! Be sure to walk along the beach and look for shells also! You can find some beautiful ones if you watch for them!
Something really fun to do on Anna Maria Island is to rent bikes and zoom around the island! We rented bikes from Beach Bums and have nothing but nice things to say about the employees and the company. You can arrange for your bikes to be dropped off and picked up from your rental home too, which is very convenient!
Visit The Piers Of Anna Maria Island
There are plenty of piers to check out on Anna Maria Island! Each one has its own unique style and charm. Perhaps you’ll do a bike loop to visit them all? Here are the AMI piers you can’t miss during your vacation…
Anna Maria Island City Pier Landmark
Anna Maria Island City Pier (pictured above) is a historic landmark off of Pine Avenue that you will definitely want to see. It is located on Tampa Bay with a stunning view all the way to the city. You’ll be able to see the amazing Sunshine Skyway Bridge too. When I last visited, the water was so calm and the colors were unbelievable! I’ve never seen it so peaceful before. You can also eat at the brand new City Pier Grill with a lovely view of the pretty turquoise water.
Rod & Reel Pier
Rod & Reel Pier is another iconic Anna Maria Island location to visit. Like AMI City Pier, it has its own restaurant where you can eat above the water and indulge in some delicious fried food. You can also rent fishing poles there to fish off the pier with excellent views of the beach, The Gulf of Mexico, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge!
Historic Bridge Street Pier
The next pier you need to see during your time on Anna Maria Island is the Historic Bridge Street Pier. This pier has a charming Old Florida style clock tower and another great restaurant to try out called the Anna Maria Oyster Bar. Try the Coconut Shrimp – it is delish!
Another fun activity to do while you’re on Anna Maria Island is going fishing! You can rent fishing poles on Rod & Reel Pier, but there are plenty of other locations to fish as well. Fish right on the beach or any of the many fishing piers on the island. You could also rent a fishing charter if you’re really into fishing and want to try something different!
For adventure lovers, parasailing is available on Anna Maria Island. I love booking these types of activities through Viator, like this one with YOLO Adventures. You will be able to see AMI and Cortez, FL from above and take in the stunning Gulf Coast views!
Go Horseback Riding On The Beach
If you have ever wanted to go horseback riding on the beach, now is your chance! Through The Real BeachHorses, you can sign up for a 1 or 1.5-hour excursion and ride horseback into the water and on the beach. How fun is that?
Rent Kayaks Or Paddle Boards From Beach Bums
When the water is calm on Anna Maria Island, it is really fun to go kayaking or paddleboarding off the beach. There are often pods of dolphins swimming in the water not far from the beaches on AMI. Paddleboarding or kayaking is a great way to get a different viewpoint of the island and you might just find yourself playing with dolphins while you do! We love renting from Beach Bums while on Anna Maria Island. Check out their paddleboard and kayak options for more info!
Rent A Boat Or Jet Skis
I love jet skiing and boating! A great place for jet ski and boat rentals on Anna Maria Island is AMI Water Sports. You can choose from jet skis, craig cats, pontoon boats, and deck boats or do various tours through AMI Water Sports. They have a lot of really fun options for everyone in your group to enjoy!
Take A Dolphin Tour
While you’re visiting Anna Maria Island, you might like taking a dolphin tour! Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours has a few different packages available including public and private tours. Cruise along the shores of Anna Maria Island and say hello to the playful wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphins along the way!
Look For Manatees Near Anna Maria Island
You never know when a manatee might pop up! It truly is an amazing experience to see manatees in the wild. On my last visit to Florida, I said dramatically, “All I want in life is to see a manatee!” and not 5 seconds later, a manatee came up for a breath in the water I was walking along and I was able to see it! I was so excited!
Watch The Sunrise And Sunset
See as many sunrises and sunsets as you can! The colors of Anna Maria Island are hard to beat and each one is uniquely beautiful. We loved staying a block away from the beach because we could run back to see the sunset every night.
Other Things To Do On Anna Maria Island
This Anna Maria Island travel guide is here to help you plan your days on the island no matter what the weather does or mood you’re in. So what else is there to do on AMI other than the beach and water activities? Here are a few more ideas…
Do A Self-Guided Trolley Tour Of Anna Maria Island
Ride the free trolly around and explore the island! The trolley starts at Anna Maria City Pier on the bayside of the island. There are 14 stops that the AMI trolley takes around the island and you can hop on and off whenever you like! The final stop is Coquina Beach which is a fun area to explore!
If you feel the need for some retail therapy, you will want to explore historic Bridge Street where you’ll find boutiques, art galleries, and souvenir shops galore.
Pine Avenue is another great place to shop and eat. Walk or bike down Pine Ave to see it all! When you reach City Pier, you will also find Bayview Plaza nearby with even more shops to explore!
There is another plaza at the intersection of Marina Drive and Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach where you can also find some nice local shops as well.
AMI Historical Society Museum & Anna Maria Jail
Visit the Historical Society Museum on Pine Avenue to learn more about the history of Anna Maria Island! It is only open on weekday afternoons, but it makes for the perfect rainy day activity.
Located at the Historical Museum is the Anna Maria Jail. This open-air jailhouse was built in 1927 and is said to have housed trouble makers on the island overnight. Once they endured a night in this outdoor jail, they were convinced to behave because they were eaten up by mosquitoes all night and never wanted to return! Make sure to stop by Anna Maria Jail for a fun photo opp.
Things To Know About Anna Maria Island Before Visiting
Now that I’ve convinced you to visit with this Anna Maria Island travel guide, let’s talk more in detail!
When To Visit Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island stays pretty happening all year long, but spring break is one of the busiest times to visit. The weather will likely be beautiful with lows being in the 60s and highs in the 80s. Despite it being very busy, spring is still a great time of year to visit, but you may have to plan further ahead to book a place to stay.
The summer is a nice time to visit if you love hot weather. The average temperatures for summer range from lows in the 70s to highs in the 90s. Don’t forget to factor in the humidity too which can make it feel even hotter! Cool off in the ocean or book a place with a pool because it will be HOT!
Fall is a wonderful time of year to visit Anna Maria Island. With temps in the 60s to 80s, you can really enjoy all of the beach and outdoor activities comfortably. Fall is also a little less busy making it the most cost-effective time of year to visit AMI.
Winter can be hit or miss depending on when you visit. AMI is a nice respite from the freezing temperatures many of us face back home. Being from Ohio, a winter escape is always necessary for me! But be aware that it can get quite cool in December. The average temperatures range from the 50s to the 80s. The last two times I visited AMI in December, the temperature hit near the low 40s and it was quite chilly. There were still plenty of days that were warm enough to sit on the beach and enjoy the outdoors but it’s something to consider in December through January.
How To Get To Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island Transportation
You have a few options available to you when planning how to get to Anna Maria Island…
- First Option – Fly into Tampa (TPA) and rent a car (50-minute drive)
- Second Option – Fly into Sarasota/Bradenton Airport (SRQ) and Uber to your rental home (15-minute drive)
- Third Option – Road Trip!
I have done all of these options before, but the most convenient and cost-effective for us has been to fly into SRQ and Uber/taxi onto the island. Sarasota is a much smaller airport than Tampa and it is only a 15-minute drive to the island. This is the option I suggest for the purposes of this Anna Maria Island travel guide, but you just do whatever works out the best for you!
How To Get Around Anna Maria Island
Rent A Golf Cart From Beach Bums
One of the most popular options for transportation on Anna Maria Island is to rent a golf cart. You can easily zip around AMI and explore this way. A golf cart can easily take the place of having to rent a car if you want to stay on the island for the duration of your visit to Anna Maria. I suggest renting golf carts from Beach Bums. They have a few styles and sizes available suitable for every size group!
Rent Scooters or Scootcoupes From Robinhood Rentals
Another fun option for getting around Anna Maria Island is to rent a scooter or a streetcoupe from Robinhood Rentals. I had never seen “streetcoupes” until I visited AMI. They are essentially a two-person scooter, but they look like little cars you would ride at an amusement park. I have not rented one of these yet, but I definitely will on another visit because they look super fun!
Rent Bikes From Beach Bums
This is my favorite option by far! It is so nice to ride around Anna Maria Island on a bike. You see so much when going with this option. We chose to rent bikes from Beach Bums and could not have been more pleased with our experience. They were super friendly and had great customer service. Our group opted to have our bikes delivered and picked up for ultimate convenience!
Free Anna Maria Island Trolleys
There is free public transportation on Anna Maria Island via the AMI trolley. The trolleys travel the 7-mile island, taking 14 stops starting at City Pier and ending at Coquina Beach. The Anna Maria Island trolleys run daily from 6 am until 10 pm. You can also change to the Longboat Key trolley at Coquina beach for about $0.75 if you would like to venture into nearby Sarasota. If you do visit Sarasota, I recommend checking out St. Armands Circle for a fun outing.
Uber or Taxi
If you need a lift to or from the airport, you can use Uber or the Yellow Cab of Sarasota Taxi Service to get you where you need to go.
You can easily walk to nearby areas depending on where you choose your rental home on Anna Maria Island. Each area of the island is lovely, but if you want to be near some of the local hot spots, consider staying near Bridge Street, Pine Avenue, or along Gulf Drive. This will make walking an easy option!
Rent A Car
Should you rent a car on Anna Maria Island? It is always an option if you want the freedom a car brings, but it truly isn’t necessary. I would only rent a car if you need to fly into Tampa, or are planning to explore nearby areas of Bradenton, Sarasota, or Siesta Key. Orlando is within driving distance of AMI as well if you really had the extra time and wanted to drive up to Disney World or Universal Studios theme parks.
Is Anna Maria Island Expensive?
Like most tropical beach destinations, there are some very expensive places to stay, but overall, there is something to satisfy every traveler’s budget! There are high-end, mid-range, and low-cost options available, making Anna Maria Island the perfect getaway location for solo travelers, families, couples, or international visitors.
Can I Drink Alcohol At The Beach On Anna Maria Island?
No, you cannot drink on the beach on Anna Maria Island. There is a strict no-alcohol policy on AMI’s beaches and there will be officers patrolling the beach. You can be fined for breaking the rules.
Don’t come to AMI if you are looking for a big party on the beach, Spring Breakers scene. There is a quiet hour rule on the entire island daily at 10 pm as it is not just a vacation destination, but also a residential area with schools and people who have to go to work in the morning.
With that being said, Anna Maria Island is still a super fun destination! There are plenty of bars and restaurants to hang out at, and you can definitely buy alcohol on the island for your rental home. There are also quite a few restaurants and cafes where you can grab a drink right off of the beach that are very casual and beach-attire friendly.
Where To Stay On Anna Maria Island
When choosing where to stay on Anna Maria Island, keep in mind that the whole island is wonderful! It is broken up into three sections: Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, and the City of Anna Maria. There’s not one particular area that is way better than the others. I would personally focus more on what you want out of your vacation rental on Anna Maria Island and stay wherever you find the place that has the best amenities for you and your group.
While I don’t believe one area to be better than the others, I did very much enjoy staying in the condo that my family rented on our last visit. Our condo was located in Holmes Beach and was only about a block and a half from public beach street access. It also had a pool shared with the condo complex, but it was very tranquil for a shared pool.
When searching for places to stay on Anna Maria Island, you have a number of options available to you. If you are bringing a larger group, VRBO can be great for booking. If you are a couple or a smaller group, you might find something you like through Airbnb. We really enjoy having a kitchen for making breakfasts and lunches and then eating out for dinner, so a big kitchen was important to us. If you would rather stay in a resort or hotel, check out Booking.com!
If you want to stay super close to restaurants and bars, I suggest looking to stay close to Bridge Street or Pine Avenue. You may also find some nice places along Gulf Avenue too.
What Beach Should I Go To On Anna Maria Island?
As promised, I will go into a bit more details about the AMI beaches in this Anna Maria Island travel guide. As I said before they are all beautiful with sugary white sand and turquoise water. Seriously, the sand is like nowhere else I have visited in the world! It’s so soft and fine. It is absolutely gorgeous. Anna Maria Island definitely has the prettiest beaches of anywhere I have visited in the United States. Okay, okay, I’ll calm down about the sand but seriously it’s the greatest!
So which Anna Maria Island beach is best for your group? Well, it depends on what you are looking for in your beach experience!
Coquina Beach is located at the far South end of the Island and is known for having really tall Pine trees. There is a nice walking and biking path along Gulf Drive and into Coquina Beach Park. If you go all the way to the end, you will find yourself at the South end of the island near Longboat Pass Bridge. Coquina Beach has all the amenities you could ever need, including public restrooms and lifeguards on duty.
Manatee Public Beach
Do you like a lively beach experience with volleyball nets and restaurants nearby? Then you will love the classic Manatee Public Beach. Manatee Public Beach is probably the most convenient option when choosing a beach. After crossing over Anna Maria Island Bridge and entering the island, you can either turn left, right, or drive straight into the Manatee Public Beach parking lot. You can find visitor information, gift shops, food, and more at this location too.
Named after the founder of Anna Maria Island, Bean Point is the northernmost beach on the island. This is a stunning beach with amazing wildlife but there is no public parking or restrooms/amenities like that of Manatee and Coquina Beaches. There also tend to be stronger riptides here so keep that in mind if you love to swim! If you want to check out Bean Point, you can find entrances through Gladiolus Street or Fern Street off of N Shore Drive.
Public Beach Street Access
There are a plethora of Public beaches off of the main roads for a little less busy atmosphere. There won’t be any public restrooms, but you should be able to find beach access close to wherever you are staying on Anna Maria Island. This is my favorite beach option, personally. I love a relaxing vibe and I like to find a quiet spot to enjoy the white sands of Anna Maria Island along Holmes Beach.
Best Beaches For Kids
Coquina and Manatee beaches are best for families with kids for a few reasons. Firstly, Coquina and Manatee both have conveniently located public restrooms, water fountains, changing cabanas, and outdoor showers for easy clean-up. Secondly, they both have picnic tables, and cafes closeby. The one thing that gives Coquina Beach a level up on Manatee Beach is the fact that there is a playground there for kids to enjoy. It would make for a fun diversion if you all needed a little break from the sun.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Coquina and Manatee beaches both have Lifeguards on duty every day of the year which may help your family feel that much safer during your beach vacation to Anna Maria Island!
Best Places To Eat On Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is well known for its incredible restaurants and delicious seafood. During your visit to AMI, you may want to eat out a few times or every night. There are loads of options to choose from for every budget but I’ll just share a few of my favorites in this Anna Maria Island travel guide…
- The Waterfront Restaurant – a little more expensive, but the best meal I ate on the island was from here. Located on the Northside of the island and serving up a seasonal menu with the freshest ingredients and dishes. Try the Frutti di Mare (truly the best seafood pasta I have ever had).
- The Beach House – whether you just grab a cocktail from the bar or order from their delicious menu, you will want to sit outside on their patio. You can literally sit with your toes in the sand and look out at a stunning view of the Gulf. Try the Seafood Gumbo!
- The Sandbar – this may be Anna Maria Island’s most well-known and iconic restaurant. It is also right on the beach and has an incredible menu with a pretty view. Try the fish tacos!
- The Ugly Grouper – a super casual, laid-back vibe with live music every night. Their specialty is obviously grouper and it is delish! Try the grouper nuggets!
- Pappo’s Taqueria – the perfect fast-casual or take-out option on AMI. It is super easy to order online for curbside pick up too! Try a burrito or a burrito bowl!
- The Donut Experiment – this build your own donut experience makes for a fun and yummy treat for breakfast or dessert. Try the maple bacon combo!
What To Pack For Your Beach Vacation On AMI
When thinking about packing for your tropical beach vacation on Anna Maria Island, keep in mind that it is a very casual destination. While you won’t look totally out of place if you wear a nicer outfit or dress, it is not necessary at most restaurants and bars on AMI.
Unless you are planning to go to a fancy, upscale dinner at Beach Bistro, jeans or shorts and a t-shirt are just fine. I love a reason to get dressed up, so I will usually wear a nicer blouse with white jeans or a cute sundress or skirt when I go out to eat on Anna Maria. I’ve linked a few outfit ideas below for inspiration!
Of course, you’ll need 2-3 swimsuits for the week (I love my Aerie swimsuits), a beach cover-up, and a hat to protect you from the sun. Bring a pair of flip flops or sandals and a pair of sneakers for walking or biking around the island. It’s also always a good idea to bring an umbrella because it can rain for short intervals in the afternoons.
Anna Maria Island Safety Information
No Anna Maria Island travel guide would be complete without discussing some frequently asked questions about safety on the island. Here is everything you need to know about AMI safety…
Crime On Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a safe destination with a very low crime rate. I would totally feel great about going to AMI solo or on a girl’s trip.
COVID-19 Safety On Anna Maria Island
They are also taking their COVID-19 protocols seriously on Anna Maria Island in an effort to keep everyone safe and healthy. There is a mask mandate and you must wear masks when entering shops, grocery stores, and restaurants on the island. Almost all of the places we ate were only open for outdoor dining or takeout and we felt very safe the whole time. If you visit, please be respectful of the local rules.
Swimming Safety On Anna Maria Island
The waves can get very large at times, and sharks do occasionally swim along the coast, but there are safety flags on the public beaches (Manatee and Coquina) that will let you know if it is safe to swim that day. There can be strong riptides sometimes but you can check out current beach conditions on visitbeaches.org.
Red Tide On Anna Maria Island
Over the past few years, Florida has had the occasional struggle with Red Tide. Red Tide is a type of algae bloom that can affect the water and air quality off the coast. It can make it difficult to breathe the closer you are to the water. We haven’t ever had a problem with Red Tide during our stays on Anna Maria Island but it is something to be aware of. You can check local Red Tide updates on MyManattee.org.
Anna Maria Travel Guide Wrap Up
Anna Maria Island is such a great vacation destination for people of all ages. As you just read, there’s plenty of rental and activity options for almost any budget. There’s really something for everyone to enjoy. So if you’re traveling solo, as a couple, as a family with kiddos, or in a multi-generational group, Anna Maria Island is the perfect place for you to visit!
I hope you found this Anna Maria Island Travel Guide helpful and that you found some inspiration on things to do on Anna Maria Island while you’re there! If you want all of these locations in one easy place, sign up below for my google maps list.
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